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Funding first steps

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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Int’l Showcase Fund reports 900% ROI since 2013

PRS for Music Foundation’s International Showcase Fund (ISF) has delivered a nearly nine-fold return on investment since 2013, the organisation’s latest ‘impact report’, published today, claims.

The ISF, organised by a charitable foundation run by the UK’s Performing Rights Society (PRS for Music), makes available up to £5,000 for travel, visas, accommodation and per diems for emerging British artists travelling abroad to play showcase festivals, and has invested in acts such as Slaves, Little Simz, Kate Tempest, Everything Everything, Ghetts, Jake Isaac, Wolf Alice and Dan Croll. According to the International Showcase Fund: Impact Report 2013–16, every £1 invested by the fund in the last three years has generated on average an additional £8.90 for its beneficiaries.

Total revenues of fund-supported acts increased by £4 million in the same period (from £2.8m in 2013 to £6.8m in 2016), and average individual revenues more than doubled, increasing from £19,200 to £46,700 per annum.

Moreover, 89% of ISF-backed acts say they came back from showcase festivals with “tangible business outcomes”, such as securing record deals, tours and festivals, improved merchandise sales and agents, managers and publishers.

“The International Showcase Fund has played a big part in helping a stream of new talent fly the flag for British music overseas”

The average attendance at live shows has also doubled for ISF beneficiaries since their international showcase.

Ahead of an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the ISF’s founding in the Houses of Parliament this evening, the UK’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, said “Britain’s music scene is brimming with creative talent, contributing more than £2 billion a year to our economy through exports alone.

“The International Showcase Fund has played a big part in paving the way to international success for some of the UK’s most exciting, chart-topping and award-winning artists, and has helped a stream of new talent fly the flag for British music overseas.”

ISF recipient Jake Isaac, who is performing at Parliament today, adds: “The International Showcase Fund has been amazing support for me, exposing me to an audience that I totally might not have been able to reach at that level in my music journey. It’s a massive honour to join them at Parliament to celebrate 10 years of their amazing work.”

Last month the foundation awarded four British acts £10,000 of audio and production equipment as part of its latest Flash Funding scheme.