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Funding first steps

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Vanessa Reed of the PRS Foundation in London emphasises the importance of nurturing artists’ first steps overseas

22 Nov 2016

Vanessa Reed, PRS Foundation, h.Club 100 Awards

2016 marks the tenth anniversary of PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund, which supports UK acts taking their first steps into overseas markets. Run in partnership with the Department of International Trade, Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union and Pledge Music, this initiative offers advice to export-ready artists and grants that contribute to the costs of attending industry showcases across the world.

The findings in a recent evaluation (the International Showcase Fund Impact Report) speak volumes: In 2013–16, every £1 invested by the fund generated an additional £8.90; every act’s live audience and social media footprint doubled; and perhaps most importantly, 89% of the supported artists returned with tangible outcomes and realised the goals they set when applying.

Good news all round, then? Well, yes and no. Beyond the success stories and statistics, the number of artists we’re supporting is limited when compared with the increasing demands and financial pressures that emerging artists face. In 2015–16, applications increased by 67% and we could only support ⅓ of those who applied. In contrast, many of our colleague funders overseas strive to help all acts that have been invited to showcase at an international event.

If music is one of our greatest exports, then working together to nurture artists through those tricky first steps has never been more important

How then can we help more of the UK’s music talent to take advantage of this career defining opportunity? Firstly, we’re intensifying our focus on pooling resources with public and private sector partners, ensuring that they reflect the changing dynamics of our industry – direct-to-fan platform Pledge Music is the latest partner to join the fund.

Secondly, we’re increasing the range of artists supported because the UK industry thrives from its unique diversity.
With the rise of black British music overseas, 23% of acts funded in 2016 were of BAME (black, Asian and minority-ethnic) background. Our report also highlights the impact our fund had on grime collective The Square, which has catalysed individual careers for ElfKid, Novelist and more.

Finally, post-Brexit, we need to ensure that world-class music created by UK artists continues to flow across European and international borders. In this context, we welcome Wales Arts International as our first UK partner and we hope to identify other ways for UK nations to present an open and united front in less certain times for UK trade. If music is one of our greatest exports, then working together to nurture artists through those tricky first steps has never been more important.


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