This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more about our use of cookies click here OK
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more about our use of cookies click here. OK

Home > New Year message from PRS Foundation CEO, Joe Frankland

New Year message from PRS Foundation CEO, Joe Frankland

It goes without saying that 2020 was a challenging year for most in music. There was rarely time to take stock while navigating a pathway through several challenges and devastating loss. But as we drag ourselves back to our desks, I wanted to reflect on what was a remarkable year, and as is a PRS Foundation tradition within our New Year Message, to look ahead at a critical year of recovery and creativity.

Firstly, I should start by saying a huge thanks to the PRS Foundation team, trustees, advisors and partners for all their support in 2020, and to our grantees whose music has, and will continue to get us through the worst times.

Adaptability and Resilience

Demand for project funding from PRS Foundation exceeded record levels last year, with close to 5,000 applications for over 30 deadlines.

In 2020, we pledged over £3m to support 522 new music projects, funding 431 music creators and 121 organisations when our support was most needed.

We adapted music creator schemes to meet changing funding and talent development needs. This included:

  • Increased flexibility and a focus on creativity and innovation through The Open Fund for Music Creators and Women Make Music
    Ensuring our PPL Momentum Music Fund, The Composers’ Fund and Hitmaker maintained high levels of transformative grant support to help creators at crucial career tipping points to create, adapt and thrive.
  • The evolution of the International Showcase Fund which as a response to travel restrictions can now support virtual showcasing, online conference engagement and UK based activity which focusses on music export.
  • Thanks to Spotify’s Covid-19 Music Relief Fund and generous donations from music companies, executives and others in the music ecosystem, we launched the Sustaining Creativity Fund – using a new model to help grantees to be in a good position to fulfil creative and career potential, breaking down the huge barriers presented by the pandemic. Across 3 deadlines we supported 198 grantees and our third deadline provided targeted support for Black music creators as part of our commitment to making meaningful changes following Black Lives Matter conversations
  • Phase 2 of the Keychange programme kicked off with over 70 participants and 30 partners from 12 countries gathering in Stockholm three weeks before Covid-19 impacted the crucial real-life events our network relies on. Thanks to Creative Europe and other partners agreeing to an extension of the programme, we adapted the capacity building programme, look forward to supporting participants more in 2021 and to running an open call later this year. And we doubled down on gender equality Pledge efforts. The global Keychange movement goes into the new year with over 400 music companies and organisations committed to the Keychange Pledge.
  • We were also able to support many organisations who have played a meaningful role in supporting songwriters and composers to create, develop, adapt and sustain careers.

While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the music sector, it is also true to say that music has been getting us all through the toughest of years, and the creativity and resilience of our grantees has been remarkable.

It has been particularly rewarding when it comes to recognition for the high quality of PRS Foundation funded grantee output. #FundedByPRSF grantee highlights included:

  • 5 Mercury Music Prize nominations (Anna Meredith, Georgia, Lanterns on the Lake, Moses Boyd and Sports Team)
  • 27 nominations at The Ivors Composer Awards including 6 directly supported pieces (Renell Shaw, Claire M Singer, Khyam Allami, Sam Eastmond, Edmund Finnis and Timothy Cooper)
  • 3 Grammy 2021 nominees (Tiana Major9, Thomas Adès and Jessica Agombar)
  • 21 nominations at the AIM Awards including 9 winners
  • 15 nominations at the RPS Awards including 5 winners
  • 15 MOBO Awards nominations
  • 4 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2019 nominees and 1 winner
  • 13 Jazz FM Awards 2020 nominees and 5 winners
  • 1 BRIT Award for Dave
  • Elles Bailey’s UK Blues Award for Album of the Year
  • Grantees were selected for Album of the Year Prizes in Northern Ireland (Kitt Philippa – NI Music Prize) and Wales (Deyah – Welsh Music Prize) for their directly funded records
  • Momentum grantee Jessica Agombar co-wrote smash hit BTS song ‘Dynamite’ which broke YouTube viewing records and has been No. 1 in 16 countries
  • Fellow Momentum grantee, Leo Kalyan co-wrote UK and International No. 1 song ‘Head & Heart’ with Joel Corry & MNEK
  • Dozens of grantees signed record label and publishing deals in 2020
  • As well as the usual heavy rotation on the airwaves and on playlists for grantees, mainstream media coverage has included MOBO UnSung 2018 winner, Graft winning the BBC’s Rap Game
  • UK (the series was presented by advisor, DJ Target and also featured grantees Ms. Banks, The Fanatix and Yungen as guest mentors), Steve Reid Innovation Awardee, Moses Boyd co-presented the BBC’s revived ‘Jazz 625’ show with Keychange Innovator, Jamz Supernova, and we even had grantees AJ Tracey and TrueMendous featured in Christmas TV adverts for mainstream brands.


The above adaptations and resilience would not have been possible without ongoing and new support from funding and industry partners. And we have worked more closely with the industry than ever before. Examples include:

  • Beggars Group CEO, Paul Redding took on the mammoth task of swimming the English Channel overnight to raise funds for our new programme which will power up Black creative and executive talent. Donations helped to raise over £126,000 (half for PRS Foundation and half for US charity, Sweet Relief) and included significant donations from other music companies and individuals across the music industry
  • Likewise, the Spotify-supported Sustaining Creativity Fund received hundreds of donations from music companies, industry executives, music fans and grantees
  • PPL became headline sponsors of the PPL Momentum Music Fund in February. Since then, 55 talented artists have been supported
  • We announced our new Youth Music partnership for our pioneering Talent Development Partner programme
  • We supported a record number of grantees for The Composers’ Fund this year thanks to our new partnership with Jerwood Arts

Although celebrating 20 years of vital support from our main donor, PRS for Music was put on hold (but watch this space for our 21st Birthday plans), we have collaborated effectively in several ways, including launching our PRS Presents… partnership and collaborating on the Black History Month M-Magazine special edition. And we contributed to the PRS for Music Emergency Relief Fund – formed by PRS and administered by our sister charity, the PRS Members Fund – which since its launch in March has raised more than £2.1m and provided vital support to help over 4,000 songwriters and composers.

Beyond Solidarity

We believe that the success of the music we fund is driven by the diversity of the people who create it.

The pandemic disproportionately impacts underrepresented groups, so we must all act with a greater sense of urgency in 2021 to tackle racial disparity, gender inequality, ableism and socio-economic inequality.

As mentioned in my Comment piece for IQ, this solidarity and a groundswell of ‘building back better’ conversations are welcome. But to bring about meaningful and lasting change, public solidarity is not enough. Goodwill amounts to little more than window-dressing if not followed up by commitments, action and accountability.

I was delighted to announce just before Christmas that Yaw Owusu has been appointed to a new Senior Management role to oversee the management of a new programme to power up Black creative and executive talent. Yaw has been shaping the programme alongside co-founder Ben Wynter, our new Executive Steering Committee and 7 Focus Groups. The game-changing new initiative for long-term change will be announced before the end of the month.

We know that targeted inclusivity programmes work best when we collaborate with the industry. We therefore welcome further conversations with music companies and individuals in all sectors so that together we can shape a stronger, connected and sustainable music community.

While we celebrate our strong track-record for inclusivity in all areas thanks to a proactive, open and accessible approach, we know so much more needs to be done.

As the Black Lives Matter movement galvanised many in the music community to reflect, connect and come together in solidarity against anti-Black racism, bigotry and prejudice, for PRS Foundation 2020 was a year of honest conversations, progression and a combination of immediate and sustained actions.

2021 Plans

In normal times, too many creative careers end before they have properly started. So much talent in all genres and across the UK remains unheard. If you add into the mix the pandemic, economic downturn and Brexit, music creation as an occupation has never been more precarious. We know we cannot stand still and must be smart and agile to help music creators and organisations to tackle vast challenges.

While we look forward to a return to real-life live performances in 2021, that return won’t be easy for most in the ecosystem. This includes emerging creators who in many cases have been excluded from government support and will be unlikely to experience the so-called ‘trickle-down’ financial impact of recovery funding elsewhere, not to mention underrepresented talent who lacked viable platform opportunities at the best of times.

The UK is one of only three net exporters of music in the world, and the EU is our biggest overseas market. The additional barriers presented by the UK-EU Trade Deal are particularly alarming for emerging, export-ready talent (and their crews). Added costs and significant administrative strain may result in many falling at the first hurdle. When combined with travel restrictions and a withdrawal from the Creative Europe programme (which will have a total budget of €2.4 billion for 2021-27), it is hard to envisage our international clout being maintained. We must lobby and act fast to mitigate against these risks.

PRS Foundation will continue to unearth and support exceptional, diverse talent when it is most needed. We will sustain creativity, funding projects which allow songwriters, composers and artists to develop and to adapt to find new and innovative ways to reach and engage audiences at home and overseas.

In 2021 we will:

  • Launch our new long-term programme to power up Black creative and executive talent
  • Continuing to respond effectively to Covid-19 related barriers to support the creation and performance of new music, music creator development and sector recovery
  • Host our annual Talent Development Conference online (TBA soon) where we will discuss many of the themes mentioned in this email
  • Continue our digital outreach approach to reach more first-time applicants and first-time grantees across the UK
  • Implement innovative responses to the changed international development landscape through our International Showcase Fund and Keychange
  • Celebrate our 21st Birthday through the launch of our long-term impact evaluation report
  • Build on successful pilots in 2020 to spearhead new ways to connect the creative community, non-profit organisations we fund and the music industry.

We expect to deliver more deadlines for funding than we did in 2020 and hit the ground running in 2021 with our Hitmaker deadline last Friday (January 8th), followed by the first of three deadlines for The Open Fund and Women Make Music on 12th February (applications open now). For a full and regularly updated list of deadlines, click here. We also look forward to re-introducing programmes which could not happen in 2020, including our Beyond Borders and Resonate schemes for organisations.

I had hoped to come out of the Christmas break with a renewed sense of optimism for a return to normal. Alas, that return to normal will be slower and more challenging than imagined.

But there is a real opportunity to reframe the future of the music industry. I am confident that through coming together with the rest of the music community and supporting the lifeblood of the sector – music creators – PRS Foundation can help to build a stronger, more connected and inclusive music ecosystem in 2021.