Musicians' Survival Guide: Funding for Musicians

By Dav Williams

Posted

Read the full guide here

Finding financial support may seem relatively complex, but there are several opportunities out there including crowdfunding, social investment and sponsorship, alongside the more traditional grant funding approach. However, it’s worth considering that the vast majority of funding for musicians is project based and time sensitive.

Grant-Based and Statutory Funding

In the UK, the main providers of grant funding for musicians are: 

Trusts and Foundations

Although very much dependent on the type of project you’re seeking funds for, you’re not limited to those aforementioned. Others include the Britten Pears Foundation (NB: currently closed to applications) and The Michael Tippett Musical Foundation for emerging composers, and the Hinrichsen Foundation, the Fenton Arts Trust and The Radcliffe Trust for new music.

Arts Organisations

A handful of arts organisations across the country also provide grants or support musical projects directly. For example, Youth Music provide funding for sector support and developmental projects for children and Jazz North, who seek to increase the profile of contemporary jazz in the North of England, support artists through creative programmes such as northern line and Jazz North Introduces. Elsewhere, Music for All provide funding for musical activity in the community.


 

Seven Top Tips on Writing Grant Applications

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Consider the guidelines

Make sure your project fits within any guidelines given. Up to 60% of applications are rejected as they don’t meet the eligibility criteria. Any guidance given provides insight into the aims of the funder too. The best applications are those targeted to meet the interest of the funder, but that remain artistically-led, rather than funder-led. If the guidelines do not match your project, look elsewhere.

Be realistic

It’s always important to keep in mind that applying for any arts based funding is likely to be extremely competitive. Be realistic about the time you are able to invest in making applications and consider the relatively low success rate.

Apply well in advance

Most grant bodies take three months on average to reach a decision. Make sure you factor this in to your project timeline and come up with an alternative plan for if you are unsuccessful. It may also take a lot of time to gather all the information required from different sources (e.g. references/preparing a budget) so begin the process as early as possible.

Read the application form carefully

If the space given has a character or word limit, write the full amount but don’t ramble. You’ll be up against other applicants who will be making sure they get across their musical idea or concept – the funder will expect you to do the same. Pay close attention to each question, and make sure you answer what is being asked of you.

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Communicate your idea clearly

It’s important for your musical idea or concept to be fully formed at the point of application. Always ask yourself the question – so what? Make it difficult for a funder to turn you down by ensuring your case for support is as strong as possible by demonstrating the need and importance. Explain what, how and how much. Convey the intended outcomes and impact.

Get someone else to proofread your application

A grant funder will look negatively on budgeting errors (they want evidence you’d spend their money wisely), poor grammar and typos (demonstrates attention to detail). Check, check, and check again! Ask a friend to read it and tell you what they ‘hear’. Go through several drafts to make sure that it is a well thought-out application.

Demonstrate what support you currently have

A funder will look for projects or proactive artists that have a significant level of backing or a previous track record – it’s less of a risk. Make sure you convey what support you’ve already enlisted, whether this is funding from other sources or by providing a clear indication of the strength of your fan base. The higher your profile amongst funders and peers, the more likely your chances of success. Try and get face-to-face contact with funders and sponsors wherever possible – invite them to your performances, get along to networking events. Like anything in the industry, it’s all about relationships and who you know.


 

Crowdfunding

Many musicians and LCoM alumni are increasingly using crowdfunding platforms to finance tours, CD/vinyl releases etc. Some of the most well-known platforms include IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, although there are numerous alternatives. However, it’s always worth checking to see what fees each individual service might charge and which offers the best package for your needs.

Crowdfunding is particularly effective if you already have an established fan base or loyal community of friends and family. It goes without saying, but those who are able to leverage their network to get those initial pledges coming in have much higher success rates using this funding method.

Five Top Tips for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

  • Set an achievable goal, but factor in the additional costs of any rewards given (physical costs involved, shipping, transaction fees) – work out your net income and what this allows you to achieve. Time and time again musicians forget to factor this in and eventually lose money on any crowdfunding campaign.
  • Leverage your network – ask your friends and family before asking more widely, it’s easier to gain support from your fan base towards your final target total rather than at the very beginning. People want to help you get over the line, not to it.
  • Keep your campaign page updated regularly – fresh content keeps it interesting and demonstrates that you care about those who back you.
  • Offer rewards to both existing fans and potential new supporters – crowdfunding is the ideal opportunity to increase your fan base and help create a deeper relationship with existing ones.
  • Keep engaging with supporters after the project is funded – it’s a relationship, not a transaction. You’ll reap the benefits if you value your fans long term.

In-demand guitarist and LCoM graduate Alex Munk ran a highly successful Kickstarter for his band Flying Machines in 2016, which generated over £3,500. Alex commented:

Make sure you let people know about the campaign well before it goes live. Have some dependable family and friends help get you off to a great start. Reaching out personally through email to family, old friends and acquaintances is more effective than relying on social media posts. Be aware at the start that it takes a great deal of emotional energy and time. Unless you're a superstar, stats show that friends and family are the ones who will carry you through on your first crowdfunding campaign. Ask to do interviews and features with relevant institutions so you always have something new to post alongside the campaign. Do Facebook live videos to get the most traction on social media. Update your backers regularly to establish trust and a dialogue with potential fans and keep in contact with them with a mailing list (very important!) long after the campaign is over. 

Match Funding for Musicians

Some of the best crowdfunding platforms are working in collaboration with trusts and foundations, grant bodies or statutory funders to offer additional match funding for musicians. For example, the Arts Council England is working in collaboration with Crowdfunder to inject an additional £125,000 of extra funding towards crowdfunding projects. Individuals are therefore able to access up to £20,000 extra – learn more at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/funds/arts.

Elsewhere, PledgeMusic have teamed up with Help Musicians UK to offer the Emerging Artists Fund, which enables selected artists to access top-up funding from HMUK if their PledgeMusic campaign is successful. The EAF is subject to review each year – keep an eye out on www.emergingartistsfund.com for further information.

Social Investment

If you’re a community music practitioner or working on a musical project that creates social impact, you could potentially explore the social enterprise/entrepreneur model of receiving investment for your idea or project. Often this type of funding is a blend of loan and grant funding – explore providers such as Charity Bank, Key Fund or the Big Potential (now closed for applications). Be aware that these are loans and will often be repayable but if you’re a social enterprise that’s going places, this could provide the capital required for growth on better terms and rate than any commercial bank.


 

Useful Websites and Selected Grant Programmes

Arts Council England: Grants for the Arts

This open access funding programme (soon to be renamed Project Grants) is aimed at individuals, arts organisations, and other people who use the arts in their work. The focus is on arts activity that engages people in England

  • £1,000 to £15,000 – decision in six weeks
  • £15,000 to £100,000 – decision in twelve weeks

www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/grants-arts

PRS for Music Foundation

  • The Open Fund (up to £5,000 for music creators – i.e. composers/songwriters)
  • Momentum Music Fund (between £5,000 to £15,000 for artists/bands to break through to the next level of their careers)
  • The Composers’ Fund (up to £10,000 for classical composers with strong track record)
  • International Showcase Fund (up to £5,000 for artists, bands, songwriters and producers based in England and Scotland for international travel, visas, accommodation or per diems)
  • Women Make Music (up to £5,000 for outstanding female songwriters and composers, including bands and performers who write their own material, of all genres and backgrounds)

www.prsformusicfoundation.com/funding/

Help Musicians UK

  • Transmission Fund (formerly known as Career Development Bursaries) - (£500 to £1,500 towards masterclasses/mentoring/research/coaching) 
  • Fusion Fund (£2,000 - £5,000 for professional musicians to undertake UK-based research projects)
  • Peter Whittingham Jazz Award (£5,000 award given to a jazz musician or group towards a creative project including collaboration, touring, showcasing, recording or promotion)
  • Postgraduate Awards (£1,000 to £5,000 towards postgraduate study, nominations are coordinated by the receiving academic institution. HMUK do not accept direct applications for this scheme)
  • Health and Welfare Funding (although not funding per se, if you are experiencing a crisis, economic hardship or a health problem, Help Musicians UK may be able to help)

www.helpmusicians.org.uk/creative-programme

Other Funding Advice

Help Musicians UK Funding Wizard: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/creative-programme/funding-wizard 

Funding for Composers (Courtesy of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation): www.fundingforartists.org.uk/composers/

Musicians’ Union General Advice: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/Advice/Your-Career/Finance/Sources-of-Funding

Finance/Sources-of-Funding Sound and Music Artists Toolkit: www.soundandmusic.org/resources/artists-toolkit/funding/sources-of-funding


Contact

Dav Williams - Development and Alumni Relations Coordinator at Leeds College of Music
+44 (0)113 222 3438
Alumni@lcm.ac.uk
Fundraising@lcm.ac.uk
@Dav_Williams

All information was accurate as at the time of the Musicians Survival Guide publication (July 2017). 

By Dav Williams

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