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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.

22 Sep 2020 | Press release

Rick Astley kicks off BBC Unsung Hero Awards 2020

Music legend Rick Astley will front single, Every One of Us, to celebrate the Unsung Hero awards for 2020. The 2019 regional winners of the Unsung Hero award, Captain Tom Moore and a host of sporting stars including Ben Stokes, Geraint...more

22 Sep 2020 | Press release

Musicians’ Union calls on Government to face the music

A third of musicians consider leaving the industry due to COVID-19 repercussions 87% face financial hardship when Government support schemes end MU calls on Government to implement 2-for-1 seat matching scheme and tailored support for individuals  A third (34%) of musicians are considering...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Tom Hoare Re-Joins [PIAS] as Head of Digital

[PIAS], one of the world’s leading independent music companies, has announced the appointment of Tom Hoare as UK Head of Digital.  Tom, whose appointment is effective immediately, re-joins [PIAS] from Syco Music where he was Head of Digital. He previously held the position...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Better Noise Films and the Amy Winehouse Foundation team up with Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation To Save Lives presenting SNO BABIES movie

Better Noise Music are proud to announce that the Amy Winehouse Foundation is now the official UK charity partner for the upcoming feature film from Better Noise Films, SNO BABIES. The Amy Winehouse Foundation supports young people affected by drug...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Vinyl sales up 3% as record stores prepare for Drop 2 on Saturday 26th September

Record store owners across the UK are preparing for the second instalment of this year’s rescheduled Record Store Day.   ‘Drop 2’ will take place this Saturday 26 September in over 200 record stores as huge vinyl releases from artists such as...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Mark Fry has been promoted to President of Warner Music Nordics

Highly regarded music industry leader Mark Fry has been promoted to President of Warner Music Nordics.  He will be based in Stockholm and report to Stu Bergen, Warner Music’s CEO, International, and Global Commercial Services.  Fry was most recently Vice...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Sentric inks co-publishing deal with Prolifica

Sentric Music Group and Prolifica have announced a publishing joint venture.  Expanding on an existing relationship between the two companies, the JV sees Sentric power Prolifica’s publishing arm - including full administration and creative services - facilitating opportunities for a number...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Prince staff engineer Susan Rogers to be next guest in a special National Album Day edition of “Let’s Talk About Music”

The BPI and Official Charts Company are partnering once again to host Let’s Talk About Music – the online event which discusses music and the impact it has on our lives.  The organisers are delighted to announce that the special guest...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Reach Music acquires the publishing catalogue of writer/producer Young Fyre

Catalogue includes songs performed by Marc Anthony, Bad Bunny, Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Britney Spears, T-Pain and Lil Wayne  Reach Music Publishing (Reach) has acquired the publishing catalogue and worldwide administration rights of writer/producer Young Fyre (Tremaine Winfrey).  The acquisition, which covers...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

BIMM Institute Launch Talent Match Service For The Creative Industries

BIMM Institute have announced that they are offering a brand new service, which sources new talent for the creative industries. Talent Match – available from Monday 5 October – is a free recruitment service, which supports employers by providing immediate...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

RIAA Statement on the Appointment of Shira Perlmutter as U.S. Register of Copyrights

Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), released the following statement on the appointment of Shira Perlmutter as 14th U.S. Register of Copyrights. Perlmutter currently serves as the U.S. Patent Office’s Chief Policy Officer...more

21 Sep 2020 | Press release

Fortnite's Party Royale to host the world premiere for BTS' Dynamite choreography version music video

Never-before-seen Choreography version music video to premiere in Fortnite on September 25 Today, Epic Games announces that it has partnered with the global pop superstars BTS to premiere a new choreography version music video of the record breaking single "Dynamite" inside...more

20 Sep 2020 | Press release

TikTok statement on proposed deal

We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the US Administration and settle questions around TikTok's future in the US.   As part of this proposal, Oracle will become our trusted technology provider,...more

18 Sep 2020 | Press release

Absolute partners with Chris Difford for new label

First album release sees award-winning songwriters celebrate frontline workers  Musician, singer, songwriter and producer Chris Difford has partnered with Absolute Label Services to launch his own label – Songwriter’s Garden. Difford is the co-founder of British rock band Squeeze, and a Grammy...more

18 Sep 2020 | Press release

Harriet Rose joins KISS Breakfast line up for daily content hits

Following the launch of the brand-new KISS Breakfast Show with Jordan and Perri last month, KISS has today announced thatHarriet Rose will be joining the line-up as a regular contributor from Monday 21st September. As part of the KISS Breakfast team, Harriet will be bringing...more

18 Sep 2020 | Press release

Warner Music Group's Arts Music division & Warner Chappell Music enter global partnership with Skyship Entertainment for beloved children's brand Super Simple Songs

Super Simple Brand Encompasses a Family of Popular YouTube Channels Including Super Simple Songs®  Regular New Album and Song Releases Begin Today   Warner Music Group's Arts Music division and Warner Chappell Music (WCM) have entered into a worldwide partnership with Toronto-based entertainment...more

18 Sep 2020 | Press release

Thomas Coesfeld appointed Chief Financial Officer of BMG effective April 2021

  Thomas Coesfeld will join the international music company BMG as Deputy Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with effect from October 15, 2020. As of April 1, 2021, he will assume the position of CFO and member of the Executive Team, succeeding Maximilian Dressendörfer,...more

18 Sep 2020 | Press release

TikTok statement on evolving US situaton

  "We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12. Our community of 100 million...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

AIF welcomes new members and reflects on Covid response at AGM

  CEO Paul Reed praises indie festival sector for rising to coronavirus challenge.  Representatives from Boomtown Fair, Black Deer and Elderflower Fields join the AIF Board, with The Fair’s Nick Morgan named as new Vice Chair.  17 new festivals have joined trade association...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Can Music Make You Sick?

  Measuring the Price of Musical Ambition  By Sally Anne Gross & George Musgrave     29th September 2020 – paperback – £14.99  This provocatively titled, ground-breaking book presents the hugely cited, largest ever study into mental health in the music industry, which reveals that music makers are three times...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Scope appoints Robin Millar CBE as Chair Designate

  Disability equality charity Scope is delighted to announce Robin Millar CBE as the Chair Designate of its Trustee Board. His appointment comes as the charity delivers an open letter to the Prime Minister today, backed by 30,000 signatories, calling for...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Never miss home again with Deezer's Country Selector

 Exclusive feature lets you switch your music and shows tabs to anywhere in the world   Gospel in Brazil, Grime in England, Schlager in Germany, Banda in Mexico... every country has its own signature sound. But what if your taste is different...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

The Scottish Album of the Year Award announce 2020's Longlist

 20 OUTSTANDING SCOTTISH ALBUMS WERE ANNOUNCED VIA THE VIRTUAL 'LIVE AT THE LONGLIST' EVENT AND ARE NOW IN THE RUNNING FOR £20K PRIZE AND COVETED TITLE   MUSIC FANS NOW GIVEN CHANCE TO VOTE FOR SHORTLIST IN PUBLIC VOTE FROM 5TH OCTOBER   WWW.SAYAWARD.COM #SAYaward   Scotland's...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Brand new Radio 1 Dance stream to launch this October

  Brand new 24 hour dance music stream Radio 1 Dance will launch on BBC Sounds on Friday 9 October 2020 at 6pm BST. Radio 1 Dance will bring together Radio 1's rich slate of existing dance programmes into a dedicated stream...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Amazon Music x Twitch take-over with Scruff of the Neck

Amazon Music UK and Twitch have announced a takeover with iconic Manchester record label and live promoters Scruff of the Neck. Taking place Thursday 17th September across Amazon Music UK’s Twitch channel, the night will see performances from three rising acts...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Clapham Grand announces first post lockdown shows with a special re-opening party this Friday with Frank Turner

London’s iconic venue The Clapham Grand announces first post lockdown shows for 2020 with a special re-opening party with Frank Turner this Friday. Other big names announced include: Russell Howard, Jimmy Carr, The Vivienne, Louise Redknapp, Baga Chipz, Jimmy Carr,...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

Beatport And Twitch Announce Exclusive Live Streaming Music Programming Partnership

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17 Sep 2020 | Press release

MP urges Ofcom to conduct urgent review of BBC Sounds

The Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Commercial Radio is calling on Ofcom to conduct a review of the BBC Sounds platform following plans for a new 24-hour BBC Radio 1 Dance service.  Earlier today (Thursday 17 September) the BBC...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

ESNS 2021; thirty-fifth edition, both physical and digital

Focus on European music during European Music Week The conference and showcase festival ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) will go ahead as live as possible in 2021. Taking place in Groningen from 13 to 16 January 2021, ESNS is the key exchange...more

17 Sep 2020 | Press release

The FAC invites you to its annual general meeting on Wednesday 14 October 2020

  The Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), the UK artist trade body, is delighted to announce that its 2020 Annual General Meeting is taking place at 18:00 GMT on Wednesday 14th October 2020. This year's AGM will be hosted online, due to continuing Covid-19...more

22 Sep 2020

  • The Musicians' Union issues an urgent call to Government to do more (see News)

21 Sep 2020

  • Night Time Industries Association warns 60% of clubs will not survive another two months (see News) 

  • TikTok's proposed deal with Oracle and Walmart receives Trump's blessing (see Bigger Picture)

  • TuneIn radio blocks content in UK (see Digital)

  • Thomas Coesfeld to join BMG as Chief Financial Officer (see Business)

18 Sep 2020

  • Beatport signs exclusive livestreaming partnership with Twitch (see Digital)

  • Radio 1 Dance to launch on BBC Sounds; Commercial radio objects (see Media)

17 Sep 2020

  • Kobalt to explore potential sale (see Business)

  • Kanye West posts his contracts online, seeks masters (see News)

16 Sep 2020

  • Chinese music streaming service NetEase Cloud Music strikes deal with BMG (see International)

  • Apple confirms subscription bundles; Spotify complains (see Digital)

  • Spotify launches virtual event listings function (see Digital)

  • More trade bodies join the Fair Trade of Music Campaign (see News)

  • Small companies to receive payouts on insurance claims after closure during pandemic (see News)

15 Sep 2020

  • YouTube launches 'short-form video experience for creators and artists' (see Digital)

  • Warner Music Group facing a class-action lawsuit over a massive data breach. (see News)

  • New chapter for Motown Records with UK label launch (see Business)

  • Facebook strikes licensing deals for its Gaming platform (see Digital)

14 Sep 2020

  • TikTok announces 100m monthly active users in Europe; Oracle set for partnership (see Digital, Bigger Picture)

  • Jamie Njoku-Goodwin appointed CEO of UK Music (see Business)

  • Shani Gonzales promoted to MD of Warner Chappell Music UK (see Business)

11 Sep 2020

  • Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquires Chrissie Hynde’s catalogue (see Deals)

  • RIAA and PwC reports show mixed fortunes for recorded music and live industry during pandemic (see Analysis)

  • Cultural industries urge European Commission not to rewrite the copyright directive (see News)

10 Sep 2020

  • Hipgnosis acquires Big Deal Music (see Business)

  • BMI closes fiscal year with historic revenue and royalty distributions; takes Covid hit (see Business)

09 Sep 2020

  • Live sector executives outline issues to DCMS Committee (see News)

  • Royal Albert Hall launches urgent donations appeal (see News)

  • European Court of Justice orders EU countries to treat music creators equally regardless of their nationality (see News)