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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.

30 Nov 2020 | Press release

Blue Raincoat Music Publishing sign legendary songwriter and producer Mike Chapman for worldwide deal

  Blue Raincoat Music Publishing led by Jeremy Lascelles and Robin Millar announced today the re-signing of renowned songwriter Mike Chapman for a global deal.  Mike, one of the world’s most successful songwriters was the very first signing to Blue Raincoat Music...more

28 Nov 2020 | Press release

Delic Appoints Industry Experts To Advisory Board

  Music collaboration tool Delic are delighted to announce the appointment of Cliff Fluet and Claire McAuley as Members of their Advisory Board. Both will appear on a Delic panel on Dec 1 2020, discussing what it means to be an...more

27 Nov 2020 | Press release

Stagehand Launches #ILOVELIVE

A Prize Draw Campaign To Raise Funds For Music Stage Crew Impacted By Covid-19Now LiveFeaturing Unique Memorabilia From Artists Including Ajimal, Alt-J, Bastille, Billy Ocean, Blossoms, Camelphat, Chemical Brothers, Clannad, Courteeners, Craig David, Disclosure, Django Django, Download Festival, Elbow, Ellie...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Perfect Havoc expand with new employee hire

Today, independent dance music record label Perfect Havoc announce the hiring of their first full time employee.  Frederik Bonnesen has joined the company as Junior Label Manager, leaving UTA where he was working as an assistant on a diverse range...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Charlene Brown appointed as Chair of The Ivors Academy’s new Ethics Committee

Charlene Brown appointed as Chair of The Ivors Academy’s new Ethics Committee Lawyer and human resources expert Charlene Brown to Chair the Committee on a three-year term. Ethics Committee to advise the Academy Board and help create a new ethical framework to...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Pioneering Youth-Music event announces more speakers, sessions and networking opportunities

Off The Record is pleased to announce a range of exciting additions to its programme including workshops, an opportunity for artists to have a track critiqued by an industry panel and book one-to-one meetings with speakers. The two-day online event...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Pete Tong brings live music back to The O2

Calling all ravers. For one night only, Pete Tong, The Heritage Orchestra and Jules Buckley return to The O2 to take music lovers back to Ibiza for the ultimate Christmas rave at home. Available to watch on Saturday 19 December...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

BMG acquires No Angels catalogue bringing Germany’s biggest ever popstars back to streaming services

No Angels, the most successful girl band in German chart history, is returning to streaming services thanks to BMG. The welcome news for fans follows BMG’s acquisition of the Cheyenne Records catalogue, which includes many of Germany’s most iconic songs...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

BBC Radio 1: Aitch x AJ Tracey, Billie Eilish, HAIM, and Royal Blood named on longlist for Annie Mac’s Hottest Record of the Year

The longlist for Annie Mac’s Hottest Record of the Year was revealed on BBC Radio 1’s Future Sounds this evening, with Aitch x AJ Tracey, Billie Eilish, HAIM and Royal Blood among the artists named.   Every Monday to Friday at...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

In Place of War Announces Global Music Industry Advisory Board: Midem, Native Instruments & Roland Represented

In Place of War, the organisation that uses creativity to effect positive change in 26 areas of conflict around the world, today unveils its newly appointed Global Music Industry Advisory Board.Over 16 years, the charity has enabled a network of...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Get a year’s worth of Deezer Premium or HiFi for half the price

Pre-pay and get 12 months of Deezer Premium for £60 or HiFi for £90*Are you itching for a great Black Friday deal that your ears will love? This year Deezer’s got you covered. Our new Black Friday promo gives you...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

ESNS confirms first acts for 2021 edition

56 up and coming artists confirmed to showcase on the digital platform ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) reveals the first artists for its upcoming edition, taking place from January 13 - 16, 2021. The showcase festival will be fully digital for the first...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

Sony Music Brazil launch new programme to boost digital transformation in the Brazilian music industry

Programme seeks to develop creative tech-driven solutions that help further improve the music experience for people across the country Sony Music Brazil ‘code/stage’ hackathon awards prizes to three projects that harness artificial intelligence and machine learning, including helping the hearing impaired...more

26 Nov 2020 | Press release

MU expresses consternation as new Government measures deliver blow for live music

The Musicians’ Union has greeted with dismay the Government’s new guidance for the live music and events sectors, with particular concern at the new cap on capacities for indoor live events under Tiers 1 and 2. Such limitations has made...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

Universal Music UK launch 0207 Def Jam label

Alec Boateng and Alex Boateng named co-presidents of the new frontline label with a series of senior appointments confirmed Amy Tettey joins as managing director, Jacqueline Eyewe named marketing director and Char Grant becomes A&R director   Universal Music UK has today...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

Best Art Vinyl Award 2020 Goes Virtual

Bringing contemporary cover art to the public in a lockdown   Best Art Vinyl 2020, the annual search for the most creative and well-designed record cover of the year, is underway and the 50 nominations shortlist has been curated as a unique Virtual...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

Can music make you multilingual?

New research explores the connection between music and learning languages- 87% of people in the UK found listening to music helps when trying to master a new language - Global audio streaming service Deezer surveyed over 12,000 people across six...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

Clubbing TV launch Clubbing.Live, a New, Interactive Streaming Platform

Over the last 10 years, Clubbing TV has successfully produced and broadcast more than 1500 hours of live streams from all around the globe. From studios, clubs, roof tops and crazy boat parties to some of the biggest festivals in...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

Jackie Davidson MBE and Peter Thoms elected as directors at PPL Annual Performer Meeting 2020

Today, at the PPL Annual Performer Meeting (APM) Jackie Davidson MBE and Peter Thoms were elected as Performer Directors by PPL-registered performers. They will sit on both the PPL Performer Board and main PPL Board. The meeting looked back over the...more

25 Nov 2020 | Press release

UK Music Chief urges chancellor to use new £4bn fund to help support music industry

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spending Review, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a £4 billion levelling up fund which we hope will be a much-needed boost for the creative sector. “We look forward to engaging...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Jon Ollier launches One Fiinix Live

Plans for New Live Booking Agency Revealed “Now is the Time to Embrace the Change"  Jon Ollier the award-winning UK booking agent whose clients include Ed Sheeran, Anne-Marie, Lauv, 2Cellos and JC Stewart among others, has unveiled plans for a new, independent...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Female-focused mentoring enterprise The Cat’s Mother teams up with PPL for 2021 event series

Mentoring network The Cat’s Mother is teaming up with music licensing company PPL to provide support for young women entering the music industry. The collaboration will see the two organisations work together in 2021 to help young women build networks...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

#loverecordstores launches Inaugural ‘Independent Albums Of The Year’ Initiative

List Announced on December 3 – New, Vinyl Exclusives Available to Buy & Pre-Order instore & Online on December 5   #loverecordstores, the campaign launched earlier this year to raise awareness of the challenges faced by record stores during the COVID-19 pandemic is...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Tribe XR Bring Streaming for DJs to Virtual Reality for the First Time Ever with Beatport LINK Integration

No DJ gear, no problem! Beatport and Tribe XR have announced the full integration of Beatport LINK,the streaming service for DJs, directly into Tribe XR's virtual reality software. Almost anyone with a consumer VR rig can now stream and mix...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Rick Boardman and TripTik Management Announce Matter Music and New Signing, The Nocturns.

Rick Boardman, hit songwriter/producer and former member of the critically acclaimed Delphic, alongside Will Gresford and Holly Lintell of TripTik Management (Nick Mulvey, The Six)join forces to announce label, management and publishing company, Matter Music. Founded in Manchester, Matter Music’s extensivecatalogue...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Communion are very excited to share details of a forthcoming weekly streamed series of live new music sessions and artists in conversation, filmed at London’s Lafayette.

In partnership with LIVENow, ‘Communion Presents’ takes the form of a weekly 30 minute show featuring two live performances and interviews with Communion’s host Mazin Tappuni. The first episode goes live on Sunday 29th November featuring performances by Olivia Dean...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Absolut and Beatport Launch NYE 2020 - a 20+ Hour, 15-city, Global New Year’s Eve Live Stream Party to #DanceAway2020

In response to global research insight that consumers, especially LDA Gen Z*, are craving real life connections, Absolut has launched a campaign to celebrate the great things that happen when diverse minds come together reminding the world that nothing beats...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

MMF reactive comment - Select Committee

Annabella Coldrick, CEO, Music Managers ForumThe MMF is delighted that this hugely important inquiry has started, and that MPs have heard directly from artists and songwriters. Hopefully more will get an opportunity to do so in the coming weeks, as...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Sony/ATV Signs KOLIDESCOPES to Exclusive Global Deal

Today, Sony/ATV Music Publishing UK announced it has signed powerhouse duo KOLIDESCOPES to an exclusive worldwide publishing deal. KOLIDESCOPES, consisting of Dan Dare and John Courtidis, is an accomplished songwriting and producing team known for co-writing the hit single “Head...more

24 Nov 2020 | Press release

Warner Music Group taps Dr. Kobi Abayomi as SVP, Data Science and Analytics

Recognized Expert and Author Joins Company in Newly Created Role  Recognized data science expert, statistician, and author Dr. Kobi Abayomi has joined Warner Music Group (WMG) as SVP, Data Science and Analytics. In this newly created role, he will lead analytics...more

30 Nov 2020

  • The government has an opportunity to set a global standard for a viable future for creators (see Comment)

27 Nov 2020

  • Latest Government guidelines leave live sector reeling (see News)

  • How an imaginary grandmother got millions of Spotify streams (see Features)

26 Nov 2020

  • Universal Music UK launches 0207 Def Jam (see Business)

  • Jackie Davidson and Peter Thoms elected as PPL Performer Directors (see News)

  • Guy Garvey and Crispin Hunt talk about the 'music streaming scandal' (see Features)

24 Nov 2020

  • Warner Music Group posts flat results in challenging year; Simon Robson named President, International, Recorded Music (see Business)

  • Government issues Winter Plan, but concerns raised for grassroots venues (see News)

  • SoundCloud reports strong growth for 2019 (see Business)

  • How Driift cracked livestreaming (see Features)

23 Nov 2020

  • The time for the impossible is now (see Comment)

  • Snapchat appears to have acquired Voisey (see Digital)

  • Amazon Music announces 'Ones to Watch 2021' list (see Digital)

20 Nov 2020

  • Taylor Swift’s masters: What Shamrock gets for $300m, why it matters, and what’s next (see Analysis)

  • Should the BBC have censored Fairytale of New York? (see Opinion)

19 Nov 2020

  • Artist Partner Group becomes independent; roster moves to Atlantic Records (see Business)

  • The Great Escape festival announces first fifty acts for 2021 edition (see News) 

17 Nov 2020

  • UK Music’s Music By Numbers report to highlight pre-pandemic success (see Analysis)

  • Scooter Braun sells Taylor Swift’s Big Machine masters (see Business)

  • Lil Nas X shows on Roblox score 33m views (see Digital)

  • VEVO DSCVR Artists To Watch 2021 named (see Digital)

16 Nov 2020

  • HMV makes loss, but confident about future (see Business)

  • Feature: Shabs Jobanputra, who set up Relentless Records 21 years ago (see Features)

13 Nov 2020

  • The US Commerce Department halts ban on TikTok (see Bigger Picture)

  • Abuse: Octavian dropped following allegations, AFEM launch Code of Conduct, Lily Allen speaks (see News, Features, News&Showbiz)

  • Steve Barnett: The Head Coach (see Features)

  • John Lewis, Amazon Music launch Christmas campaigns with hit potential music (see News)