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The role of the Arts Council is once again in the headlines. This week, leading figures representing the music industry locked horns with senior opera figures over Arts Council funding. 

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher branded Arts Council England (ACE) “too posh for pop”, pointing out that 62% of ACE’s National Portfolio goes to opera and a further 23% goes to classical music. In contrast, only 8% goes to popular music and 7% to other genres (including jazz, folk, etc).

Hitting back in The Daily Telegraph, Michael Volpe General Director of Holland Park Opera, responded “I’ve been hearing the word ‘posh’ in relation to opera for 30 years. Very few people in opera are posh - certainly not the performers”, although Volpe conceded in the same piece “Opera companies get a lot of money, perhaps more than they ought to, and that’s an ongoing argument.” 

ACE has £1.45 billion of public funds and £860 million National Lottery funds to distribute over the next four years. Of the £368 million allocated to music, opera will receive £229 million, classical £85 million and pop £27 million.

The debate is especially timely because ACE has initiated a public conversation to help inform its strategy for the next 10 years. Given the music industry is only just returning to growth having suffered 15 years of decline, a lot is at stake. A barrier to that discussion is a fundamental misunderstanding between both sides. 

Some might argue the opera world, and the arts establishment as a whole, seem to look down on the music industry or, perhaps, hold the view that it is less deserving. Many in the music industry consider opera an irrelevance and an extravagance. 

The reality is the music industry is vastly more complex, diverse and challenging than is often understood. It is also a reality that opera is accessible through multi-tiered ticket pricing and many opera companies are addressing their own diversity issues.

What are the key issues? How can both sides better understand one another and what does a satisfactory outcome look like?

THE FUNDING IMBALANCE

Not only is there a huge imbalance towards opera, but there is also a disproportionate amount awarded to the Royal Opera House in London specifically. During 2016 alone, the ROH received £28 million in Arts Council funding, which represents 20% of the ROH’s total income for that year. The remainder is made up of box office receipts, commercial income and other fundraising. This includes various charitable trusts and corporate backers such as Goldman Sachs. 

By way of comparison, UK Sport fulfils a similar function to the Arts Council and also relies on a combination of public money and lottery funding. It is worth noting the spread of investment across the Olympic disciplines is much more even. Of the £265 million earmarked for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, rowing receives the most with £32 million, followed by athletics (£27m), sailing (£26m), cycling (£26) and swimming (£22m). Although medals success and underlying costs are a factor, the distribution of funds is far more even when compared to arts funding for music. Equestrian was further down the list with £15m, but imagine the uproar if Equestrian took 60% of available funding at the expense of other medal winning sports.

It is hard to see how the imbalance between opera, classical and other forms of music can be justified. Moreover, if funding were to be taken away from opera and distributed more broadly, how detrimental would that be? Supposing ACE funding for the Royal Opera House is cut in half, that would represent a 10% cut in its overall income. Can the ROH be challenged to go without or make up that funding elsewhere? 

MOMENTUM MUSIC FUND – A CASE FOR GRANT FUNDING 

In 2013, Arts Council England supported the launch of the Momentum Music Fund, administered by the PRS Foundation. Momentum was aimed at artists existing outside the major label system, unsigned or signed to an independent, and who could demonstrable a case for £5-15,000 worth of funding to give their careers tangible momentum at a crucial point.

The scheme has been a great success. Over 270 artists have been supported by Momentum and for every £1 invested £7.46 has been generated. Recipients are truly diverse covering a broad spread of genres with a strong BAME representation, making up 49% of grantees. 

Over 3,800 artists have applied for Momentum funding since its inception. Five years after its launch demand and impact has never been greater. The recently published outline of Government's creative industries sector deal, which encourages partnerships between government and industry, mentions the Momentum Fund as an example of good practice.

The frustration is that despite this clear proof of concept, including the quality and diversity of the artists supported and the match funding & income it has leveraged there appears to be little appetite from the Arts Council to continue its involvement in such schemes. 

ATTITUDES TO INVESTMENT NEED TO CHANGE 

A key challenge is how the music industry is perceived and how it perceives itself.

Culturally, a disproportionate level of attention is afforded to a tiny minority of major artists earning vast sums at the expense of the majority who do not. This contributes to long held assumptions within the arts establishment, government and the wider public that all paths through the music industry are paved with gold. They are not. 

Within the industry itself, there has been a tradition of self-reliance. Labels and publishers, especially, pride themselves on their investment in new music. This is very true, but that investment only comes at a certain stage. Leading up to that point, artists and their managers typically funded themselves. Prior to the launch of Momentum, grant type funding for artists was very rarely considered as an option. 

Attitudes are very different when it comes to sport. Even world-class athletes such as Mo Farah continue to receive grant funding from Sport UK. In Farah’s case, this is despite considerable endorsement income and a personal net worth rumoured to be £4 million. Grant type funding in sport began in the late 90s. Twenty years later, Great Britain can look back on Olympic glory over the past three Olympic cycles in Beijing, London and Rio across a range of sports. This was no coincidence.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Leading up to the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy (Creative Industries Sector Deal) earlier this year, there was much debate about funding. Early funding gaps were evident across the creative sector and especially so in music.

For a new artist, releasing music has never been easier: the major streaming platforms are readily accessible to any artist. The principle sources of investment remain labels and publishers although other self-release options such as Seed EIS are available. What has changed is the time it takes to reach that level. A new artist may take several years funding their own releases and live shows during that time. Few new artists have the means to do this, especially those from less affluent backgrounds. This has created very real roadblocks in the talent pipeline as the industry has shifted from CD to download to streaming. 

There is a clear deficiency in investment at the seed/ angel level. Unlike the tech world, there are very few mechanisms providing a return to the early stage investor while safeguarding the artist. An artist’s business structure, especially at an early stage, can be fluid and may not have all IP and activities sitting in one entity. Very few new artists could be considered “investment ready” in a traditional sense. 

This is why grant funding is so important. It does not require equity stakes or convertible loans. It is simple and when targeted correctly, as Momentum has proven, can be highly effective. Grant funding can play a central role in growing a sustainable talent pipeline that fits the streaming age that is now upon us and ensure the industry picks more winners. 

The disproportionate level of Arts Council funds devoted to opera does not seem fair or sustainable and it would seem this is recognized even within the world of opera. Meanwhile, the music industry has proven that grant funding can provide a significant boost to more popular genres and sustain a diverse pipeline of creative talent that works in tandem with existing commercial models. Making the numbers work is a bigger question, but there would seem to be a clear imperative to develop a fairer and more balanced approach to Arts Council funding for music.

01 Mar 2021 | Press release

Matchstick - Digital Talent Agency launches

MATCHSTICK   THE NEW DIGITAL TALENT AGENCY SETTING THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY ALIGHT – INVESTED BY BINKY FELSTEAD & DANNY JONES –   BINKY FELSTEAD |CARLY NEAVE | DAN TAI | DANAE MERCER DANIELLE VANIER | DANNY JONES | DOMAIN ESDALE| GARETH LOCKE GEORGIA JONES | GEORGIE CLARKE| GRACE MONGEY HERMON & HERODA BERHANE | HONEY ROSE | IMANI EVANS JACK KNIGHTLEY | JESSICA OLIE | LAUREN BLACK|LILLY SABRI   MARTINE MCCUTCHEON | MAX GEORGE |...more

01 Mar 2021 | Press release

Annie Lennox launches global campaign for International Women's Day

  The Circle, a global NGO founded by singer, songwriter and activist Annie Lennox that uses the collective power of women to fight for gender equality, today launches a new campaign, #CirclesOfChange, to raise funds for some of the most vulnerable women and...more

01 Mar 2021 | Press release

Queen Rock Tour

BECOME A ROCK LEGEND WITH THE FIRST EVER OFFICIAL QUEEN GAME ON MOBILE.  "Be a Lockdown Rock Star!  No turning back !!!" - Brian May, Queen Play along with hits from the band's iconic catalogue Relive their classic concerts by touring the world and performing on...more

01 Mar 2021 | Press release

Jazz re:freshed announce SXSW online UK showcase filmed in the world famous Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios

The showcase will feature award winning tuba sensation Theon Cross who will also be presented by SXSW as a 3D digital avatar in a unique VR performance - a world first in music showcasing  Watch avatar creation video here https://youtu.be/qwwavyhn4dq  The...more

01 Mar 2021 | Press release

AIF issues 'final countdown' warning for Government insurance and VAT support to kickstart festival planning

  Independent festivals could be forced to cancel their 2021 events if they don't get Government-backed insurance and VAT intervention by the end of March.  Two days before the 2021 budget, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) warns the Chancellor: this is...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

GALA Festival returns to Peckham Rye Park

GALA Festival announces new dates and lineup for 2021 Taking place over two days for the very first time, South London’s much-loved house and disco fest will have a 5th birthday to remember GALA Festival 202131 July & 1 AugustPeckham Rye Park,...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Tony Wadsworth CBE announced as the new Chair of The BRIT Trust

Music charity The BRIT Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of Tony Wadsworth CBE as its new Chair. Tony, a BRIT Trustee for 16 years and a hugely respected industry figure including for his tenure as Chairman and CEO of...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Better Noise announces promotion of Dan Waite to President as company expands its global footprint and ventures further into film

Waite Set to Oversee All Music and Film Releases Across the Company’s Global Offices, Including Upcoming Projects from Papa Roach, Escape The Fate, Mötley Crüe, All Good Things, and the Highly-Anticipated Feature Horror Film ‘The Retaliators’ Today, Better Noise Music...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

ADA Asia announces key senior appointments

Chiou Rei Min named Head of Greater ChinaJin Hwang appointed Head of Korea Tan Wei Keng will serve as Director, Business Operations   Warner Music Group’s ADA Asia has today announced it has further bolstered its team in the region with the...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ reaches one billion Spotify streams

The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, the first UK listed investment company offering investors a pure-play exposure to songs and associated intellectual property rights, and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are delighted to announce that Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Ibiza Club Amnesia Announces Closing Party for 2021 // October 23rd

As the positive news begins to flow around the UK and EU, iconic Ibiza club Amnesia lead from the front by announcing its 'Inverse Season', starting with the always unmissable closing party on October 23rd. Sure to feature all the...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Liverpool Sound City 2021 moves to October

The organisers of Sound City have made the decision to move the 2021 edition of Liverpool’s famous showcase festival and conference to October 1 – 3. Tickets are now on sale for the celebratory weekend at https://www.soundcity.uk.com/, with all previously purchased...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Music Venue Trust Add Six More Grassroots Music Venues to the #saveourvenues "Imminent Danger of Closure" Red List

Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents hundreds of UK grassroots music venues (GMVs), has announced that 20 venues remain in imminent danger of permanent closure with 6 newly highlighted venues added to the #saveourvenues Red List.  While Pop in Hyde is...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Calling Europe's music managers

APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL MONDAY MARCH 8TH FOR EMMMA - THE SECOND EDITION OF THE EUROPEAN MUSIC MANAGERS MENTORSHIP ACTIVATION PROGRAMME   Developed by the European Music Managers Alliance and funded in partnership with YouTube Music, the EMMMA programme provides an invaluable...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

UK Music urges Chancellor to "back British music" and deliver "sounds of summer" for music fans

  UK Music has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to back its new three-point plan to guarantee a summer packed with the best of British music. Unveiling the plan before the Chancellor's Budget, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said the music...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Sound City 2021 moves to October

Rejjie Snow, The Lathums, Lanterns On The Lake, and Abbie Ozard among first wave of acts Tickets: https://www.soundcity.uk.com/   The organisers of Sound City have made the decision to move the 2021 edition of Liverpool's famous showcase festival and conference to October 1 –...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

Music Venue Trust announce 20 grassroots music venues are still at risk of permanent closure

#saveourvenues #savethe20 www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-our-venues-red-list   Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents hundreds of UK grassroots music venues (GMVs), has announced that 20 venues remain in imminent danger of permanent closure with 6 newly highlighted venues added to the #saveourvenues Red List.  While Pop in Hyde...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

BMG hires Rachel Menzies to expand Original Repertoire Services to media clients

BMG has announced the appointment of Rachel Menzies to the position of Senior Director Original Repertoire Services, in a boost to the company's music offering to media clients. Based in London, Menzies reports directly to Alistair Norbury, President Repertoire &...more

26 Feb 2021 | Press release

DCMS Committee: Chair calls on Chancellor to provide urgent support for festivals

  Chair calls on Chancellor to provide urgent support to enable opening up of festivals' sector DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight has urged the Chancellor to announce support next week to encourage more festivals to go ahead this summer. The Treasury had earlier...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Eight new presenters to join BBC Radio 1 on Fridays

Eight new presenters will take on BBC Radio 1’s Friday Early Breakfast slot over the coming months.  Dean McCullough, Rakeem Omar, Danni Diston, Sam MacGregor, Darcy Kelly, Alex West, Numi Gildert and Robyn Richford are the next wave of presenters set...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Len Phillips Big Band - Abbey Road Studios 20th March 2021

For over 30 years the Len Phillips Big Band has been entertaining lovers of swing music across the UK and around the World.  The 17 piece band, whilst recording a new album, will also be performing the first Big Band livestream...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Hospitality Weekend In The Woods reveals full lineup

Hospitality Weekend In The Woods are incredibly proud to announce the full wave of artists joining their debut festival in September. Across 8 scintillating stage hosts spread across beautiful Beckenham Place Park in south East London, this is already a who’s...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Creamfields 2021 Sold Out

Creamfields, one of the world’s leading electronic music festivals is the first UK festival to announce sell out when it makes its return this Summer, becoming its fastest selling show to date.  The award winning four-day festival which will be bringing...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Anton Powers joins the KISS Network

New weekend shows on KISS and KISSTORY KISS has announced that globally renowned DJ and producer, Anton Powers is to launch a series of new weekend shows across the network. Starting from March 5th, Anton will be kicking off the weekend every...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Record Industry Wins Double Landmark UK Court Victory In New Cyberlocker and Stream Ripping Piracy Cases

Following an online hearing, the High Court has ruled that cyberlocker and stream ripping sites, and a stream ripping app, infringe UK copyright The High Court has ordered internet companies to block them The two rulings benefit artists, songwriters, music...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

The British Music Embassy reveals SXSW Online 2021 line-up

35 acts put UK talent front and centre of renowned international festival   The British Music Embassy, SXSW’s venue for hotly-tipped UK artists, today unveils 35 artist showcases as part of SXSW Online 2021. The line-up reflects the UK’s reputation for outstanding...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Bauer Media Audio agrees to acquire Communicorp Group

Bauer Media Audio has today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Communicorp Group subject only to regulatory approval. Through this transaction Bauer Media Audio enters the Republic of Ireland and extends its audio business to eight countries, further...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Universal Music Publishing Group signs Julia Michaels to exclusive, global publishing agreement

  Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), a leading, global music publisher, today announced that Grammy Award-nominated artist and songwriter Julia Michaels has been signed to an exclusive, global publishing agreement. One of the best-known songwriters in music today, Michaels has written for...more

25 Feb 2021 | Press release

Sony Music Publishing Signs Kane Brown to Global Deal

Kane Brown and Kent Earls Launch Verse 2 Music as Joint Venture with the Company   Sony Music Publishing Nashville today announced the signing of multi-platinum country superstar Kane Brown to a worldwide deal.Brown has also launched Verse 2 Music, his own...more

24 Feb 2021 | Press release

MU and The Ivors Academy welcome evidence given by Amazon Music, Apple Music and Spotify to streaming inquiry

The MU and The Ivors Academy were pleased to hear three of the music streaming giants commit to a dialogue with artists and their representatives about how revenue is shared out in the current streaming system, shed light on major...more

01 Mar 2021

26 Feb 2021

  • Live Nation offers positive outlook for 2021 and beyond (see Business)

  • Billie Eilish documentary launches on Apple TV (see Digital)

25 Feb 2021

  • Spotify USA takes on $1.3bn in debt (see Business)

  • Merck Mercuriadis - "music's most hated man" (see Features)

24 Feb 2021

  • Streaming services appear at DCMS Inquiry session (see News)

  • Daniel Ek on how Spotify wants to be at the centre of creator monetisation (see Features)

23 Feb 2021

  • Spotify announce wide-ranging improvements, features and expansion; no plans for US price increase (see Digital)

  • Outline for return of live events announced (see News)

22 Feb 2021

  • Artists are finding better engagement and revenue via Peloton (see Features)

  • Government to consider 'UK creative industries export office' (see News)

  • YouTube Spaces to be replaced with online experiences and pop-ups (see Digital)

  • The music pie has grown, but the number of creators wanting a piece of it has grown faster (see Opinion)

19 Feb 2021

  • Sony Music’s Wolfgang Boss interviewed (see Features)

  • James Newman to represent the UK at Eurovision (see Media)

  • Virgin Music Label and Artist Services launched (see Business)

  • Beach Boys strike deal with Irving Azoff for music and more (see News)

18 Feb 2021

  • Big Hit Entertainment and Universal Music Group announce expanded strategic partnership (see Business)

17 Feb 2021

  • Government admits it is currently not negotiating with EU over touring arrangements (see News)

  • Merck Mercuriadis faces the future... and stares down his critics (see Features)

  • Mechanical Licensing Collective receives $424m in unmatched royalties from DSPs (see International)

16 Feb 2021

  • Failure to secure post-Brexit touring deal threatens careers of future music stars (see Comment) DCMS Committee to consider proposals put forward by the industry today (see News)