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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.

26 Sep 2022 | Press release

Ed Sheeran pledges support for Music Venue Trust ‘Own Our Venues’ initiative

Campaign to change the ownership model of Grassroots Music Venues extended to 31 December 2022 Ed Sheeran has thrown his weight behind the campaign by Music Venue Trust (MVT) to make a radical intervention into the ownership of the UK’s Grassroots...more

26 Sep 2022 | Press release

YouTube Shorts to host classic David Bowie footage to celebrate new ‘Moonage Daydream’ documentary

  SERIES TO MARK DEBUT OF BOWIE’S CATALOGUE ON YOUTUBE SHORTS  VIEW THE SHORTS HERE      In an exciting first, YouTube Shorts are celebrating the release of the definitive new David Bowie documentary ‘Moonage Daydream’ by hosting a selection of classic footage of The Thin White Duke on YouTube Shorts. It will...more

26 Sep 2022 | Press release

Sentric Music Group makes key A&R hires across US

 Respected executives Matt DuFour, Kebu Commissiong, Carlos Escalona Cruz and Lou Plaia join the Utopia Music company   Sentric Music Group, part of Utopia Music, has made four key A&R hires in the United States, bringing experienced executives Matt DuFour, Carlos Escalona...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW Awards Show is rescheduled for Tuesday, 18 October 2022

The Awards Show on Thursday 8th September was postponed due to the death of Her Majesty The Queen. The re-scheduled 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW Awards Show will now take place on Tuesday, 18 October 2022 at the Eventim Apollo,...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

Piri & Tommy sign major publishing deals

  Fresh from wowing the crowds at Reading and Leeds, pop-dance duo piri & tommy have just signed major publishing deals.  piri has signed a direct deal with Warner Chappell Music, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group, while tommy...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

DCentralize to host the UK's first Web3 music festival

  Date: 14th - 16th August, 2023Location: Prestwold Hall Estate, Loughborough Register: https://www.dcentralize.ioDCentralize Festival will put the power back in the hands of the music community by transitioning into a DAO, enabling token-holders to participate in decision-making of the festival.  By joining the...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

John Leahy and Rupert King move to Blue Raincoat Artists

FORMER CHRYSALIS/BLUE RAINCOAT SENIOR MARKETING EXECS ANNOUNCE TRANSITION TO ARTIST MANAGEMENT TO FOCUS ON NOVA TWINS, THE MYSTERINES & OTHERS.   Respected music executives John Leahy and Rupert King have transitioned into full-time artist management roles, moving over to Blue Raincoat Artists,...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

Nottingham’s Home to Dance Music Stealth Begins New Chapter After Major Upgrade

  Leading UK dance club Stealth has begun a new chapter opening to rave reviews in Nottingham following a major transformation over the summer. The award-winning club that regularly features in DJ Mag’s ‘Top 100 Clubs in the World’ is returning with...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

LIVE statement on the Government’s mini-budget

Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE, said:  “While we are pleased to see the Government taking steps to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, today’s announcement delivers little for the UK’s world leading live music industry.“Jobs are already on a knife edge, and we...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

IMPALA recognises Didier Gosset at Reeperbahn festival for his outstanding contribution to independent music

 Didier Gosset receives IMPALA's prestigious Outstanding Contribution Award during the association’s annual meeting in Hamburg.     Didier’s work as Communication and Network Director has been crucial in expanding the IMPALA membership’s breadth to over 30 countries today. He played a key role...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

A statement from AIF CEO Paul Reed on the UK Government's newly announced mini-budget

  "Today's announcement from the Chancellor means very little for our £1.76bn UK festival industry. We've faced unprecedented challenges on increased costs, supply chain and low consumer confidence, with audiences facing a social emergency. This shows no sign of relenting as...more

23 Sep 2022 | Press release

Aveleen Rose Entertainment to Represent Rapper and Spoken Word Artist, John Bernard

The London-based artist services agency, Aveleen Rose Entertainment has announced new management signing with rapper and spoken word artist John Bernard. Corina Sabou, the CEO and founder of Aveleen Rose Entertainment, said: “What impressed me the most, apart from his artistry,...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

UK Music Urges Government To Protect Music Industry From 'Economic Storm' As New Report Reveals Sector's Fragile Recovery

  UK Music, the collective voice of the UK music industry, publishes its This Is Music 2022 annual report today (Sept 22), which reveals how the sector began to recover from the initial impact of the pandemic. Unveiling the report, UK Music...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

BBC Studios and BBC Music presents Later… with Jools Holland at 30

  Celebrating a landmark birthday, BBC Two’s Later… with Jools Holland at 30 is to be recorded before 3,000 fans at one of Britain’s most famous concert venues on Wednesday 5 October. 30 years, 60 series and over 450 episodes since it all began back...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

hmv's Live & Local gig programme leads to Newcastle singer being signed to 1921 Records

  - India Arkin will release her debut album on vinyl after being spotted by hmv staff following gigs in her university town of Newcastle - More than 100 gigs are set to take place in hmv stores this National Album Day...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

Warner Music and the Rio Ferdinand Foundation host inaugural youth careers event in Belfast

  Major music company, Warner Music, and sporting charity, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation, have come together with the support of local broadcaster, Cool FM, to host their first ever careers event for young people in Belfast at the city’s Oh Yeah...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

BeatStars Publishing Announces Recent Producer Signings - Including Hitkidd, 1SRAEL, Pxcoyo, Emkay, Chris Rich and RedMOSK

Responsible for Multiple Platinum Hits and Tracks by Lil Uzi Vert, Megan the Stallion, Future and More Today, BeatStars Publishing announces recent producer signings, including Hitkidd, 1SRAEL, Pxcoyo, Emkay, ENRGY, Pilotkid, Chris Rich, RedMOSK, DeeMarc, Dystinkt, Lil H, and Josh Petruccio.  Since...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

Fire In The Booth announces new partnership with Donny “Dizzy Clean Face” Flores to spearhead US developments

  Charlie Sloth announced a new partnership with award-winning music industry titan Donny “Dizzy Clean Face” Flores.  Flores is to help spearhead the US communications for Fire In The Booth as the platform shows huge growth in the US territory. Flores will...more

22 Sep 2022 | Press release

Leila Oliveira named President of Warner Music Brazil

Sérgio Affonso to step down after more than 15 years as President to run his own independent label     Leila Oliveira is being promoted to become President of Warner Music Brazil, effective from October 28.  She will step up into the role...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Oscar-winning producer Paul Epworth congratulates the first Ivor Novello Scholar, Andy Skinner, calling him “an inspiration”

  Songwriter Andy Skinner from Bangor, Northern Ireland, has been confirmed as the first Ivor Novello Scholar and will have his fees paid to study TheWRD from The Ivors Academy.  TheWRD is a new Access to Higher Education Diploma in Creative Entrepreneurship with...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

National Album Day

NATIONAL ALBUM DAY 2022 – SATURDAY 15TH OCTOBER “CELEBRATING DEBUT ALBUMS” Presented in association with audio partner Bowers & Wilkins and broadcast partner BBC Sounds EXCLUSIVE LP RELEASES & REISSUES ANNOUNCED TO COINCIDE WITH NATIONAL ALBUM DAY:ALT-J, BLACK SABBATH, BLOSSOMS, BUNNY SCOTT, CHASE...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Anna Gregorek joins UTA as Senior Director of Music Brand Partnerships in the UK

UTA’s Music and Marketing Practices See Momentum with Expanded Presence Over the Past Year    Leading global talent, entertainment and sports company UTA today announced that Anna Gregorek will join the agency as Senior Director of Music Brand Partnerships (MBP), a newly...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Stormzy & Rina Sawayama Win Big At AIM Awards 2022

Legendary British musician Stormzy honoured as Diversity ChampionRina Sawayama to receive Innovator Award in association with Amazon MusicFinal nominees revealed ahead of ceremony on 28 SeptemberCeremony tickets selling fastLive Show & After Party tickets on sale here with rising star...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Music Venue Trust announces Ticketmaster as headline sponsor for Venues Day 2022

FRANK TURNER TO GIVE KEYNOTE ADDRESS AND OTHER SPEAKERS CONFIRMED  Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced Ticketmaster as the headline sponsor for its forthcoming Venues Day annual networking event, which takes place on Tuesday 18th October at Hackney Church (formerly known as...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Warner Music UK promotes Charlotte Saxe to SVP, Legal and Business Affairs

James Radice to step down from his role after eight years   Warner Music UK has today announced that Charlotte Saxe will be promoted to become SVP, Legal & Business Affairs from 3rd October.  In her new role, she’ll be reporting directly to Tony...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

YouTube announces new ways for creators to make money, supporting the next wave of global creative entrepreneurs

At its inaugural Made on YouTube event, the platform reveals that over the last three years, YouTube has paid creators, artists and media companies more than $50B   Today YouTube introduced the next chapter in rewarding creativity on the platform. At its...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Music Venue Trust statement on energy support package

"Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes this intervention by the Government, which appears at face value to comprehensively tackle the immediate short term energy crisis for Grassroots Music Venues. We await full details of the scheme and the method of implementation by...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

YMU expands into gaming and sports marketing as Digital Sports Mgmt joins the group

 Digital Sports MGMT represents leading brands such as Warner Bros and Xbox, and influencers such as Danny Aarons, ShaunaGames and AJ3     YMU today announce the integration of leading sports marketing, gaming, and entertainment agency, Digital Sports Mgmt (DSM), into their global...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

LIVE statement on energy support package

Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE said: "We welcome this support from Government, but we are clear that this needs to be sustained past the next six months. Spiralling energy prices have already forced music venues up and down the country to...more

21 Sep 2022 | Press release

Music Mudder 2022 raises over £55,000 for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy

  Music Mudder 2022, the music-inspired endurance event organised by leading talent agency Wasserman Music, in partnership with music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, successfully raised over £55,000 for the charity, on a day filled with mud, sweat and cheers.  The event saw teams...more

26 Sep 2022

  • Paid single sales drop to lowest point in 17 years (see Analysis)

  • Mini-budget outlines tax cuts, but entertainment sector notes lack of support; Ed Sheeran champions intervention into the ownership of Grassroots Music Venues (see News)

23 Sep 2022

  • Why musicians are cancelling tours to protect their mental health (see Features)

  • Mercury Prize sets new date (see News)

22 Sep 2022

  • CMA publishes responses from industry to its streaming economy report (see News)

  • UK Music publishes This Is Music 2022 annual report (see Reports)

  • Why major labels and Spotify love fake artists (see Opinion)

21 Sep 2022

  • Spotify launches audiobooks business (see Digital)

  • YouTube announces new ways for creators to make money (see Digital)

  • The art of being dropped (see Features)

20 Sep 2022

  • Warner Music Group is moving beyond superstars – and that is a good thing (see Comment)

16 Sep 2022

  • Just how financially secure is music publishing? (see Analysis)

15 Sep 2022

  • Ruling highlights PRO Tariff structures for music festivals in the EU may be unlawful (see News)

30 Nov 1999

    14 Sep 2022

    • Universal Music Group launches Virgin Music Group (see Business)

    • YouTube paid over $6bn to the industry in last year (see Digital)

    13 Sep 2022

    • Why Wall Street is still betting on the music industry (see Analysis)