What Funding is Available for Musicians?
There are many funding opportunities available for up-and-coming musicians, giving them advice and monetary assistance when recording music, touring or promoting themselves, including arts council funding, crowdfunding and PRS funding.
Most musicians dream of making a living from their music but we all know that getting the funding to take those next steps to success is difficult. Thankfully, there are lots of arts grants, crowdfunding platforms and funds around the UK to help you buy instruments, book studio time and release music.
Securing a grant or creating a crowdfunding campaign are great ways to get musical projects off the ground, and cover any costs that come with producing music, hiring a recording studio, touring and getting record labels to notice you.
What Funding for the Arts is there?
Art grants are a great option if you are a singer or musician looking to get their project or career off the ground. These grants, which do not need to be paid back, are in high demands so be prepared to prove why you deserve the money and demonstrate clearly how you would use it.
These are some popular funding bodies and awards for arts and music funding.
Arts Council Funding (ACE)
Art Council money comes from government and National Lottery funding and aims to invest in anything cultural from theatre to digital arts, music to literature, dance to sculpture. They aim to invest £1.45 billion of public government money and £860 million from the National Lottery between 2018 and 2022.
ACE has allocated £368 million over the next four years towards music funding but only 8% of the funding goes towards pop music. 23% goes towards classical music and 62% for opera, so ACE is the ideal choice if you are a classical musician or an opera singer.
The PRS for Music Foundation aims to support the creation of new music throughout the UK. Since March 2000 they have supported over 6000 new music initiatives and invested $19.5 million into music. Support from PRS is a sign of quality since they have been supporting new music since 1953.
PRS open grant schemes to musicians and organisations four times a year. They also regularly hold partnership programmes in response to specific gaps within the arts funding market. The PRS Foundation has a panel of over 200 independent external advisors who work at the front-line of British talent development and will judge the applications.
Some of the artists they have funded include Years and Years, Lonely the Brave and FEMME. PRS funding tends to go to artists that have demonstrated significant progress already in regards to radio play, touring and releasing music.
Emerging Arts Fund
PledgeMusic and PRS Foundation teamed to work together on the Emerging Arts Fund. This talent development fund offers financial support to artists who are looking to build upon their success or take their career to the next level.
Pledge music will generate the initial funding and the PRS Foundation will offer a grant of up to £2,500. The Emerging Arts Fund will appeal to artists who are looking to record, release a record or tour.
This arts fund will be offered to those who are at the point in their careers where they have a significant musical output, they have a fast–growing fan base both online and on social media and can provide a credible reason why they deserve to receive the Emerging Arts Fund. To be credible, you have to have released at least 2 commercially viable singles, EP or albums that garnered a relevant amount of interest and was broadcast on at least one national radio broadcast.
Applicants will need to outline project costs and budgets alongside their application, projecting the grant amount needed and setting a PledgeMusic crowdfunding target. PledgeMusic will work alongside you to help achieve the crowdfunding target before the PRS Foundation grant is paid.
MAS Records Artist Development Program
MAS Records are funded by the UK Government’s Education Budget to encourage young people between the ages of 16 and 19 to get involved in developing their music careers.
You don’t need to pay for any of the great opportunities through MAS Records plus you work towards a BTEC Diploma that can fit in around other education or work commitments. You’ll receive mentoring and access to masterclasses from record label A&R.
The mentoring includes delivery of an artist development plan for the academic year. This includes, but is not limited to, arrangement, development of songs, practice, performance, marketing, promotion, recording and release at the end of the 11 months. Each plan is tailor made to the needs of your musical development.
It includes free rehearsal time at the studio of 2 hours a week or 4 hours every other week. For recording time at the studio, there’s an entitlement of 24 hours for bands and for solo acts it’s 6 hours to finalise your plan and hopefully release a single track or EP.
You can get more information and apply here.
MOBO Help Musicians Fund
The Help Music charity has teamed up with the MOBO trust for the Help Musicians Fund. They offer help from vocal coaching to tour advice in the aim to positively impact creative careers.
To be eligible for this fund, you must be over 18 and based in the UK for at least 3 consecutive years. You must have a track record for regularly performing, writing and producing music for at least 12 months but without the backing of a label, management or music publishing company.
The Fusion Fund
The Fusion Fund offers between £2,000 and £5,000 to professional musicians who are looking to develop new ideas or work on a new career direction. Applications must be music-focused but should include contributions from at least one non-music discipline, for example, a choreographer, visual artist or a lighting designer. The Fusion Fund are looking for projects that aim to push boundaries and bring something innovative to the industry.
To apply for this funding, you must already have an active career and can prove you are disciplined and at a professional level (getting paid) in your career. You must also supply a reference from an eminent musician or music professional, not connected to your project, alongside your application.
Music Grants in Scotland
Scotland has a broad and rich music scene and there is funding which aims to encourage and assist it. Here are just some of their arts funding opportunities:
- Scottish Government’s Youth Music Initiative aims to give music-making opportunities for young people ages 0-25 and support the development of the youth music sector in Scotland.
- Crowdfunding Creativity is a pilot mentoring scheme which helps those looking to start a crowdfunding campaign.
Grants for musical instruments
Arts Council England – Take it Away Scheme
The Take it Away scheme is an Arts Council Initiative that allows musicians to apply for an interest-free loan of up to £5,000 for the purchase of a musical instrument. You must purchase this instrument from a registered member of the scheme. To be eligible, you must be 18-25, a UK resident and working at least 16 hours a week.
EMI Music Sound Foundation
This foundation offers to fund musical instrument/equipment purchase for those in full–time education. They will not fund after purchase nor will they support applications over £2,000 and they will give priority to those under 25.
There are more grants and loans available for purchasing musical instruments but many are localised so check out what is available in your local area.
Sponsors and endorsements for musicians
Sponsors and endorsements come from a large variety of sources, both prominent and local. Those who sit back and wait for sponsorships rarely get them, especially if you are just starting out your career.
Approach labels and brands you think will be a good fit for you and your image. Research and ask your friends, fans and similar artist’s what brands they use and like. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box because loads of artists are going for brands like Red Bull and Fender.
These sponsors will receive hundreds of pitches a week and their focus will be on high profile acts. Before going after sponsorships, you need to build an audience and focus on progressing your career.
If you do decide to get in touch with a company, send no more than a one-page document including your contact details, image and bio. Make sure this document answers these questions:
- How would you define your sound and style
- Why do you want to endorse said company’s equipment/product merchandise?
- What value will the sponsorship bring the company? Let them know how many social media followers you have, how many shows you have played, have you won any awards or competitions, or if your music appeared on the radio?
Crowdfunding for musicians
Crowdfunding is great for acts who have built up an engaged and loyal following. Crowdfunding’s roots are in supporting the arts and the original purpose of these sites is to help fans engage with their favourite artists.
Create a specific yet achievable goal like producing an album or getting gas money for a tour, factoring in additional costs of any rewards given for crowdfunding. Ask your family and friends first as it’s easier to gain fans towards the end of your campaign rather than at the start. Keep your campaign page updated regularly, this will show you are committed and hardworking.
Top crowdfunding websites for arts based fundraising:
Pledge Music is the biggest website for crowdfunding music and is a great way for artists to engage and build a fan base. One of the largest contributors to musician crowdfunding, over 80% of their projects reach their goal, although be mindful that the company takes 15% commission.
ArtistShare is a pioneer within the crowdfunding world and has been connecting artists since 2001. ArtistShare connects artists with their fans, allowing them to share their creativity and excitement for projects. Since their inception projects crowdfunded on their site have earned 29 Grammy nominations and 10 Grammy Award wins.
Indiegogo have raised around $1.5. Billion since they started their crowdfunding site in 2008. The company also recently opened an online marketplace where companies that have raised funds on its site can sell their products. Indiegogo take a 5% cut.
Patreon allows everyone to be a patron to the arts by providing a unique crowdfunding platform. Fans will pay a subscription fee per month or per post you release (which could be a music video, EP or song), then you will be paid every month or for every time you release new content. This is a good way to build up a loyal following as fans can pay as little as $2 per piece of content.
Kickstarter is a popular global community that allows fans to invest in a creative project. Since their 2009 launch, 16 million people have backed projects from the likes of Amanda Palmer, TLC and De La Soul, with $4.1 billion being pledged to over 158,000 projects. Kickstarter applies a 5% fee to the funds collected for creative projects.
How Can I Prove That I am Worth Investing In?
- Do your homework and research your funding option and when the deadlines are.
- Check the guidelines and make sure you are eligible for the arts funding.
- Give your best musical examples even if they’re grainy footage of a live performance or a rough demo. Ensure your music is easy to access via a working link.
- Keep your online presence up to date. Remember, they will probably Google your name so make sure everything is up to date, not just the links you have given as part of the application.
- Provide evidence you have a fast-growing fan base through gigging, good write-ups on blogs, social media and music websites, or a strong social media presence.
- Send your demo into music blogs and websites for review and approach non-commercial radio stations (University radio and community radio) and ask them to play your music. If you are successful on non-commercial radio, then try approaching local community radio stations. This type of promotion will look great on an application form and will help you get funding.
- Don’t rush into funding. Prepare and write your application ahead of the deadline.
- Be yourself, there is no need to use academic language or technical jargon. Be clear in what you want to achieve, and be warm and likeable. Check spelling, grammar and the word limit.
- Be realistic in your expectations. It’s important to remember that applying for any arts based funding is likely to be highly competitive.
- If you fail the first time or second time try again. A lot of successful musicians have been rejected for funding.
What do I spend my music funding on?
There are many different scenarios you could face when you’re trying to decide how to spend your funding money, be careful not waste the money as this could affect your career and any chance of future funding.
It’s important you work out what you want to spend your music funding on before you apply for the grant and then once you receive the money you should have a clear idea how to spend it. Here are some ideas of what music and arts funding could contribute to:
- Book studio time so you can record your demos. These demos can be sent out to labels but don’t spend all your money on studio time, having an overly-professional demo can leave a bad impression as it looks like a naïve waste of money.
- Invest in promotion. Spend the money on social media, building up radio contacts and sending your demos to music websites and blogs.
- Touring can be costly, far more than you ever think. It is a great way to promote yourself and your music but sometimes it’s hard to justify the expense. Use your own judgement and knowledge of the industry to judge whether touring is worth it.
Are you applying for funding as a musician? Tell us which grant and let us know how you get on in the comments below.