10 things artists should remember when applying for funding

Calling all artists, songwriters and composers: learn from the experts on how to improve your application and achieve funding success.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 26 Oct 2016
  • min read
From Arts Council England to Youth Music, Creative Scotland to the PRS for Music Foundation, there are a wealth of organisations and charities out there to support artists and musicians working across all genres.

But, unsurprisingly, the competition is fierce, with PRS for Music Foundation reporting average annual submissions in excess of 3,000 for just 350 grants.

With that in mind, The Art of Funding panel at the recent Venues Day gathered experts from across the worlds of music and arts funding to share their tips for funding success.

The session was chaired by BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway and included Vanessa Reed (PRS for Music Foundation), Adrian Cooke (Arts Council England), Richard Robinson (Help Musicians UK) and venue manager Sarah Morgan (The Tin, Coventry).

We went along to learn their funding dos and don’ts…

Don’t presume it’s going to be arduous
Vanessa: Don’t assume that funding applications are always going to be a nightmare. Our funding process is incredibly straightforward. It’s in two stages and the first part doesn’t take long at all. It’s all online and it starts with a music clip you’ve got to submit.

Seek feedback from the organisation you’re applying to
Vanessa: Try to get some feedback on your application. Although it’s worth understanding we’re a small trust with just eight staff, we will, where possible, help in any way we can – particularly if you get through to stage two of our process.

Keep focussed
Vanessa: Keep your application focussed and as straightforward and distilled as you can.

Be aware of the competition
Adrian: The more money you are applying for, the stronger your application has to be as, generally, there’s more competition.

Be honest about your budget
Vic: Be honest about how much money you actually need for your project. All the panelists and adjudicators looking at your application will be involved in the industry in some way, so they are aware of what it takes. If you ask for too much, people will see through it.

Adrian: It applies the same the other way too. Don’t undersell yourself and ask for less than what you need. Put together a realistic budget that actually works.

Creativity and timing are key
Vanessa: We’re looking for something really exciting musically and also a project that’s come at a critical time in an artist’s career. In that way, the opportunity we give them can really help.

Adrian: We’re looking for a good idea, a strong case and the public benefit. We want to see confidence that the project is going to happen.

Get more funders involved
Vanessa: For organisations and events, funders will often see if you’ve got a number of other funders in the mix so if one of them doesn’t work out you’ve got others to fall back on. It makes you a more attractive proposition.

Explain where the funding will lead
Richard: I like to see what the progression is. Sustainability is very important too. We want to support musicians and organisations who are viable and sustainable, and we need to know our funding is creating impact on a variety of levels. What will this funding allow them to do next? We’re an ambitious charity and anything that chimes with that sentiment will appeal. We like the idea of collaborating across genres.

Be positive
Vanessa: Don’t apply to ‘cover a shortfall’ or ‘stay afloat’. When you talk to a funding panel in that way, they’ll get the impression that you’re about to go under and it’s all a bit desperate. It makes you sound as though the only reason you are applying is because you’ve got a hole in your budget. What we want to understand is the positive spin on that – what can you do with the funding? Flip round what the horrible reality sometimes feels like and say, ‘actually, with this funding we could do something really amazing’.

Adrian: That’s the same for Arts Council England. We’re not in the business of funding failing projects or plugging gaps.

Be ambitious
Richard: People are chasing around a small pool of money, so if you can put in an application that illustrates what you’re ambition and progression might look like, then you’re in with a stronger chance.