Yet again, something came up on Twitter today that piqued my interest when Cerys Matthews tweeted:

“Quiz question no 1. Name me a funded artist that has rocked the world.”

I assume this was partly in reference to the recent PRSF Momentum announcement. Either way, I think it’s a fascinating area for debate and not one I am personally willing to enter into on Twitter, so I have popped it in here to see what comments come in.


Update: a decent summary of the exchange can be found here


  1. Well the terms ‘funded’ and ‘rocked the world’ are a bit subjective but The Macc Lads quick smash n grab raid of the Governments Enterprise Allowance Scheme in the early Eighties certainly ruffled some feathers (and led to some furrowed brows and serious questions being asked in the Houses of Parliament.

  2. I think this question might be shaped by the fact that the UK historically hasn’t funded musicians much at all. On the continent whole experimental scenes were bankrolled by the state. Given that labels are now funding fewer ’emerging’ artists it seems reasonable for public funding to play a role. In short I think the reason examples might not spring to mind is that popular music hasn’t really needed much of this help before, and because the UK has been biased against funding musicians as much as some European countries.

  3. Did cerys & the boys fund the release of international velvet out of their own savings? I’m guessing they had a bit of support from a record label. I also expect that plenty of bands have had a bit of help from the bank of mum and dad. Does the Sistine Chapel count?

  4. Argh! Didn’t see the link. Yeah, think I agree, would much rather funding went to support infrastructure rather than individuals.

  5. The problem is in the question. Artists who ‘rock the world’, um let’s think of a list: Led Zepp, Queen, Black Sabbath, how about Status Quo, Dire Straits and the f’ing Bee Gees too while we’re at it. Sadly thats the stuff that rocks the world. Mostly shite with the occasional gem, anyway these guys don’t need funding – they sell shit loads of records and sell out stadia. That’s what rocking the world means. Can you see Ozzy sitting down at a Grants for the Arts application? Funding goes to artists who don’t sell (many) records, play to under a 100 people for the door money and then get up the next day to go to work.

    On the other hand though that’s not the whole story. Last year one of my favourite nights out was seeing Fushitsusha in Hackney. They rocked my world, and lots of other people’s and they then played Tusk in Newcastle and all over Europe, but I suspect elements of that tour were funded just cos the cost of flying in bands from Japan must be astronomical. Which reminds me, festivals are SPONSORED. Ever been the Glasto? Or watched it on TV? Remember the Greenpeace banner? The thing with popularity and success is that it means businesses want to be associated with you, they will pay money to put their name on your forehead while you play. Funding and Rocking the world are fundamentally different economies.

  6. Thanks for the interesting contributions so far. I have seen many more online, ranging from interesting debates that Cerys has engaged with to scathing responses to her original tweet.

    I think this is a fascinating area and would be pleased to get more input, not least as I feel I have stuff to learn myself. So, prompted by Felicity Ford (@knitsonik on Twitter) I have decided to state my position, however internally inconsistent it may be ;)

    Let’s start with an effort to define some terms. For the purposes of this I am going to work on the basis that:

    1/ “funded artist” means a musician (I am excluding other art forms) that has directly received funding, as an artist, rather than through a venue or education (etc.) – as whilst I don’t much like this distinction Cerys has since stated, “funding platforms, festivals and arts centres is one thing which I agree with – but not individuals”. It’s hard to know whether Cerys meant artists that have ever received funding or those that have relied heavily on funding from the start. For example, Bob Dylan has accepted large chunks of funding during his career.

    2/ the term “funding” refers to support from a funding body, not a record label, family or similar – even though it’s clear that many “self-made2 people receive better support from their parents (for example) than any government funding or loan would provide.

    3/ “rocked the world” includes those who have been very influential – so somewhat broader than Stephen’s definition above

    4/ the time-frame for this is since the 1960s, as Cerys has stated “modern day” in her exchanges via Twitter

    OK, with that as a basis let’s have a go at this…

    I think the first thing that strikes me is can you imagine the musical landscape if funding didn’t exist? Even sticking to my definition of “funded artist”, as Stephen points out above, that would surely result in a bland and solely financially viable output? For example, much of modern classical music is funded, sometimes to allow composers the time and freedom to compose pieces that can take moons to score. Some musicians spend much of their time filling out grant applications, not because they want to but because they have no choice if they want to have any chance of making what they do viable. I am personally very grateful such schemes exist or much of the music I value wouldn’t.

    The second thing that struck me is that I imagine there is a list as long as your arm of musicians that have “rocked the world” that have been funded. It’s far from my specialist area but I am sure someone will fill in the gaps. Many people have pointed to Adele, who has surely rocked the world (though not mine) and received early career funding through this scheme: I guess that about answers Cerys’ question?

    So, based on those two points and even within the deliberately tight definition above, I can’t agree with the thrust of what Cerys initially asked. I also don’t like the provocative framing but then Twitter is like that sometimes, and I guess it has inspired me to broaden the discussion here.

    All that said, I do think there is a balance to strike. Personally, I try my utmost to fund less economically viable stuff through stuff I can sell. I can’t quite bring myself to sell-out in order to do that, which makes the balance difficult. In the broader sense of funding, I am also supported by my girlfriend through our joint income. For me personally I think I do see a certain risk in always turning to funding to support my work but I have also gained a lot from my time on funded programmes and posts. I have no wish to “rock the world” myself and I will quite likely apply for funding under the Momentum scheme, so I am not sure where that leaves me…

    Lastly, here is video Cerys did for the PRSF earlier this month. It seemed odd to me seeing this in light of the initial tweet she made on the subject. BUT she does finish the piece by stating that she wishes we didn’t have to fund so much and that people making quality music could make a living without having to go to government / Arts Council. She also suggests more effort should be made to close down illegal download sites, a theme she has also mentioned strongly in the context of this discussion.

    Note: I could’ve gone deeper into various aspects of this in my response but I don’t have time; I have art to make and funding to pursue! I hope you will continue this debate.

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