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PRS Foundation CEO Joe Frankland reflects on the Talent Development Partners 2020-21 and COVID-19

As we at PRS Foundation announce our expanded Talent Development Partner network for 2020-21, I wanted to reflect on their vast contribution to the wider sector and the music industry in order to highlight the potential impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on these mostly non-profit organisations whose devotion to music creator development is needed more than ever.

 

About Talent Development Partners

The growth of the Talent Development Partner (TDP) network since we launched it in 2016 with 24 partners, means that our 49 organisations cover all genres and all career levels across the UK, reaching a combined 5,000 songwriters, composers, artists, bands, ensembles and producers.

We are proud that the organisations offer a wide range of activities– from meaningful early career support to world-renowned festival platforms; from residencies and commissions to showcase events in the UK and overseas. TDPs unearth talent, enable creation and performance of outstanding new music, nurture creators and offer platforms to help them fulfil their potential.

It is impossible to overstate the impact of this work for the music creators involved, and the UK music scene is much healthier economically and culturally thanks to the work of TDPs who have worked with the likes of Little Simz, Lewis Capaldi, Ben Lunn, Yazz Ahmed, Boy Azooga, Charlotte Bray, Moses Boyd, Sam Fender and Yola; award-winning creators who in many cases started out with or continue to access support from TDPs.

It cannot be a coincidence that most of the creators listed above – and countless others – received support from these organisations before accessing co-investment from the industry and direct funding from PRS Foundation. Our network’s activity compliments music creator support programmes and PRS Foundation will continue to spearhead strategic connections between the organisations and music creators we fund.

Many of the 49 organisations are recognised names and award winners themselves, including Sound and Music, Oh Yeah Centre, Urban Development, Britten Sinfonia, Generator, FOCUS Wales and Sneaky Pete’s. But on the whole these organisations are criminally overlooked in discussions around the UK’s ability to punch above its weight musically.

PRS Foundation is a huge champion of co-investment between the non-profit sector and the music industry. Many TDPs enjoy strong relationships with labels, publishers, managers, agents, promoters, venues and others in the commercial sector. And most straddle both worlds seamlessly.  TDPs are well placed to spot talent, to take risks, to champion diversity, deliver outstanding new music and ensure creators progress.

The biggest winners here of course are the music creators themselves, but the music industry and fans of new music undoubtedly benefit from that dedicated support. Often the first to invest time, money and expertise into creative and career development, TDPs are to some extent the unsung heroes of the talent pipeline.

Which is why, at this pivotal moment, it is more important than ever that the sector recognises their vital work and mitigates against the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Covid-19 impact and response

Those risks are significant. Here at PRS Foundation we have been supporting all our grantees through the unprecedented challenges facing organisations and music creators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TDP network member festivals, venues and programming organisations face particularly tough months ahead. A number have had to furlough staff, announce postponed or cancelled live activities and face new levels of financial instability. Government support is available to some TDPs, and many have been applying or supporting others’ applications to the welcome relief funding opportunities announced by UK Arts Councils and Youth Music. But much more support and direction is required for some organisations to weather the storm.

For some, the relief funding on offer is less needed and we’re encouraged by the resilience of most TDPs. But many are exposed to risk and will require extra support in the coming months due to likely social distancing and travel restrictions, low audience disposable income, confidence in attending events and gatherings and a the reduction or cancellation of public funding for projects this financial year.

However, what is clear from our many conversations with TDPs is that they remain 100% committed to helping music creators. Their first reaction was to double-down on reaching out to their creators and their community, dropping everything to help wherever possible.

Within days of the lockdown starting, TDPs had organised a group Zoom as 37 organisations discussed how they could individually and collectively support music creators affected by the pandemic. This inspiring conversation led to many launching new ways to work together and setting up new activities to meet the changing needs of creators. The vast majority of TDPs have adapted programmes focus and delivery for the lockdown period and they are actively discussing next steps together.

Notable support on offer during this period includes the launch of The Warren’s Amped digital platform, Drake Music’s advocacy of digital accessibility, Sound and Music’s Hardship Funding advice and new COVID-19 Composer Awards, Baby People’s online Hip Hop tutorial videos, Red Note Ensemble’s live stream performances, and many Partner-run online workshops such as Roundhouse’s Round Your House, Brighter Sounds Zoom workshops and Heart n Soul’s at Home and many networking events and digital programmes such as Manchester Jazz Festivals 25th Anniversary programme.

We are discussing a virtual Talent Development Conference and are exploring ways to link music creators coming to PRS Foundation for support with the new activities on offer from our network.

Sustaining commitment to talent development

Many TDPs combine public and private funding and sponsorship with “real-world” income from performances and releases. Like all other UK companies, they have to adjust to the new environment they find themselves in, but it is our hope that other funders continue to support organisations through tough times while still encouraging and enabling talent development programmes. Creators need expert help over the next few months, and we need music more than ever to get us through the pandemic.

Today’s announcement and the expansion of the network is thanks to the continued support of our main donor, PRS for Music and new TDP partner, Youth Music who has offered top-up funding to a dozen organisations whose work supports 18-25 year olds.

Where some face challenges, we’d love to see the music industry and associations stepping up to fill gaps. Very few organisations will tackle lockdown and post-lockdown issues more effectively than our TDPs.  We look forward to linking TDPs with more funders, trade associations and music industry contacts to tackle progression barriers so they can continue to shape the future of new music.

 

Interested in talent development at this time? Here’s how you can get involved

Music Creators

  • If you think you would benefit from support from our TDPs, see our full list of organisations and contact them directly. Feel free get in touch if you’re not sure what’s on offer
  • If you want to offer your services and get involved in supporting your music creator peers, we know many in need of creative support, or can link you with relevant TDPs. Contact us and we’ll do our best to make something happen
  • If you need funding, check out our new Sustaining Creativity Fund and other PRS Foundation programmes here, and see info for more support and opportunities in the UK
  • To help us to spread the word or raise money for the Sustaining Creativity Fund, click here for our tips

 

Industry Professionals and Music Companies

  • Many creators have expressed a need for remote advice and exploring new opportunities. And TDPs are organising remote support and planning for the future. Please get in touch if you want to be of assistance and we’ll do our best to facilitate connections
  • If you want to offer your services or to help with activities through cash or in-kind support, we’re happy to facilitate connections and to discuss partnerships. Contact me for more info
  • If you share our passion for effective talent development, please help to spread the word to ensure more people know about TDPs’ great work

 

Organisations

  • If you are an organisation delivering music creator development and like the sound of the network, feel free to get in touch. We encourage applications to our Open Fund for Music Organisations (up to £10,000, with 3 deadlines per year) and like to build relationships with potential TDPs through that programme
  • Please check for future updates regarding this year’s Talent Development Conference to be a part of the conversation

 

Music Fans

  • Please support any crowdfunding initiatives set up by our TDPs to help them support your future favourite artists, songwriters and composers
  • Tell music creators you know to check out our Talent Development Partners
  • Donate to our Sustaining Creativity Fund so we can give out grants of £750 to support music creators at this difficult time, click here

 

Joe Frankland

CEO, PRS Foundation