MISP Music Funding Controversy Discussed on RTÉ

Steve Wall (Photo: Kathrin Baumbach)

MISP Music Funding Controversy Discussed on RTÉ

Low percentage of successful applicants sparks public criticism of scheme.

The controversy around the Music Industry Stimulus Package scheme was aired on two programmes on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday (2 December). Both Morning Ireland and Today with Claire Byrne featured discussions, with contributions from Steve Wall of The Stunning, Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact, Richard Boyd-Barrett TD, Dave Brown from Picturehouse, and Culture Ireland Showcase Manager Ciaran Walsh, also a member of the judging panel.

The scheme, which was launched in September and managed by First Music Contact on behalf of the Department of the Arts, had three separate strands, for recording, songwriting and album releases, and over the past five weeks €1.62m in grants has been awarded to over 300 projects. On Morning Ireland, however, Wall argued that the scheme was ‘unfair’ because ‘the majority of applicants received no funding while some received awards from two or three of the funds…’ The scheme received a total of 1,795 applications and only 13% of projects received funding. Among the successful recipients were Sinéad O’Connor, Damien Dempsey and James Vincent McMorrow.

Dorgan said on Morning Ireland that the scheme did not have enough funding and that the demand for support has meant that Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin is now committed to providing more funding next year. Dorgan continued:

There are learnings from this scheme… We simply had no idea of the demand when we set out the criteria for the scheme… It has prompted the Minister to make these funds available again and we will go back to the Department with robust findings about how we think that should be run.

Listen to the conversation on Morning Ireland below:

On Today with Claire Byrne, Boyd-Barrett made the point again that the fund was too small and that this reflected a lack of support for the arts, while Dave Brown from the band Picturehouse said that the Pandemic Unemployment Scheme is not enough to support musicians and that the MISP scheme was ‘divisive’ because of the low number of successful applicants.

Brown also criticised the standard letters that were sent out to over 1,400 unsuccessful musicians, many of them well known, and which began with ‘Dear applicant’. Ciaran Walsh of the judging panel said it was a ‘rapid response scheme’, that there will be more funding next year, and regretted the approach of the letters, which were a result of trying to distribute the funds quickly. To listen to the full discussion, see below.

Pent-up demand
While a signfiicant number of artists received funding under the scheme, at the heart of the discontentment seems to be the fact that only 13% of applicants were successful, which is a small number compared to other arts schemes. In the Arts Council’s Festival Investment Scheme from November, 85% of applicants received funding, while in its Arts Grant scheme in October, 86% were successful.

The number of applications for the Music Industry Stimulus Package was possibly unprecedented and illustrates the pent-up demand in the area of recordings and preparation for recordings. This demand is partly because the Arts Council has had no multi-genre scheme specifically for supporting the making of recordings since the Music Recording Award was suspended in 2014. The absence of a recording scheme has been a source of frustration for independent labels and musicians for several years. 

Department response
In response to media enquiries, the Department of Arts issued a statement saying:

The response to the Music Industry Stimulus Package was far in excess of what was anticipated … A review of the operation of this year‘s package will inform planning support for the music industry in future years. … 

It continued:

There have been recent meetings held at official level in the Department with representatives of the sector about the Music Industry Stimulus Package and all feedback will inform future support schemes. 

Commenting on the award announcements last month, Minister Martin said there would be further support for the music sector in the coming year:

Given the exceptional number of applications received to the open call for the music support grants this year, I am committed to rolling out more measures in 2021 to help meet the significant demand for support for the music sector.

For the full list of successful applicants, see below. For more on the Music Industry Stimulus Package, visit: www.firstmusiccontact.com/misphomepage.

Published on 3 December 2020

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