Inspired by several things, I thought I would look at the funding situation for those in creative industries.

At a recent Creative Networks event in Birmingham, Mike Ryan from the LSC stood up and told us all some good news about some funding being made available for the sector as part of Train to Gain. The only condition is that your business has 5 employees or more. As the next talker put it, that excludes nearly 90% of the sector who are embryonic, micro or whatever a sole trader is called these days.

Advantage West Midlands has been putting money into supporting the sector as well through the setting up of projects like Digital Central and Music for Media. They have supported activities like research into audiences, venue development, training in music technology and lots more. Those projects ceased to be funded by AWM in March 2008. The next round of funding was advised by a document drawn up by Clare Edwards who also ran Gigbeth. The early news in Summer 2008 was that the funding was to be split between Birmingham City University (formerly UCE) and Tribal supported by Gigbeth.

To date (13/01/09) no money has been given out.

Arts Council England also support ensembles, projects and other things across the region and some of their money has been swallowed up by the London 2012 Olympics. The funding does seem random with an emphasis on Classical and World music.

So where does this leave us? Funding for a new or developing creative business exists, sometimes, if you are not a sole trader, you play Classical or World Music and you hope to never make a profit. By the way, the money doesn’t come into your account; you have to bankroll it first and claim it back at the end.

So why bother? Most of the people making the decisions don’t have an understanding let alone a grounding in the creative industries. How could they possibly understand your project?

If your creative idea isn’t commercially viable in the first place, should it be helped to survive or left to die?

We should not expect to rely on these funds – they are politically skewed, shrouded in bureaucracy, absorbed by admin costs and near impossible to obtain.

We are in the early stages of a global financial realignment. Old ways of doing business are changing, some dying, some staying. New models of working are being developed.

This is the time to take risks and try something out.

It is worth bearing in mind that in the America of the 1930’s the economy supported the popular music of the time having large touring bands – a situation that has never been repeated in better times.

People still need to eat and drink and after that, the simple things in life – friends and good times are what people want. As musicians, our audience needs us as social commentators, shoulders to cry on, people to share experiences with and for escapism. A man with £3 in his pocket doesn’t mean much, but 100 people make a paying audience.

Remember who you work for, remember you are entertainers – funding doesn’t work, it distorts the market.

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Andy Derrick is an independent freelance musician based in Birmingham, UK. He used to work for the Musicians’ Union delivering front line services and advice to musicians of all genres, experience and backgrounds. Andy’s main work is as a trombonist in many groups playing Jazz, big band, classical and other kinds of music.  He also works in studios as a session musician providing horn tracks for writers and composers. Since 1992 Andy has written and arranged music and currently has works published by Warwick Music and Andek Music.  Andy also Teaches jazz, trombone and music theory working with pupils of all ages and standards across the Midlands.

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