What Artists Should Know About the PRS Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund
This UK charity is committed to making sure artists can keep creating, no matter what challenges they're weathering.
The PRS Foundation is being supported by Spotify through its COVID-19 Music Relief project. Spotify is making a donation to this and all organizations listed, and will match public donations made via the above linked page dollar-for-dollar up to a total Spotify contribution of $10 million.
The PRS Foundation has played a crucial role in supporting songwriters, composers, artists, and performers across the UK since 2000—and they have plenty to feel proud of. “Last year at the Mercury Prize awards, of the 12 nominees for Album of the Year, we'd already funded seven of them in the past," says CEO Joe Frankland. The foundation—funded mainly by parent organization PRS for Music, plus the Arts Council England and other music-industry partnerships—has helped boost the profiles of artists such as Sam Fender, Moses Boyd, and Nubya Garcia, while offering mentoring from top music pros like Gilles Peterson, Floating Points, and Four Tet.
But in the midst of celebrating their 20th anniversary, the charity had to swiftly shift gears. Facing the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation has had to lean on public donations more than ever before. Fortunately, they've seen an overwhelming response. In March, alongside PRS for Music, the charity set up the PRS Emergency Relief Fund, which handed out more than £1.2 million to over 3,000 songwriters and composers in its first round. On April 24, the foundation spearheaded a 24-hour virtual gig featuring over 50 performances from artists including Tom Walker, KT Tunstall, and Linda Perry, and surprise appearances by icons like Gary Numan and Peter Gabriel. This one-day event helped push PRS's fundraising efforts past the £2 million mark.
Aside from providing emergency financial help to PRS for Music’s members, the foundation is continuing to focus on what they do best: supporting artists’ creative endeavors. "With help from Spotify, we've been able to set up a brand-new fund called the Sustaining Creativity Fund, which is all about timely support of £750 to UK-based talent," Frankland explains. "You can use that money to help cover loss of income and immediate costs related to COVID-19, but also to help you stay on track with your career. We want artists, songwriters, and composers to be able to use this lockdown period to write, collaborate, and be creative," he adds. Alongside this fund, the PRS Foundation is offering virtual one-on-one mentoring services, workshops, and collaboration opportunities.
It’s already been a lifesaver for artists like Hayley Harland of TYGERMYLK. “The first couple of weeks of lockdown were really scary financially. As an immunocompromised person, I can’t get a job in any other field, let alone do my own shopping,” Harland explains. “Being awarded the Sustaining Creativity Fund has meant that I was able to stop chaotically running around trying to figure out how I was going to pay the next bill and get back into my little home studio and start creating again. Now I have an EP on the way,” she says.
The foundation is also ensuring that all of their existing—and future—grantees are in a good place, financially and creatively. “Outside of relief funding, we are continuing every single funding program, and we don't expect significant delays to any of our deadlines,” Frankland assures. One such opportunity is the PPL Momentum Music Fund where Spotify has been the exclusive digital partner since 2015, and which offers grants of up to £15,000 to help push UK-based artists to the next level of their careers—sometimes all the way up to the Mercury Prize nominee list, as was the case for Anna Calvi, black midi, Little Simz, and others.
When it comes to applying for any PRS Foundation grant, Frankland says what really counts is the strength of the music and potential of the artist—not the amount of followers you may have. “Every application is scored by people that work day in and day out in talent development,” Frankland says. “We're a charitable funder; we're not a record label or management company. We're not necessarily looking at numbers or data in the same way. We give people a chance to use money to build their audience rather than expecting that the audience is necessarily there already.”
The importance of collaboration
Overall, Frankland feels confident that, with the help of such funds and resources, artists will find their way through this tough time. “I'm quite optimistic that artists in the music sector can easily adapt; they’re quite used to challenges by now. Part of our role is to ensure that it’s as smooth a transition as possible,” he says.
One way musicians can adapt right now is to start connecting with each other online. PRS encourages this type of support with initiatives like Keychange, a program that strives to see music organizations reach a 50:50 gender balance by 2022. Keychange just announced a new partnership with shesaid.so called we.grow, which offers peer-to-peer networking and mentoring.
The foundation also works with 49 different nonprofit organizations covering artists of every genre in every region of the UK. The majority of them are now offering virtual and remote services for music creators, like the Manchester-based Brighter Sound, which is offering free online webinars covering financial and promotional advice, and the Bristol-based Saffron Records, which has organized online music production sessions for womxn producers. These are all great ways to stay connected—and motivated. “We're passionate at PRS Foundation about making sure people are making the best music possible,” Frankland says, “and basically get to the other side of this with lots of great new music.”
How can you apply?
Current songwriter and composer members of PRS for Music are automatically eligible for the PRS Emergency Relief Fund. All UK-based music creators can also apply for the Help Musicians UK Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund. For all other funds, including PRS Foundation’s Sustaining Creativity Fund, find full details on each grant and your eligibility at PRS Foundation’s website. Meanwhile, head to www.coronamusicians.info to get more information on other hardship and creative funds, as well as a number of resources providing support and advice for musicians.