In preparation for this blog post, our team had been researching programs, grants, and general funding available for music creators around the world for the past week. Our plan had been to create a nice resource for you all that would summarize all funding options available and provide helpful guidance on how to obtain them.
However, in the research process, we encountered something weird. It turns out that funding for music creators in the United States SUCKS!
While the UK has loads of programs to financially incentivize music creation and assist music creators with fairly low barriers, the US has significantly fewer programs and grants, AND huge roadblocks to get them.
So what's happening here? What does this say about how music creation is promoted in the US versus the United Kingdom and other countries? What is the overall impact of this on the ecosystem in general?
To summarize, in the UK (as in much of Europe) there is lots of social programs to promote culture, while in the U.S. it's dog-eat-dog…
A perfunctory search reveals seventeen programs in the UK aimed at assisting struggling musicians, or funds to help emerging artists take the next steps in their careers. Below you can look into them, but clicking through you will see that the opportunities 1) are available for almost any individual music creator, 2) have a broad impact across thousands of musicians, and 3) are not that hard to get.
UK Funding for Music Creators
Drake YolanDa Award
The initial list we found for the U.S. is paltry (see below).
US Funding for Music Creators
And clicking through these were dismayed about how exclusive and hard to get these were. A few thoughts on US Funding for artists…
Egos, legacies, and branded "Awards"
In the U.S. it's all about prestige and rich donors wanting to have a legacy. So funding from the BMI Foundation comes in the form of "Awards". It's all about competition and earning the prestige attached to the award, rather than a general initiative to promote creativity. Few artists can earn each award in order to preserve the prestige of the award itself.
Non-Profits helping non-profits helping non-profits
Artists can't apply for government aid directly. For government money from the National Endowment of the Arts it is very clear that they don't want to have anything to do with the artists themselves. Instead they will fund the middlemen– the non-profits, making the lives of musicians a lot harder in trying to find specific niche projects that fit their music, and that have received funding.
Helping to fish rather than providing fish…
Many music assistance programs come in the form of education, rather than direct aid to the music creators. Whether it is funding towards a scholarship, or access to online resources, U.S. aid is significantly less likely to put cash in the hands of the musician than the U.K.
Having seen the stark differences in philosophy– nurture (UK) vs sink-or-swim (US), different folks will have different opinions on which is healthier and more sustainable. However, one thing is evident– the leaner system in the U.S. creates much opportunity for independent organization to step in, add value, or create novel business models that create win-win scenarios that support the overall music creator community.
- Private organizations like A2IM are providing access to cheap insurance and healthcare to members who ordinarily wouldn't be able to access these as independent musicians.
- Innovative startups like BeatBread allow musicians to get cash advances on their future royalties, allowing them to manage their cash flows more effectively.
The list goes on and on, and is inspiring to see. But the question remains– where would you rather be– in the UK or the US?
Unsure? Then let's share some numbers to give context:
Of the 86 Global artists with 100+ million records sold, 20 of them (23%) are British, and 54 (62%) are American. Given that the U.S. has 4-5x the population of the UK, we like the odds of being a British artist better, plus better access to funding.
In conclusion, when we delve deeper into the numbers, the UK's music scene stands out. Not only does the UK have nearly twice the proportion of top-selling artists per million people compared to the US, but British artists also average more in sales. The UK artists, on average, sell 176.5 million records each, while their American counterparts average 135.5 million. While the US does have a larger total sales volume, given its much bigger population, the UK's performance is stellar. The nurturing environment in the UK, with its numerous funding programs and supportive infrastructure, seems to offer a more fertile ground for artists to flourish. While the US's competitive spirit has certainly given rise to iconic artists and innovative business models, the question remains: Where does an artist have a better shot at success and support? The numbers, combined with the landscape of funding opportunities, suggest the UK might just have the edge.