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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.

14 May 2021 | Press release

Music Managers Forum launch a new updated MMF Guide To Mental Health 2021 at The Great Escape

  Co-authored with Sam Parker (Parker Consulting) the free online resource offers invaluable advice and guidance tailored specifically for music managers Download here  The guide will be discussed today at The Great Escape in a panel session moderated by Sam, and featuring Paul...more

14 May 2021 | Press release

IMPEL and IMPF agree ground-breaking digital Charter of Co-operation

Charter provides architecture for ‘fairer deal in the digital marketplace’ for music publishers and songwriters   IMPEL Collective Management (IMPEL) and the Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF) have agreed a ground-breaking Charter of Co-operation to share experiences and best practices in...more

13 May 2021 | Press release

Tuned Global Powers Up Fantasy Record Label App FanLabel

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13 May 2021 | Press release

Hipgnosis acquires Andy Wallace catalogue

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13 May 2021 | Press release

Denis Sulta to stream exclusive performance from Edinburgh Castle

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13 May 2021 | Press release

Music Publishers Association announces first six successful scholars for new diversity initiative, NXT-Gen Scholars, with ambassadors

The trade association for music publishers in the UK, the MPA, is proud to welcome the first cohort of NXT-Gen Scholars to the wider MPA membership with aim to drive a more proactive, conscious, diverse and inclusive music publishing community. The...more

13 May 2021 | Press release

Proper Sign Physical Distribution Deal With Reggae-Pioneers VP Records

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13 May 2021 | Press release

BBC Radio 1Xtra announce 1Xtra Talks: Pain, Power and Progress to mark one-year since the murder of George Floyd

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13 May 2021 | Press release

New London Nightclub to Launch in Shoreditch in June

Shoreditch's Glam Ushers in a New Era of Luxury Clubbing with Iconic House Headliners   Armand Van Helden, Tony Humphries, Louie Vega, David Morales, Dave Lee, Moodena, Michael Gray, Jeremy Healy, Brandon Block, Allister Whitehead and more US house legends all line...more

13 May 2021 | Press release

How AI Made It Possible For Independent Music Labels To Surpass Major Labels

NEOS-AI is pioneering the music industry by automating the release of hundreds of thousands albums, including tracklist and artwork curation. It’s no secret that digital streaming platforms are currently dominating the music industry. But for record labels, music aggregators, and distributors...more

13 May 2021 | Press release

Reservoir signs Platinum-selling songwriter & artist Breland to a worldwide publishing deal

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13 May 2021 | Press release

Mega-producer Vinylz signs global publishing agreement with Warner Chappell Music

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13 May 2021 | Press release

Carl Cox has announced that he is partnering with BMG to release his forthcoming album.

Carl joins a roster at BMG that includes The Prodigy, Solomun, Maya Jane Coles, Wilkinson, Roísín Murphy, Craig David and others.  Carl Cox said: “I had my first single out with BMG many years ago so I couldn’t be more pleased to be...more

13 May 2021 | Press release

Sentric hires Bridget O’Gara Bloom, promotes Patrick Cloherty in key global sync roles

Independent publisher expands global sync presence after landmark year Sentric Music Group has appointed long-time publishing and recording executive Bridget O’Gara Bloom as Head of Sync, North America, as well as promoting Patrick Cloherty to Head of Sync,...more

12 May 2021 | Press release

The BRIT Awards 2021 with Mastercard

Broadcast exclusively on ITV and ITV Hub and streamed worldwide on YouTube  UK leads the world on the return of live music - first major indoor music event - with a special audience of invited key workers Britain's biggest night in music...more

12 May 2021 | Press release

BBC Radio 1 launch outreach programme ahead of Big Weekend of Live Music 2021

BBC Radio 1 will host an extensive programme of outreach activities in the lead up to Radio 1’s Big Weekend of Live Music to help young people explore careers in the creative industry.  In partnership with the Job Centre, Radio 1’s...more

12 May 2021 | Press release

Glastonbury announce set times

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12 May 2021 | Press release

Swedish tech startup, Staccs, appoints former HBO executive as new CEO, Anders Tullgren

  Staccs, a premium on-demand streaming service for concert video, announces Anders Tullgren as its new CEO. With a background working for global entertainment companies and leading the launch of several streaming platforms, Anders will help drive the launch of Staccs...more

12 May 2021 | Press release

Geoff Taylor/BPI comment on BRIT Awards with Mastercard 2021

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12 May 2021 | Press release

Sony Music Publishing Signs Ben Jackson-Cook to Global Deal

Today, Sony Music Publishing UK announced it has signed hit songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jackson-Cook to a worldwide deal.  South London native Ben Jackson-Cook has recently gained notoriety as Rag’n’Bone Man’s musical director and primary collaborator, co-writing and co-producing his...more

12 May 2021 | Press release

Abbey Road Studios and Bowers & Wilkins extend partnership to transform in-car audio entertainment

Abbey Road Studios and Bowers & Wilkins today announce a new phase of their partnership, which will see the two iconic audio brands come together to explore and enhance the in-car audio experience.  Over the last five years Abbey Road Studios has been...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Brand new venue ‘Between the Bridges’ launching this May

MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD, AND LONDON'S BIGGEST BEER GARDEN ON LONDON'S SOUTH BANK QUEENS WALK, LONDON, SOUTH BANK, SE1 OPENS FROM 27 MAY 2021  MUSIC LINE UP INCLUDES -GILLES PETERSON, CRAZY P (DJ SET),  JOE GODDARD (HOT CHIP), NORMAN JAY MBE, EROL ALKAN, SAVAGE DISCO,...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Wise Owl Films lands recommission of Sky Arts Music series, Guy Garvey: From The Vaults

Wise Owl Films, Lime Pictures’ non-scripted, Leeds-based label, has landed a re-commission of Sky Arts music documentary series, Guy Garvey: From The Vaults. The Elbow frontman will return for a second series with a curated five hours of his favourite artistes and songs from...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Plans unveiled for world’s first 5G powered, immersive hybrid festival experience

Leading organisations from across the UK’s arts, entertainment and technology industries are collaborating to create the first ever hybrid 5G Festival. The 5G Festival will be a showcase of creative talent blended with the power of advanced digital technologies, and...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

First diversity and inclusion survey for the European independent music sector launched by IMPALA during European diversity month

To mark European Diversity Month, IMPALA is conducting the first European diversity and inclusion survey for the independent music sector. IMPALA’s diversity task force worked hand in hand with associations and advisers such as Keith Harris OBE, Vick Bain from...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Celebrating British music at the 2021 BRIT Awards with some of our most-loved artist nominees

We're counting down to the 2021 BRIT Awards, set to take over The O2 once more on Tuesday 11 May. We want to celebrate the incredible British artists that have smashed it this year and brought new music that has inspired...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Rag‘n’Bone Man & P!nk To Release Charity Single

Ahead of what is to be a rapturous performance at the BRIT Awards on Tuesday, Rag’n’Bone Man & P!nk are set to release an incredible version of ‘Anywhere Away From Here’ with the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir as a charity single. Money raised will go to the...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

London Grammar Celebrate Number 1 Album with their biggest Fans via QJAM Meet & Greet Competition

LONDON GRAMMAR CELEBRATE NUMBER 1 ALBUM WITH THEIR BIGGEST FANS VIA QJAM MEET & GREET COMPETITION WATCH HIGHLIGHT VIDEO HERE NEW APP CONNECTS 100K MUSIC FANS IN 69 COUNTRIES AFTER 30+ EVENTS A GLOBAL CONNECTION TOOL PROVING VITAL FOR 2021, USED BY YUNGBLUD,...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Artist First acquires 51% stake in digital media agency Officine Orange

New Partnership Launches with ‘Fankey’ PWA Initiative Italian distribution company and record label Artist First has announced the acquisition of a 51% stake in Milan-based digital agency Officine Orange. Following the recently announced purchase of a significant shareholding in renowned live booking...more

11 May 2021 | Press release

Greening The BRITs

The climate and ecological crises ask of us that we transform the way we live to be within the boundaries of our unique planet's ecosystems. Nothing should feel more ethically, creatively, or urgently inspiring. Nothing has had such a dramatic impact...more

14 May 2021

  • How Discord wants to conquer music (see Digital)

  • Government may assist live events that could not get insurance, but it could come too late (see News)

13 May 2021

  • Universal Music Group valued at €33bn, more than the market value of parent Vivendi (see Business)

12 May 2021

  • BRIT Awards: Well received show dominated by women (see News)

11 May 2021

  • The cost of Brexit hits touring and the service sector (see Features)

  • TikTok reports staggering figures for BRITs nominees (see Digital)

  • How should music streaming services evolve? (see Opinion)

10 May 2021

  • Musicians say streaming doesn’t pay. Can the industry change? (see Comment)

  • ECSA suggests ways to fix streaming for songwriters (see News)

  • Taylor Swift to be presented with BRITs Global Icon award (see News)

07 May 2021

  • Live Nation looks to 2021 and 2022 to recover (see Business)

  • Musicians criticise plan to cut university funding for creative subjects (see News)

06 May 2021

  • How should we celebrate fame in today’s music business? (see Comment)

  • Head of commissioning for music TV Jan Younghusband to leave the BBC (see Media)

05 May 2021

  • Warner Music posts strong quarterly results (see Business)

  • Scala Radio, Jazz FMPlanet Rock and Kerrang! Radio launch premium subscription online radio services (see Media)

04 May 2021

  • Pilot concert held successfully; results to be assessed (see News, Reviews)

  • How Spotify's head of innovation is helping stay one step ahead in the audio industry (see Features)

  • Why the ‘indie’ artists you love are not as DIY as you think (see Features)

30 Apr 2021

  • Report values Universal at $53bn; plus recorded-music business and streaming revenues to rise (see Analysis)