Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Making Music (arts 198)

1. Summary

1.1 This submission is from Making Music, formerly known as the National Federation of Music Societies. We welcome the opportunity to make this contribution to the debate on arts funding.

1.2 Making Music is the largest umbrella group in the UK operating in the voluntary arts, with around 3,000 member groups representing some 200,000 voluntary and amateur arts practitioners.

1.3 Most of our members receive little or no public subsidy, yet put on 12,500 or so concerts a year and have a turnover of some £43 million, much of which is spent with the music industry.

1.4 Our members rely extensively upon us for practical support, and our Arts Council England grant accordingly works very hard to support this network.

1.5 Our relationship with Arts Council England is good, and we strongly support its role in providing arms-length funding for the arts in England.

1.6 We are concerned that the emphasis on "front-line" organisations could disadvantage membership and umbrella organisations such as ourselves upon whom small under-resourced performing and promoting groups must rely. This would be a mistake, as without us our members would be unable to afford and resource their events.

1.7 We feel that there is a barrier to giving in the arts because of a widespread perception that arts activity is elitist and self-serving. Consequently we would welcome a much greater emphasis on the benefits of arts activity to society at large.

1.8 We would like to see the National Lottery return to one of its earlier roles of providing small-scale grants to grass roots organisations. We welcome the return of Lottery shares to their original purpose.

1.9 We would like to see increased fiscal incentives for individuals and businesses to support arts organisations and activity.

1.10 We support initiatives to help arts organisations to work together at an infrastructure level. These must be undertaken in full cognizance of the practical difficulties. We would especially welcome capital expenditure to support premises and infrastructure issues.

1.11 We believe our members offer an example of the Big Society in action, as the events they promote are strongly community-focussed and offer opportunities and services to local people without a call upon the public purse. We would like to see due recognition of this by both Local Authorities and Government.

2. Submission

2.1 This submission is from Making Music, formerly known as the National Federation of Music Societies. It has been seen and approved by the Board of Management. We welcome the opportunity to share our views on arts funding with the Select Committee.

2.2 Making Music is the largest umbrella group in the UK operating in the voluntary arts. Its members, numbering nearly 3,000, are all amateur and voluntary arts organisations, who are responsible for putting on around 12,500 concerts and events annually, in all parts of the UK. They involve some 200,000 people as active performers and promoters of events. We are an Arts Council England Regularly Funded Organisation, in receipt of some £300,000 in 2010/11.

2.3 Like many such umbrella groups Making Music was formed by its members, its Board and Regional organisations are elected by its members, and is consequently able to represent them. But as the largest such group of its kind in the UK, we also feel able to offer an insight into the world of voluntary music as a whole.

2.4 Making Music offers a range of services to support its members and enable them to flourish, especially in the areas of administration, marketing, artist selection, audience development and particularly in encouraging them to be active in their communities. We believe that without such support and encouragement our members would be less able to achieve the quality of event that they currently offer, and less able to undertake the outreach work that is so vital for the future.

2.5 The diversity of Making Music’s members is extensive. They range from traditional classical music organisations to samba bands, Indian classical music organisations, and steel pan groups. They encompass large and stable organisations, small ad hoc groups, and everything in between.

2.6 In making this submission we believe that we represent the views of the great majority of our members. Unfortunately there has not been time to consult extensively with them on these subjects (especially as their activities tend to be much reduced during the summer holiday period) but our knowledge of them through our elected representatives and extensive survey work earlier this summer gives us confidence that we represent their views accurately.

3. Funding of the voluntary music sector

3.1 We believe it fair to say that historically the voluntary music sector has been funded on a very different basis to its professional equivalent. Until 1985 the National Federation of Music Societies [NFMS] was responsible for the distribution of Government grants to its members; when that responsibility was removed it continued to play a similar role in some English regions until as recently as 2007. It now has no such role to play. Although in some quarters this loss has been lamented, NFMS, now known as Making Music, has successfully repositioned itself as a service-based organisation, and judging by its continued growth is fulfilling a need for its members.

3.2 After the loss of funding from NFMS, it has been much harder for amateur music groups to access funding for core activities. Whilst in many cases funds for special projects are still available and are accessible to amateur groups on an equal footing with their professional counterparts, there is rarely the equivalent of the core subsidy available to some professional orchestras and opera companies. This has caused many groups to have to scale back their activities; for example by employing fewer professional musicians, undertaking fewer concerts, hiring less prestigious venues, reducing community education activities etc.

3.3 This loss of core funding, whilst disappointing in some ways, does at least ensure that a) amateur arts activity is predicated upon a sustainable business model without the need for external funding sources, and b) the call upon the public purse from the voluntary sector is negligible. This is significant in terms of the Big Society initiative (see below at paragraph ).

3.4 Accordingly, most of our members receive no public subsidy whatsoever, whether from Arts Council England [ACE] or their local authority [LA]. In spite of this, according to our 2010 financial survey, they are able to achieve a turnover of some £43 million, £19 million of which is spent on professional artists, and donate £1.7 million to charity along the way. They are a model of value for money in terms of arts activity.

3.5 Although these are impressive statistics, it is clearly true that channelling more money into the voluntary music sector would have beneficial effects, particularly in terms of being able to undertake more activities within the community. Many of our members are keen to reach out more extensively into the communities in which they operate, but find doing so risky. Additional funds, even on the basis of guarantees against loss, would yield more extensive and cost-effective results in this area than an equivalent intervention in the professional sector. Voluntary music groups could be seen as an under-utilised resource for delivering social benefits within the community – more on this is to be found in section .

3.6 The biggest funding concern we have at the moment is in Local Authorities. Their extreme budgetary constraints will not only, we fear, affect those few groups in receipt of financial support, but also those who receive in-kind support such as subsidised venues, free publicity and so on. Although there is considerable evidence that music groups are providing significant public services within their communities, they are rarely given the same priority as more visible third sector service providers who are in receipt of LA contracts. Where there is no overt funding relationship LAs can often make decisions that have (possibly unintended) detrimental consequences to the health of the local arts ecology. This is a major concern arising from the threat of cuts and financial constraints.

3.7 It is important to realise that, even though the sector has a much more robust business model than its professional equivalents, the Government can ill afford to wash its hands of financial support for the voluntary music sector, given the multiplier effects evident from the statistics in paragraph . In particular the support of infrastructure organisations such as Making Music is crucial. These organisations provide the vital support for individual groups that would otherwise be totally absent. With its £300,000 grant Making Music is able to help its members undertake the huge range of activity outlined above, and add considerable value to the subscriptions it charges. We think this represents excellent value for public money (around £24 per member event is one way of looking at it). Without the support of such umbrella groups and infrastructure bodies the Government would either have to support these groups directly (very expensive) or see them wither on the vine (surely disastrous for the cultural life of the nation).

3.8 In summary, the funding of the voluntary music sector provides superb value for money. But in spite of this it is relatively fragile; small changes could have significantly negative effects disproportionate to the amount saved. We believe infrastructure support remains crucial, offering by far the most cost-effective way to support a multiplicity of local groups. Further investment in the voluntary music sector would reap substantial benefits by offering risk-free ways of undertaking further community-based activities and outreach programmes.

4. Arts Council England

4.1 The principal body supporting the voluntary music sector in England, largely via its support for Making Music, is ACE. From our perspective, its recently increased emphasis on the voluntary sector and its continued funding of our activities is of course extremely welcome.

4.2 We are aware that there are some highly influential and senior supporters of the voluntary sector within ACE, and are very grateful for their support. However, we believe that it remains true that a number of ACE employees are still exclusively focussed on supporting professional artists and have little time for, or interest in, community arts activity. This we feel is a shame and we would encourage ACE to look at this, given the huge significance of the voluntary arts, and especially voluntary music, to the cultural life of the nation.

4.3 Similarly it is important that ACE as a whole does not see public engagement in the arts purely as developing audiences for professional artists and arts organisations. From our point of view, it is equally important to see ACE encouraging engagement in the form of participation in and learning from arts activity.

4.4 We believe that ACE plays a vital and valuable role in the arts in England, and especially under its new leadership will continue to do so. In our position the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has little impact; but we would deplore the extension of this attack on arms-length bodies to encompass the Arts Council.

5. "Front-line" organisations

5.1 Much recent rhetoric about potential cuts has been directed towards trying to preserve, as much as possible, the support for "front-line" organisations. Whilst we of course applaud the intention to sustain the delivery of arts activity, we are concerned that this approach could jeopardise the status of umbrella groups, who as mentioned above, have a huge part to play in the support of small grass roots and local organisations.

5.2 We are quite clear that umbrella groups are indeed "front-line" organisations in the sense that arts activity would suffer if their existence were to be compromised. Indeed, such organisations are uniquely placed to provide much needed support, particularly in England’s rural communities and amongst diverse groups, where others can fail. Given that direct financial support for voluntary music organisations is now minimal, it becomes increasingly important to ensure the health and flourishing of those bodies that support them.

5.3 At the moment we are not aware of specific threats to such organisations in England, although drastic steps have been taken to remove them from the portfolio of the Arts Council of Wales. Given the major role that infrastructure organisations can play in delivering the Big Society initiatives, we would obviously be concerned about a similar move in England.

6. The National Lottery

6.1 The National Lottery has had a chequered history from the perspective of the voluntary sector. Initially our members, and indeed we ourselves, benefitted substantially from programmes such as Arts for Everyone, Arts for Everyone Express, and more recently Awards for All, offering small-scale grants on a relatively bureaucracy-free basis. These programmes offered a level playing field for the voluntary sector, which responded enthusiastically and accordingly received substantial numbers of grants for special and unusual projects.

6.2 We recognise that programmes of this nature were expensive and administratively top-heavy to deliver. However, we are disappointed to see their almost total demise in favour of programmes offering larger and more significant grants more suited to larger arts organisations with professional fundraising staff.

6.3 We think there is a potential role for independent infrastructure organisations to offer small-scale grants on an agreed basis on behalf of lottery distributors. Whilst this approach is currently very much out of favour, we feel it is the only way of ensuring a cost-effective method of distributing small grants, which remain a very welcome way of supporting grass roots arts activity.

6.4 If this is not possible for any reason, we would strongly recommend reintroducing a small grants scheme such as Awards for All into ACE’s portfolio of grant programmes.

6.5 Naturally we welcome the redistribution of Lottery income to retrieve the income lost to activities that should have remained within the Government’s core remit.

7. Individual philanthropy and business support

7.1 Historically these sources of support have been less relevant to the voluntary sector, except in individual local situations. We would welcome an increased emphasis on these, particularly reflecting the fact that many wealthy individuals and senior managers can often be active amateur musicians themselves.

7.2 There is certainly scope for better tax incentives, and we would welcome any initiatives in this area, which can only be of benefit to the overall climate.

7.3 Even more significantly, we would welcome a much greater emphasis on the benefits of arts activity to society at large. We feel that there is a barrier to giving in the arts because of a widespread perception that arts activity is elitist and self-serving; creating lots of enjoyment for the participants but little benefit to society as a whole. Those of us involved in the arts know that this is only a tiny part of the picture – benefits to society are massive, including huge effects on the population’s physical and mental health. We would like to see DCMS and ACE playing a greater role in promoting this awareness, which would, we believe, encourage greater philanthropy than currently exists.

8. Working together

8.1 Much emphasis is currently being placed on whether arts organisations can work together to reduce infrastructure costs and create economies of scale. Whilst in general we would welcome such an initiative, the practical difficulties are immense and need to be handled with great care.

8.2 Heavy-handed attempts to force this to happen under the threat of funding withdrawal have in the past been unhelpful in promoting a constructive atmosphere. Instead ACE could perhaps offer a more positive approach by actually offering combined services and infrastructure in return for a reduced grant.

8.3 Probably the most beneficial way in which organisations could work together is by sharing premises. We believe the Government should consider the purchase of one or more buildings as an investment in the arts, allowing rent free access to approved arts organisations. Retaining these buildings as assets would be a very cost-effective way of offering support to the arts with little outlay from the revenue budget.

9. The Big Society

9.1 We welcome the Government’s emphasis on community-led initiatives under the umbrella title of the Big Society.

9.2 We contend that amateur musical groups are exemplars of exactly the sort of organisation which the Government hopes to encourage under this banner. They organise 12,500 events a year to audiences of around 1.6 million people, and in so doing offer a huge range of opportunities to the music profession, with whom they spend some £19 million. And they do this with very little call upon the public purse.

9.3 Such groups are organised locally by local people. They promote events to local audiences and spend money with local venues and businesses. They are "by the community, for the community, in the community". What is the Big Society if not that?

9.4 Although the notion of Big Society is about self-help and sustainable practice, the role of independent infrastructure organisations is of vital importance in the successful delivery of these initiatives. This is another area in which proper support for these organisations is of crucial significance. Voluntary music groups can be focussed on their own regular participation/rehearsal and performances, and a major strand of our work is to encourage greater collaboration with other community groups and civil society activities to realise the underutilised potential of the voluntary music sector. The scale of the voluntary music sector provides potential for it to play a much greater role in strengthening communities throughout the country and realising the Big Society, given the right level of support from organisations such as Making Music.

9.5 We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Government how such a powerful movement has grown up and what can be done to strengthen it and replicate it in other areas of society.

September 2010