The Arts Council has launched a mission to find the next Arctic Monkeys after announcing a major shift towards funding aspiring rock stars.
In a “landmark moment for music in England,” the head of Arts Council England announced a new £500,000 fund which will be distributed to 75 indie rock bands and cutting-edge dance musicians.
A panel of industry experts will distribute the grants to musicians who are already on the cusp of success but need an additional boost to help them become household figures. However they will not be allowed to blow the cash on mind-expanding drugs.
The applicants must provide “a clear business plan” and only those that have already released a single and can demonstrate a significant following on Facebook and Twitter will be approved by a panel of music experts. The BBC will champion the scheme through its national and digital radio stations.
The Momentum fund, which will be backed by BBC Radio, follows the call by Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, for arts bodies to deliver an economic return to the nation from the cultural activities that they fund.
Arts Council England, which traditionally supports museums, galleries and theatres, is facing a 29.6 per cent cut to its budget over five years.
Despite the financial risks associated with picking pop winners, the body believes that a move into commercial music will prove a wise use of public funds given the UK’s track-record of producing internationally successful bands.
Bands who secure the grants of £5,000-£15,000 can use the money to finance “anything that will help you to develop professionally and creatively.”
Unveiling Momentum at The Great Escape festival in Brighton, where 300 new artists will perform this weekend, Alan Davey, Arts Council England Chief Executive, said: “This is the first time Arts Council England has created a dedicated fund for popular music in its broadest sense.
“The Adeles of the world are great but there’s less sustained investment in new talent because of the traumas the record industry has been through.”
The scheme will meet Mrs Miller’s call for economic returns in investment: “Pop music and original composition is something we’re really good at. British music is worth £188 million to the UK economy through international royalties,” Mr Davey said. “We will help provide sustained investment so artists can get to their second and third albums and become commercially viable.”
Shouldn’t the Arts Council focus its largesse on the museums, dance groups and theatres facing cuts? “If we retrench we would jeopardise the future of culture in this country,” Mr Davey said. “We owe it to our young people to invest in them so the X Factor is not the only way to break through.”
The ACE is expecting around 1,000 applications but will not choose the successful acts itself. The scheme will be administered by PRS for Music Foundation, the UK’s leading funder of new music across all genres, and industry experts will assess the talent.
The cash won’t be wasted on rock star excesses, promised Vanessa Reed, Executive Director of PRS for Music. “The Foundation will monitor the grants very carefully,” she said. “There will be a rigorous selection process and we will be basing our funding on a business case.”
Ms Reed added: “This is a real breakthrough moment for the music industry. The funds are for bands who already have a team around them, who need additional marketing support or to collaborate with a producer they couldn’t afford to work with. They need help to be heard in a saturated market.”
Applications can be made from today and the first wave of funded artists will be announced in August.
The fund has been inspired by a scheme in Canada which has helped a number of acts find international success, Mr Davey said. He hopes the £500,000 two-year starting fund will expand if the scheme proves a success.
The financial risk is low, argued Ms Reed. “The UK music industry has a huge economic impact internationally. The X Factor is the model we absolutely want to differentiate ourselves from. We’re supporting artists and independent labels taking control of their careers.”
Brian Message, Radiohead co-manager and Chairman of the Music Managers Forum, said: “Momentum’s investment in commercially compelling artist businesses is a welcome move and fulfils a clear need. This initiative will help drive both cultural and economic growth and is the future of arts funding.”
The grants can be used to hire a record plugger, collaborate with a name producer, or to pay for travel or accommodation costs on a UK tour. The Momentum guidelines say that grants can be used for “Development of new material e.g. collaboration costs if working with other artists/producers/songwriters.”
The cash can support touring including paying for travel, accommodation and session musicians. Marketing and PR costs are also permitted.
Momentum pop grants
Can be used for
Development of new material - hiring Calvin Harris to produce your single
Touring - staying at a rock n’roll Premier Inn and hiring roadies.
Marketing - Employing a PR svengali to create a Daft Punk-style strategy
“Anything else that will help you to develop professionally and creatively.”
Can’t be used for
Funding an extensive tour to crack the sought-after Maldives market
Building a state-of-the-art studio in your bedsit
Buying a Ford Transit van, the traditional indie band mode of transport
The acquisition of a serious rock star addiction to class A substances