Creative counsel: an interview with Royce Bell

We quiz Royce Bell about his new role as PRS for Music Foundation’s chair and learn what the future holds for Britain’s largest funder of new music.

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  • By Paul Nichols
  • 3 Jan 2015
  • min read
We quiz Royce Bell about his new role as PRS for Music Foundation’s chair and learn what the future holds for Britain’s largest funder of new music.

What attracted you to this role?

One of the things I’m most interested in is how artists progress. How do they move from ideas and tentative steps at the beginning of their career to becoming an important part of a global arts and creative industries network? The idea of being able to contribute to an organisation that can make a real difference to an individual’s creative development is what got me here. I’m involved with award-winning Punchdrunk Theatre and Youth Music Theatre for the same reason.

Why is the Foundation so important?

The Foundation is a crucial part of the wider funding landscape because it’s often the first funder to back lesser known artists and risk-taking projects. This means its support can come at crucial stages – tipping points in artists’ careers – such as the next recording, performance or commission. Therefore, a small amount of seed funding from us can generate significant creative and business returns for those we support. Our reputation is also critical in the ability of music organisations and artists to secure support from other funders who see PRS for Music Foundation funding as an indication of quality.

The Foundation’s flexibility and capacity to broker public-private partnerships is also a crucial asset. It’s a truism that investing together feels better than investing alone, and we’re 100 percent committed to using PRS for Music’s donation to encourage others to invest in UK songwriters and performers. We’re particularly delighted that Arts Council England has just confirmed that they are doubling their investment in our Momentum Music Fund talent development programme to the tune of £500,000 in 2015.

Finally, the ever-increasing demand for the Foundation’s support speaks for itself when considering how important this unique funding body is: last year we attracted an all-time high of 2,500 applications and since 2000 we have given £20m to over 5,000 initiatives.

What are you particularly keen to get involved with?

One of the things that excites me about the Foundation is the sheer breadth and quality of the work it’s supporting and the different innovative ways in which it’s achieving this. My personal passion lies in singing, my music education driven by a mixture of musicians in my family and the developing tastes of my children, but I will certainly be using my new role at the Foundation to expand my musical horizons.

There’s so much happening at the Foundation right now, so it’s an exciting time to join the team. Cellist and composer Oliver Coates is sending us updates on his residency in Hong Kong which we are funding with the British Council; thanks to Deezer you can listen to the music we’ve funded through Momentum Music Fund on a dedicated app; we’ve just received over 100 applications for our three Steve Reid Innovation Awards and we’ve been working with BBC Introducing on the line-up for our joint South by South West showcase next March. At the same time, our open funding schemes continue to be extremely popular - our latest deadline attracted over 450 applications. All of this is testament to the incredible energy of the UK’s music industry.

What do you think the future will hold for the Foundation?

Alongside the core mission of the Foundation to make a lasting difference to the artists and organisations we support, it’s important for us to work as closely as we can with PRS for Music to support its members and the future of British music. We’re here to help composers and songwriters of all backgrounds to realise their potential and we know that it’s not getting any easier for musicians to make ends meet. At the risk of a flood of advice, I’m always very happy to hear from anybody with suggestions about where our support is needed the most.

Originally from a management consulting background, Royce worked at Accenture Information Management Services for 30 years. In addition to his business experience, he’s held non-executive roles in arts organisations such as Punchdrunk Theatre and Youth Music Theatre UK. He’s also a longstanding member of the National Theatre’s development board. Originally from Sheffield, Royce is married with four children.