Context: From artscouncil.ie: “The Arts Council plans to produce a Music Policy and Strategy in 2022 to guide its decision-making in relation to music, and has begun a process of widespread consultation to inform its development..”
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In the following submission, we address the questions as they appeared in the Music Policy survey.
Q9. What do you think are the Arts Council’s key strengths/areas of focus that it should continue and develop?
The Arts Council has a significant impact on music in Ireland and is benefiting many artists organisations. It is now the case that a very wide range of events and artists are receiving support from the Arts Council on some level and this contributes to a culturally vibrant country.
In addition, the range of music events and activities means that Ireland can be an artistically attractive place for artists to locate, and there is a huge return on that Arts Council investment: Irish and international artists make a profound contribution to the quality of our national and community life.
The Arts Council’s agile response during the pandemic was particularly notable and in no small way has ensured continuity through what has been an extremely challenging time for musicians and the music scene.
In particular, we feel that the flexibility of the Agility Award and the Capacity Building Awards sparked many new initiatives and should be continued post-pandemic.
Q10. What do you think are the Arts Council’s weaknesses/areas of focus that need to be improved?
A notable weakness is that there can be little feedback from the Arts Council on work that is produced with Arts Council funding. Nor is there any clear formal mechanism by which funded clients can show work to Council. Connected with this, the MAI believes that the Council should make much greater efforts to promote the work to the public that they have funded.
Regarding awards, for some music projects, short-term funding timescales are a hindrance to more ambitious work and advance planning, i.e. for projects that are more than a year or more away. Ambition needs time and planning. The current award timelines do not represent how long some music projects take to develop and there should be both annual and multi-annual deadlines for awards. Awards should also be broader and cover the lifespan of a project, from inception, development, delivery, distribution and documentation to promotion.
At the same time, for some awards, the reverse is the case: for the Arts Grant award, for example, applicants are asked to plan for future years when they do not yet have feedback on their current year or previous applications.
The MAI also believes that the turnaround for decisions on applications needs to be shorter, i.e. a maximum of two months. With regard to the application process, the AAR and BAAR system is neither intuitive nor user-friendly and we believe this system needs to be overhauled.
More broadly, we believe the Arts Council needs to have a strategic vision and plan for the Irish music sector, specifically with regards to developing the Irish music industry nationally and internationally. Nationally, This includes supporting a national music hub in Dublin, (and in regional centres) developing the neglected independent record label sector, ensuring artists are remunerated appropriately, and helping artists and organisations build an international career or international dimension to their work. Increased strategic links and strategic planning with Culture Ireland for international dissemination of music would benefit the sector.
Q11. What three specific initiatives would you like to see the Arts Council undertake as priorities in the coming years? *
The three initiatives that we would like to see are as follows:
- More substantial support for the independent Irish record sector, i.e. a specific record label and recording scheme and a strategic plan for the development of this essential part of the Irish music sector.
- Practical support the establishment of a national music hub in Dublin, (and regionally) in terms of funding support, advocacy and partnerships.
- To create a system whereby music organisations and events are developed in partnership with the Arts Council with clear strategic goals, rather than existing from year to year with little feedback.
Q12 – Arts Council music supports and genre
With regard to Question 12 in the Arts Council Music Policy survey on the support of different genres, the MAI believes that clear definitions of ‘commercial’ and ‘non-commercial’ are needed in order to address this question properly.
In general, however, we believe the emphasis in Arts Council Music Policy should be on artistic quality rather than genre and that it should be as inclusive as possible.
Note: Where we refer to ‘music’ in all of the above, we are also including traditional music, although we understand that in the Arts Council’s structure traditional music is formally a part of traditional arts. All of the issues mentioned above are equally relevant to traditional music as they are to jazz, classical, contemporary, opera, popular, hip hop, etc.
Our members would be happy to discuss further any of the points above
Image: Courtesy of Improvised Music Company. [Izumi Kimura (piano), Cora Venus Lunny (violin) at Jazz Connective. PHOTO Maarit Kytoharju]