Corey Mwamba


The lack in Momentum

If you've been reading the music press recently you'll have noticed that the Performing Rights Society Foundation (PRSF from now on) and Arts Council England (ACE) have joined forces to provide grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 which "will be awarded to between 50 and 75 artists/bands over the next 2 years." The idea [figuratively speaking] is that this grant will provide the necessary velocity to the mass of an artist's career — hence the name "Momentum". It's garnered strong support from that vast nebulous entity the music industry, which for this fund means record labels and managers.

This is not a moment to gripe about funding. The concept of patronage is important to the arts and central to the development of European and North American music. Almost every major composer in the Baroque and Classical eras had a patron of some form; that the role of encouragement and financial support for the arts shifted [slightly] from philanthropy to state policy is no accident. So no silly questions such as "name one funded musician who rocked the world": there are simply too many over history for those questions to matter. The Momentum fund represents a great chance for artists to use money to deepen, develop their work.

But there is a catch in the detail. Remember that this fund has strong support from the music industry: and the fact is that to be eligible for Momentum, you must have manager or label/publishing/agency representation, even though the guidelines do not make this clear at all [I was told that PRSF are working on this, so this may be stated clearer at a later point]. For me, I think this is a backward step. We may not be there quite yet, but I feel we're moving — albeit slowly — towards the idea of the music industry meaning everyone who works in music, including the musicians themselves [again]. It's entirely possible for an artist to have no manager, agent, label or publishing and still garner press reviews and national airplay for her/his recorded releases, undertake tours and have a notable on-line presence. And yet such an artist will not be able to apply for Momentum. Still, there are more than enough windmills to tilt at. The PRSF also offers an individuals' fund, and ACE has its grants for the arts programme. But the criteria choice for Momentum is too highly specific, and deliberately done: I wonder why, and for what benefit other than to allow labels and managers a separate — and extra — funding stream for their roster.

comments (5)

Corey Mwamba

21st May 2013 | 5:04am

As an aside, I should add that the desire of the state to shift encouragement and financial support for the arts speedily towards philanthropy [or more accurately, those who can afford it] is no accident either.

Corey Mwamba

4th Jun 2013 | 4:12am

The PRSF ran a Twitter Q and A session on 29th May, where I asked them when their guidelines would accurately reflect the priority they'd placed on having representation. They replied, saying that they "have had several enquiries along these lines", and that they'd be updating the guidelines soon.

I'll be tracking any changes, so if they do appear I'll write here.

Corey Mwamba

4th Jun 2013 | 4:34am

On 22 May I had a good discussion with the producer Tony Platt, who responded in brief to this. Tony thought that the requirement for infrastructure was very sensible, and in fact so do I. How an artist achieves that infrastructure shouldn't matter I feel. I also don't feel that having someone else provide that infrastructure is any measure of success: there are unsuccessful bands with managers and agents, after all.

I guess one of the difficulties in talking about this is that it's very easy to polarise a point of view. Tony asked me if I had problems with someone having a support team, which I don't and never mentioned. My main issue was [and is] that the guidelines don't accurately reflect this bias.

My opinion [which is related to but separate from the issue] is that they show no recognition of the times we live in, where the need for a traditional model is diminished. But first, fixing the language of the guidelines is a priority.

Corey Mwamba

19th Jun 2013 | 11:42am

Just checked today—and they have now changed the guidelines to more accurately reflect the bias.

Corey Mwamba

19th Jun 2013 | 1:22pm

Fresh Hell for jazz and improvised music! Trish Clowes found that these genres don't fit Momentum's remit. But [as I said before] there are more than enough windmills to tilt at if you're going for funding.

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