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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.

10 Jul 2020 | Press release

Applications for Future Bubblers 2021 programme are now open

New, unsigned artists are chosen for Gilles Peterson-backed talent development scheme  Application opens from Friday 10th July - Friday 14th August 2020 Open to any unsigned artist based in England  Please apply here  The Future Bubblers team are excited to announce the opening of...more

10 Jul 2020 | Press release

Yoop Announces New Production Locations for Interactive Virtual Events on Yoop eSpace

Yoop, an entertainment company developing products to help creators distribute content directly to fans, has announced the global expansion of its interactive virtual events platform, Yoop eSpace.Yoop eSpace launched in Montreal, Canada in June, showcasing the platform’s advanced interactive functionality...more

09 Jul 2020 | Press release

Marley family to ‘reimagine’ Bob Marley’s One Love in support of UNICEF

Re-recording of iconic anthem will support UNICEF’s Reimagine campaign, a global fundraising appeal to respond, recover and reimagine a post-COVID-19 world fit for children. Members of the Marley family will reimagine the late Bob Marley’s iconic anthem One Love to support...more

09 Jul 2020 | Press release

Warner Classics launches the 3D Classical Collection, exclusively on Amazon MusicA playlist of 35 classical tracks from the London Philharmonic Orchestra available in Dolby Atmos Music on Amazon’s Echo Studio device

A playlist of 35 classical tracks from the London Philharmonic Orchestra available in Dolby Atmos Music on Amazon’s Echo Studio device   Warner Classics is launching the 3D Classical Collection – a spectacular playlist of 35 of the greatest classical tracks recorded...more

09 Jul 2020 | Press release

Eric Wong named President & CMO for Warner Recorded Music

Industry Leader Joining Company in Newly Created Worldwide Role Warner Music Group announced today that industry leader Eric Wong is joining the company as President & Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Warner Recorded Music, effective August 17th. Wong, who is currently Chief...more

09 Jul 2020 | Press release

Get ready for the International Booker Prize and Deezer to take you on an immersive journey into this year’s shortlisted novels

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09 Jul 2020 | Press release

Government endorse industry-led guidance for music production

Music production guidance published to enable professional music production to restart with confidence and clarity  Music organisations AIM (Association of Independent Music), BPI (British Phonographic Industry), MPG (Music Producers Guild) and the MU (Musicians' Union) are today announcing the publication of...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union warn that a new wave of buyout deals damage composers’ rights and careers

The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union warn that a new wave of buyout deals damage composers’ rights and careers  The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union have warned that a new partnership between Epidemic Sound and Adobe is part of...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

Wireless Connect soars with stand-out performances for fans across the globe

Live Nation expands partnership with MelodyVR and launches virtual concerts live from London’s O2 Academy Brixton    Following the momentous success of Wireless Connect, Live Nation U.K. and MelodyVR today announce Live From O2 Academy Brixton, a pioneering new live experience connecting artists...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

Commercial radio boosts news output in response to Covid-19

New research has found that UK commercial radio stations increased their commitment to news and information significantly in the months since lockdown began, broadcasting 25% more news bulletins on average that last 28% longer. These findings form part of a new...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

No Specific Support For Nightclubs Or Late Night Venues In Chancellor's Statement – Industry Is Falling Through The Cracks

Michael Kill, Chief Executive of the Night-Time Industries Association said:‘Whilst there is much to be welcomed in this announcement for many businesses, it leaves many in our sector beleaguered. Most of our members either can’t open at all due to...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

UK Music chief calls on Chancellor to extend VAT cut to ensure music industry is not left behind

Reacting to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer statement today, UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl said:“The music industry is in crisis and we need VAT exemptions, which would be a lifeline for the thousands who work in the music industry.“We will...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

Sony/ATV Signs Linus Wiklund to Worldwide Publishing Deal

Today, Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced it has signed the Swedish songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Linus “Lotus IV” Wiklund to a global publishing agreement. Linus Wiklund is one of today’s most in-demand hitmakers, having written popular singles including “Happy Now” by...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

Alexey Blinov named VP, Technology at Songkick

He will help spearhead Songkick’s transformation as the live music scene evolves   Alexey Blinov has been named VP, Technology at Songkick, the live music discovery service.  He’ll be based in London and report to Songkick’s Managing Director Bill Ashton. Blinov will oversee...more

08 Jul 2020 | Press release

Artist Partner Group taps Corey Calder as SVP, Marketing & Brands

Leadership Team Bolstered as Edgar Machuca, Olly Sheppard, and Devon Libran Promoted to VP Roles   Seasoned exec Corey Calder has joined Artist Partner Group (APG) as SVP, Marketing & Brands. The company has also made three strategic promotions to bolster its...more

07 Jul 2020 | Press release

Deaf Havana online performance

Sunday July 19 @ 8pm  Top 10 Album 'RITUALS' Out Now   As only one of a handful of British guitar bands to achieve a top 10 album in 2018 with their fifth studio album Rituals, UK 4-piece Deaf Havana toured extensively throughout 2019.  With 2020 unfolding as...more

07 Jul 2020 | Press release

Scottish commercial music industry task force established

Taskforce submits letter to Scottish government, calling for vital support for the sector Letter signed by artists, festivals, venues and more including Belladrum Festival, Biffy Clyro, Deacon Blue, Eddi Reader, KT Tunstall, Mogwai, Primal Scream, Riverside Festival, Scottish Event Campus, Simple...more

07 Jul 2020 | Press release

Universal Music Group announces global partnership with leading Indian music company, Desi Melodies

Multi-year partnership to further accelerate growth of Indian non-film music market Universal Music India to exclusively distribute Desi Melodies’ popular audio catalog and future releases worldwide Universal Music India (UMI), a division of Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based...more

07 Jul 2020 | Press release

Sony/ATV Signs Bobby Sessions to Worldwide Publishing Deal

Today, Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced it has signed the rapper, songwriter and artist Bobby Sessions to a global co-publishing deal. Bobby, among his many achievements in music, is well known for co-writing the Covid-19 benefit song “Savage Remix” by Megan...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Sophie Ellis-Bextor launches her brand-new podcast Spinning Plates

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has announced her brand-new podcast ‘Spinning Plates’, which launches today and sees Sophie chat to successful women about the balance between motherhood and their working lives. Spinning Plates is part of the Acast creator network, the UK’s leading...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Wide Days Announces Its Virtual Conference, Networking & Music Programme

  Wide Days is pleased to announce details of its virtual event, with a packed programme of panels, interviews, live performances, sector meetings, social activities and a range of networking options taking place from 23–25 July.  Supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland,...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Hold Tight! PR relaunches as music marketing agency HOLD TIGHT

Digital marketing offering officially launches alongside PR and radio plugging services Rock and metal specialist music PR and radio plugging agency Hold Tight! PR has relaunched as HOLD TIGHT, a multi-faceted music marketing agency offering print & online PR, radio plugging, strategic...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Reactions to the support package for the arts

UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl:“A £1.57bn support package for the arts is a huge step forward and should be a lifesaver for many music venues.  Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and DCMS Minister Caroline Dinenage are to be...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Tom Meighan Leaves Kasabian

Kasabian have announced today that Tom Meighan is stepping down from the band by mutual consent. Tom has struggled with personal issues that have affected his behaviour for quite some time and now wants to concentrate all his energies on getting...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

AIF seeks urgent clarity on Government’s £1.57bn fund for the arts

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) calls for urgent clarity on the eligibility of the UK’s festival sector for the Government’s recently announced financial support package for the arts. While the Government’s announcement specifically earmarked a range of cultural sectors that...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Sony/ATV Signs Worldwide Publishing Deal with Freddy Wexler

Today, Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced it has signed a global publishing administration agreement with the multi-platinum, award-winning songwriter and producer Freddy Wexler. Freddy is a veteran songwriter known for crafting iconic hits including “Be Kind” by Marshmello and Halsey, and...more

06 Jul 2020 | Press release

Imagine Entertainment and Warner Music Group form wide-ranging, multi-project strategic partnership

  Companies to Co-Produce and Co-Finance Slate of Music-Centered Film and Television Projects   Imagine Entertainment Chairman Brian Grazer and Warner Music Group (WMG) today announced a multi-year strategic partnership to co-produce and co-finance a slate of music-centered projects across multiple mediums, including...more

05 Jul 2020 | Press release

£1.57 billion investment to protect Britain's world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions

- Cultural and heritage organisations to be protected with £1.57 billion support package - Future of Britain's museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be protected with emergency grants and loans - Funding will also be provided to...more

03 Jul 2020 | Press release

Fusing climate policy and culture - Music Declares Climate Emergency meets European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

Earlier this week, Music Declares Emergency and IMPALA had a video meeting with Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner responsible for culture, innovation, research, education and youth.  Music Declares Climate Emergency, the recipient of IMPALA's 2019 Outstanding Contribution Award, is an...more

03 Jul 2020 | Press release

Apple Music Launches New Artist Discovery Program Africa Rising

Omah Lay Is the Inaugural Artist and Cover Star of the Companion Playlist     Apple Music today announced Africa Rising, a new bi-monthly artist program and companion playlist geared towards identifying, showcasing and elevating rising African talent.  Nigerian-born, Afro-fusion singer and songwriter...more

10 Jul 2020

  • Sony buys stake in Fortnite maker Epic Games (see Business)

  • Midyear analysis of the US market shows album audio consumption up; sales down (see Analysis)

09 Jul 2020

  • Samantha Moy appointed 6 Music's Head of Station (see Media)

  • Spotify: Launches in Russia next week; doubles down on fraud allegations against Sosa Entertainment; strikes podcast advertising deal (see Digital)

  • Covid-19: WHO acknowledges evidence on coronavirus spread - could impact events (see News)

  • Culture Secretary tweets VAT cut to 5% for 'attractions' including concerts (see News)

08 Jul 2020

  • YouTube rolls out new analytics hub for creators (see Digital)

  • Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union warn partnership between Epidemic Sound and Adobe could undermine royalties for composers (see News)

07 Jul 2020

  • Composer Ennio Morricone passes away (see News, Features)

  • Imagine Entertainment and Warner Music Group strike deal (see Business)

  • The Weeknd and Lewis Capaldi lead half-year sales charts (see News)

06 Jul 2020

  • Government announces support package for arts sector (see News)

03 Jul 2020

  • New legislation means analogue signal for radio won't be scrapped until 2032 (see Media)

  • Deezer partners with Mexican broadcaster; now valued at €1.3bn (see Business)

  • Hipgnosis aims to raise £200m (see Business)

02 Jul 2020

  • 1,500 musicians sign letter to culture secretary calling for help for venues (see News)

  • BMG strikes deal with ITV Studios (see Business)

  • MelodyVR reports financial results (see Business)

01 Jul 2020

  • Music Venue Trust seeks 'urgent clarification' on building project policy (see News)

  • Podcast creators find networks own the shows (see Digital)

30 Jun 2020

  • Artlist raises $48m additional funding (see Business)

  • Ivors awards ceremony cancelled; winners announced 2 September (see News)

  • Half-year touring figures analysed (see Analysis)

29 Jun 2020

  • BRIT Awards date moved (see News)

  • Music Venues Trust responds to Government 'roadmap' plan (see News)