Welcome to the first of my posts on the Arts Council’s blog channel. This blog and the ones which follow will give me and others working here - and within the sector in general - a space to communicate our passion for arts and culture and to share some of our knowledge about current issues. It’s also a place for conversation and I’m looking forward to reading some of your thoughts on the topics we talk about.
We keep saying that the Arts Council is working to make the arts more sustainable and resilient – and we are. But this work is as much about the artists and individuals who are part of the arts and culture sector as it is about organisations.
There’s no denying it’s a challenging time for everyone out there and individual artists need more help than ever. One area in particular where we’ve identified a need is in the commercial music sector. This isn’t a new area of work for us - we’ve been supporting talent development for many years through National Portfolio Organisations like Generator North East who are funded to do just that: develop new talent. There’s also our Grants for the arts funding which has helped projects like The Great Escape festival, which works to showcase emerging bands, to broaden its artistic offer. But we felt we could be doing more.
Here’s an interesting fact - the Association of Independent Music ‘s (AIM) 2012 Membership survey found that the two biggest challenges facing its members were access to finance and funding (39.7 per cent) and lack of time to concentrate on their projects (31 per cent).
These aren’t insurmountable obstacles but it’s something we learned more about while we researched the best way we could help artists in the commercial music sector. The result of all this work is a new programme that I’m pretty proud of: the Music industry talent development fund.
A few weeks ago we announced that PRS for Music Foundation will be delivering this programme and since then we’ve been inundated with calls and emails from excited musicians, managers and labels all keen to get involved and find out more.
The finer details, like the application process, are still being finalised and PRS for Music Foundation plan to launch in May. So a bit of a way to go yet, but all in all this is exciting news for breakthrough artists at a time when investment from multi-national record companies is less readily available.
The many emails and calls we’ve received have confirmed what we already knew: there’s a great hunger out there for this kind of support.
It’s a pilot scheme at the moment, but if we prove there’s a need it’s something I would want us to look to continue and expand – I hope in partnership with others. Many of us look across the Atlantic to the Canadians’ FACTOR fund for inspiration. It’s part-supported by commercial radio and has been ensuring Canadian talent gets a voice in a world where the most distinctive voices aren’t always the ones that rise straight to the top. There artists can spend several albums finding their voice, touring and just surviving before the international breakthrough moment happens. It means great artists like Justin Rutledge, who issues his fifth album this week, or Jenn Grant, on her fourth - can make great music on their own terms, and develop their artistic muse without the pressure of having only one shot for mega success. That’s the aspiration behind our new scheme.
I’m confident that the Music industry talent development fund is in the best possible hands. PRS for Music Foundation has a great track record of funding new music across all genres, as well as the knowledge, experience and network of contacts needed to reach artists that will benefit the most from what will be a fantastic opportunity to see their talent recognised.
This post was written by Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England.