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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.

24 May 2022 | Press release

Proper Clinches Global Supply Chain Deal With Classical Label Hyperion

  Sees Proper coordinate Covers product supply to global distribution partners  Deal includes warehousing, picking, shipping and invoicing Fulfilment of D2C sales   Proper Music Group, part of the Utopia family, and Hyperion, one of Britain’s leading classical music labels, have agreed a logistics and...more

24 May 2022 | Press release

DICE launches in Germany to take on ticket touts and give fans a new way to discover live music

  Discovery and mobile ticketing platform DICE rolls out today across Germany DICE helps fans to experience the best live events with personalised recommendations to shows they love, in turn supporting the German events industry as demand soars post-pandemic Partnerships in place with...more

24 May 2022 | Press release

PPL and PRS for Music appoint Helen Sachdev as Chair of joint venture

Helen Sachdev has been appointed Chair of PPL PRS Ltd, the joint public performance licensing venture operated by PPL and PRS for Music. Sachdev takes over from Theresa Robson-Capps and brings a wealth of experience as Chair and executive of...more

23 May 2022 | Press release

Music Venue Trust announces launch of music venue properties

Groundbreaking New Initiative Will Help Grassroots Music Venues Secure Long-Term Futures Nine UK Venues Identified for First Phase of New Scheme #OwnOurVenues   Music Venue Trust (MVT), the UK charity which represents hundreds of grassroots music venues, has announced an ambitious new initiative, #ownourvenues, that will help...more

23 May 2022 | Press release

peermusic U.K. has signed 3X Ivor Novello award-winning songwriter/producer, Brian Higgins to an exclusive global music publishing deal

 peermusic U.K. has signed 3X Ivor Novello award-winning songwriter/producer, Brian Higgins to an exclusive global music publishing deal, as announced today by Nigel Elderton, President, Europe & Managing Director, peermusic U.K. and Mike Sault, Head of A&R, peermusic U.K. The deal encompasses future works.   The...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Sony Music Entertainment Launches RCA Records Greater China

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) announced today the launch of RCA Records Greater China. The new label will focus on signing artists in the Greater China region, expanding the company’s presence across the region and investing in artists looking to broaden...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Warner Music Asia sign Mongolia hip-hop star Mrs M

Warner Music Asia’s regional label Asiatic Records has made its first move into Mongolia by signing Mrs M, a pioneer of the country’s lively hip-hop and RnB scene.Mrs M is one of the country’s most popular performing rappers and a...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Julia Hummel appointed VP, Digital Strategy & Business Development at Warner Music Canada

  Warner Music Canada has appointed Julia Hummel to the new role of Vice President, Digital Strategy & Business Development.  She’ll help the label’s artists leverage the opportunities opening up in the web3 universe, as well as working to continue to...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Driift sell over 85,000 tickets for Little Mix’s global livestream from the O2

  Final show on the band’s sell-out Confetti Tour experienced in realtime by fans in 143 countries  The livestream attracts an estimated audience of more than 200,000 - approximately ten times The O2’s capacity The event is also simulcast to cinemas worldwide, accounting...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Coca-Cola launches global music platform ‘Coke Studio’ with vibrant new film

Platform Connects Emerging Musical Talent from Around the World Debuts with Global Film that Pays Homage to Queen’s Iconic ‘A Kind of Magic’ Track   Coca-Cola is expanding Coke Studio™, a music platform that builds on the program originally launched in Pakistan in...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Supercharging Serendipity: Xposure helps artists skip the line to vetted music pros' ears

  Artists want guidance, to get outside insight into making music, but lack access to good guides and clear direction. They have to rely on luck, connections, or intense hustle to get it. Music execs, managers, and other professionals want to...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

Winners of The Ivors 2022 announced

At a ceremony in London today, the winners of this year's Ivor Novello Awards have been announced. Dave was crowned Songwriter of the Year. Having dropped the surprise Top 10 single Titanium in 2021, Dave's second album We're All Alone In This Together then hit number one in...more

20 May 2022 | Press release

UTA Music delivers their biggest Great Escape showcase to date, with CASISDEAD, Willow Kane, Bob Vylan, Scalping and more

Continuing their forward-thinking strategy to elevate the world’s most exciting new talent and shine a spotlight on some of the most important emerging scenes and cultures, UTA returned to Europe’s leading showcase festival The Great Escape in Brighton last week...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Reservoir announces publishing deal with Roxy Music's lead guitarist, Phil Manzanera

Reservoir Media, Inc. (NASDAQ: RSVR) (“Reservoir” or the “Company”), an award-winning independent music company, today announced a worldwide publishing deal with Roxy Music’s lead guitarist, musician and songwriter-producer, Phil Manzanera. The deal includes works from Manzanera’s catalog, which features songs...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Bauer Media Audio UK secures record 21M reach in new RAJAR results

Bauer Media Audio UK is today celebrating its best ever reach, securing an impressive audience of 21M across its stations. The results of today's Q1 2022 RAJAR release demonstrate the ongoing strength of radio, with more people than ever choosing it...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

YMU launch US entertainment division

SPEARHEADED BY VETERAN AGENT APRIL TOMBS, JOINED BY UTA'S SPENCER GOLDSTEIN AND ICM’S JARED GREENWALD Leading transatlantic talent management company, YMU, launches its US Entertainment division under the leadership of highly coveted and respected agent, April Tombs. The company - which holds...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Global - Rajar Q1 2022 headlines

  The UK’s biggest commercial radio company Global celebrates its best-ever audience results, scoring its highest ever reach, hours and share. Global leads the commercial radio market in all measures, with a record-breaking 25.8m weekly listeners, 242m hours and 24% share.   Global also has the top three...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Reactional Music Partners with Tuned Global for Real-time Music Personalisation in Gaming

- Reactional Music chooses Tuned Global as its music backend provider- Tuned Global music APIs and content delivery solutions provide Reactional Music with advanced tools to manage its music catalogue- Tuned Global’s Platform ensures game developers and gamers can search,...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

BMG announces new Marc Bolan and T. Rex music documentary

ANGELHEADED HIPSTER: THE SONGS OF MARC BOLAN & T. REX TO PREMIERE AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN JUNE U2, Elton John, David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Nick Cave, Joan Jett, and acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe are among a star-studded cast set to pay...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Ivor Novello, Oscar and Grammy Award winning talents announce further education programme TheWRD to kickstart young creative careers in music

Pre-degree diploma in Creative Entrepreneurship launched by The Ivors Academy Oscar and Grammy winning Producer Paul Epworth and last year’s Ivor Novello Songwriter of the Year Jamie Hartman announce the launch Online and in person course brings together music industry leaders, expert...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Amazon Music and Alfie Templeman launch a virtual festival in Minecraft to celebrate the launch of Mellow Moon

Featuring performances from Alfie Templeman, Everything Everything, Coach Party, Matilda Mann, The Vaccines and more ‘Mellow Moon’ festival performances live on Minecraft from Thursday 19th May   Amazon Music and Alfie Templeman have collaborated to create the world of ‘Mellow Moon’ inside the...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Golden Globe Winner Lisa Gerrard signs new album with Atlantic Curve

LISA GERRARD - Golden Globe Winner for ‘Gladiator’ & legendary singer for Dead Can Dance - unites efforts with long-time collaborator and award-winning composer MARCELLO DE FRANCISCI to bring you ‘EXAUDIA’. This latest Atlantic Curve album is scheduled for release...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

New research confirms the Middle East and North Africa as thriving music region

IFPI, representing the recording industry worldwide, has today announced that music streaming charts are in development for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including IFPI’s first ever regional chart. The charts, which are expected to launch soon, will be...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Alex Ho, Ben Lunn and Laura Reid among seven talented composers to receive PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund

PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, together with Jerwood Arts, the leading independent funder for early-career UK artists, curators and producers, announce today (Thursday 19th May 2022) the latest talented composers to receive the...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Voicy lands €1.2 million pre-Seed from Global Founders Capital to build the GIPHY for sound

  Leading tech figures from companies including Twitch, Spotify, Deezer and Snapchat back social platform that already has 1.1 million active users, integration with Viber and 35 million monthly plays   Voicy, an online content platform for discovering, creating and sharing sound-clips and...more

19 May 2022 | Press release

Endel Collaborates with Sony to Bring Audio Wellness to Sony’s LinkBuds series

  Now Endel soundscapes can help you relax, focus, and sleep in just a few taps, thanks to integration with Sony’s LinkBuds and LinkBuds S.  LinkBuds series now offer a seamless way to access Endel and its wellness soundscapes, thanks to a...more

18 May 2022 | Press release

IMPALA launches its new Changemaker Award to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in the independent music sector with Power Up as first recipient

IMPALA is launching a new award scheme, known as the Changemaker Award. Part of IMPALA’s diversity and inclusion work, the award aims to put the spotlight on projects that promote change in the independent sector and inspire others to take action....more

18 May 2022 | Press release

London Music Fund announces Ayanna Witter-Johnson as Ambassador & Trustee

  The London Music Fund is delighted to welcome multi-instrumentalist Ayanna Witter Johnson as an Ambassador and Trustee. The acclaimed singer, songwriter, pianist and cellist will join Nicola Benedetti CBE, YolanDa Brown, Jess Gillam, MBE, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, and Simon Cowell among others as an Ambassador of the award winning music...more

18 May 2022 | Press release

BDi Music signs Ellysse Mason to exclusive deal

Emerging artist and songwriter has 200,000 monthly Spotify listeners, 4m total streams     Independent publisher BDi Music has signed emerging artist and songwriter Ellysse Mason to an exclusive worldwide publishing deal. Signed to LAB Records, Mason has accumulated 430,000 followers across her social...more

18 May 2022 | Press release

Imelda May Joins Headliners For Towersey Festival - The UK's Longest Running Festival

Towersey Festival, the UK’s longest-running independent festival, organised by generations of the same family, will  take place this year in the stunning new location of Claydon Estate, Buckinghamshire over August Bank Holiday weekend. It’s come a long way since the...more

24 May 2022

  • 40 top record labels ranked by revenue, market share and their game-changing superstars (see Analysis)

  • What could NFTs mean for the way music will be made? (see Features)

23 May 2022

  • Harry Styles' new album tracks claim all top 13 spots on Spotify global daily chart (see News)

  • Is the middle class musician disappearing? (see Comment)

20 May 2022

  • Ivor Novello Awards - winners announced (see News)

19 May 2022

  • The unheard battle over social media licensing (see Comment)

  • Sam Ryder on how he ditched his ego and found his joy (see Features)

18 May 2022

  • How do today’s musicians make money? (see Features)

  • LimeWire strikes licensing deal with Universal (see Digital)

17 May 2022

  • Jamal Edwards MBE to be honoured with Music Industry Trusts Award (see News)

16 May 2022

  • UK success at Eurovision 2022 (see Features, Showbiz, Live)

  • What does the #CryptoCrash mean for web3 and music? (see Comment)

  • Managers report delay in visas for performers wanting to enter UK (see News)

13 May 2022

  • BMG and Warner Music bidding to buy Pink Floyd’s catalogue (see Deals)

  • MMF: "What is currently an opaque black box of song royalties, needs to be transformed into a glass box" (see Opinion)

12 May 2022

  • MMF publishes Song Royalties Manifesto (see News)

  • Girl bands made British pop great – so where have all the good ones gone? (see Features)

11 May 2022

  • More on myth that 60,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify daily (see Analysis)