When it comes to your music project, chances are you have the idea, but you may be a little light on the cash to carry it out. That's where music business funding comes in. This article will help you navigate the world of funding in terms of grants and loans from arts councils/creative development agencies - keep in mind that the availability of this kind of funding is dependent entirely on where you live, and not everyone has access to this sort of music industry funding. If you do have a local arts council/national creative industries funding group in your country, here's how to apply for music funding successfully.
Be clear About Your Ideas:
This may sound obvious, but you have to have a clear idea because a) this will help you decide who to apply for funding from and b)it will help keep you focused when going through the application process. Most funders will want a very specific project to fund, so rather than looking for 'help funding my band' you're better looking for something specific like 'funding the recording of an album' or 'funding to publicise a tour'.
Get Used to Writing Your Proposal in 20-25 Words:
This is useful because getting something written down is a good way to help you work out exactly what you're looking for funding for, and if you can't write it in 25 words ,it's probably a project that's too vague. Funders will want a brief description for the project both to help them get an idea of the project before they read the full application form and for them to use in the publicity material. The 25 words should explain what the project is, why the funder will fund it and what makes your project special and therefore worthy of funding.
Do Your Research:
There are many different types of funding that you might be eligible for such as public arts funding, private and charitable arts trust, commercial/business development funding (there's also commercial funding, e.g. bank loans, but that's a whole different ball game). To find out about possible funders try local libraries, business information/support centres and of course the internet. Make a list of possible funding bodies then check their criteria, some many only fund certain arts forms, certain types of projects or people from certain areas or social or racial groups.
Make sure you know exactly what the application process is for each organizations and what the deadlines are. Most organizations will require you to fill in an application form. Read through the application form several times and make sure you understand exactly what they want for each part of the application – if you have any doubts or questions, contact them and ask. Up to 10% of applications are rejected because the applicant hasn't follow the correct application process. However good your project is you won't get funding if you've failed to follow the directions.
Gather the Materials:
Each music business grant application process is different, but there are several elements that are often required. The following three steps go into detail about each. Even if you don't need all the following for your application it's advisable to have thought them through as they'll help you with the application and help you get the project going. Following these steps will force you to get a handle on your project and think through all of the details that might have otherwise escaped you.
Most applications will require a detailed description of your project. This description should explain what you are trying to achieve and why they should provide you funding to do it. Make sure this is detailed, but don't go into any more detail than they've asked for - if they ask for one page, make sure you stick within that limit. The music business funders will be reviewing many - possibly hundreds - of applications. If you've supplied far to much info it will be ignored.
Realistic Time Scale:
You should draw up a timescale for when certain aspects of the project will be completed. It's important to remember that most funds will only fund "new" projects - that means projects that haven't started by the time the application process has finished. Make sure you're time scale fits in with the funders criteria and also make sure it's realistic, as it might form part of a legally binding agreement with the funder. If you don't stick to it they might be entitled to ask for funding to be returned.
Again this should be as detailed as asked for. Remember to include other income from sales, sponsorship etc. as well as your own contributions (most funders will not fund 100% of a project). You own contributions need not be cash but could be 'in kind' - so for instance, the time you spend writing or rehearsing could be included in the budget. Other kinds of in kind contributions could include rehearsal space you get to use for free, artwork that you've been allowed to use and transport costs.
The Final Check:
When you've filled in your application, check the whole form through and ask someone to check it for you, before giving it one final check yourself. Almost all funders are over oversubscribed, so however worthy of funding your project is, if you haven't fill in the application correctly and supplied all the details they've asked for, chances are your application will be rejected without even being read. Common mistakes are leaving 'difficult' section until the end then forgetting to go back to them; not supplying the correct supporting material and forgetting to sign the application.
Beat the Rush:
When you send an application off it's a good idea to send it at least a few days before applications deadline to ensure it arrives in time. If possible, deliver the application in person. if sending it by mail, ideally send it by courier or by guaranteed delivery. Avoid sending original material - it's best to send copies. Most organization won't return submitted material. If you do need your supporting material returned, check with the organization before hand and include a SAE with your application.
Confirm Delivery, Move On:
Most organization will confirm they've received your application. If you haven't heard from the funder, there's no harm in checking in with them to confirm receipt, but leave it at that. The person you'll be able to speak to will probably not be involved with the funding decisions and they won't take any further information into account when considering your application. It'll be weeks, or maybe months, before a decision is made, so while waiting it's advisable to get on with other projects, or make plans as to how you can continue with the project if the funding doesn't come through.
You Got It - Now What?:
If you're received funding - great you can start your project. Most funders will draw up a legally binding contracting stating what they will pay you, and when, and what they expect from you. Make sure you stick to your original project, or you may be liable to pay back the funding. If you think your project may change, make sure you keep the funders informed. Most funders will pay out the funds when certain milestones are meet, but some may not pay you until the project is completed. Make sure you aware of this when you apply and always stay in touch with the funder.
You Didn't Get It - Now What?:
Almost all funding streams are oversubscribed, so even if yourproject met all the criteria, it may not be funded. You should have a back-up plan in case funding doesn't come through. Contact the organization and find out why your application failed, and if you can re-apply. It might be that you were unlucky as there were an unusual number of application and if you apply again you might be successful, or maybe certain aspects of your project could be changed to make it more likely to get funding. Don't harrass them, however. They'll have lots of failed applicants, so their time is limited.
Tell a story. Your application should explain what you are doing at the moment, what you want to be doing, how you will get there and how the funders funding will help you get there. If you can clearly and consistently explain this 'story' you'll be well on your way to filling in a great application.
Don't become a funding junky. Firstly consider how much time and work applying for particular funding will take, how much you're likely to receive and what your chances are. Then weigh up if it's worth applying for that funding. Don't apply for the funding just because it's available. Don't try and create projects just to be eligible for funding.
It can be helpful to work with other people applying for funding. Getting someone else to check over your application, who is also going through the process, can help both of you.
For more information about music industry funding and music business loans, check out the following articles: