Arts Council branded “deeply flawed and unfair” as figures reveal most cash goes to opera

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said ACE were “too posh for pop”

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09/04/2018: Arts Council funding has been branded “deeply flawed and unfair” as shock figures reveal most taxpayers’ cash is pumped into opera – not pop music.

Singer-songwriter KT Tunstall and violinist Charlie Siem debated the topic on Sky News on Monday

• Pop music gets just 8 per cent in Arts Council England (ACE) fund
• 62 per cent of ACE’s National Portfolio for music goes to opera
• UK Music chief demands urgent review of how taxpayers’ cash is spent
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher branded Arts Council England “too posh for pop” as new figures reveal huge inequalities in the way the organisation allocates taxpayers’ money.

Arts Council England (ACE) is in charge of sharing out £1.45 billion of public funds and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery between 2018 and 2022 to “champion, develop and invest in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives”.

However, analysis by UK Music – the umbrella body for the UK music industry – of  £368 million available to music in an ACE fund reveals that opera gets £8 of taxpayers’ cash for every £1 awarded to pop music.

UK Music’s analysis of ACE’s National Portfolio funding allocation for music for 2018-22 shows that only 8 per cent of taxpayers’ money awarded by ACE goes to bids related to popular music (see table below).

The low figure is in stark comparison with 62 per cent enjoyed by opera and 23 per cent that goes to classical music. 

Brass bands, jazz, world music, folk and choral music also get a raw deal compared to opera, registering a combined total of just four per cent for producing music enjoyed by millions.

The huge disparities have triggered a call from UK Music CEO Michael Dugher for an urgent review of how the Arts Council England distributes taxpayers’ money.

Commenting, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:“Analysis by UK Music of Arts Council England official figures shows some shocking disparities in the way taxpayers’ money is allocated to music. 

“Opera is a key part of our vibrant and diverse cultural scene in the UK and many of our members are classical musicians. But the current way taxpayers’ money is allocated is manifestly unjust and should be urgently reviewed to ensure all types of music are treated fairly.

“It is indefensible that pop music gets just £1 for every £8 of taxpayers’ cash that is awarded by the Arts Council to opera under its National Portfolio. The Arts Council risks giving the impression that it is elitist and too posh for pop.

“Public funds should be used to broaden the appeal of the arts, particularly among the young, and make every aspect of our fantastic culture more inclusive.

“The UK music industry contributes £4.4 billion a year to the UK economy – with live music alone contributing more than £1 billion. But it is vital that we nurture our talent pipeline to bring on the next generation to follow in the footsteps of our world-famous stars like Adele, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy. The Arts Council has an important role to play in talent development so the UK maintains its position as a global leader in popular music, but the way it currently allocates its funding is deeply flawed and unfair.”
The findings of UK Music’s research are as follows:

Genre Total Sum of Portfolio grant 18/19 – £ Total Sum of TOTAL Portfolio grant 18/22 – £ Percentage of music funding – %
Opera £ 57,179,863 £ 228,719,452 62%
Classical £ 21,294,221 £ 85,176,884 23%
Popular music £ 7,169,809 £ 28,679,236 8%
Multi genre £ 2,581,151 £ 10,324,604 3%
Jazz £ 1,738,940 £ 6,955,760 2%
World music £ 994,248 £ 3,976,992 1%
Folk £ 527,046 £ 2,108,184 0.6%
Brass band £ 353,054 £ 1,412,216 0.3%
Choral £ 112,978 £ 451,912 0.1%
TOTAL £ 91,951,310 £ 367,805,240 100%

UK Music has prepared this data as part of its response to the Arts Council England public conversation to shape its next 10 year strategy, running from 2020 to 2030. Our response to the conversation is available here.

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