By Daniel Hunter

A new scheme to help independent music companies grow their overseas export markets has been launched, following a meeting at Downing Street with the music industry chaired by the Prime Minister.

The Music Export Growth Scheme will allocate millions of pounds of grants to independent music companies and will be run by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the government organisation that supports UK business overseas, and BPI, the trade body that represents British recorded music businesses.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The British music industry is a real success story. We are world leaders in creative talent and our music has been exported all over the world.

“It’s not just about enjoying the music. This worldwide success means jobs and economic growth back in the UK, so the government must do all we can to back our winning sectors and ensure their future success. Today’s money will do just that by helping hundreds of small and medium sized businesses to export more.”

Many smaller to medium-sized music labels, distributors and management companies, which are often independently owned, achieve remarkable success when launching their artists in the UK. However, their limited resources and the sheer cost of marketing overseas means it can be a real challenge for them to replicate this success internationally. This, in turn, creates the risk that significant commercial opportunities may be missed, not just for these companies and their artists, but ultimately for the wider UK economy through lost exports.

The Music Export Growth Scheme has been created by UKTI and BPI to help address this issue, offering small and medium-sized music companies with the potential to achieve increased international success the opportunity to apply for grants ranging from £5,000 to £50,000. The grants will support their marketing overseas and the promotion of specific artist releases.

BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor commented: “Independent labels are an important part of what makes British music so special. With global interest in UK artists at such high levels, we want to ensure that indie artists and labels have the best possible chance to achieve success overseas.

“We are delighted that government has listened to calls from BPI and AIM for export support that will help British music do even better around the world.”

The scheme, which will be funded by UKTI, will make up to £3m of grants available over the next three-year period — with the potential for further funding following the scheme’s first annual review. Applications will be open to all UK independent record labels and music management companies meeting the application criteria. Decisions on individual awards will be made by a panel of music industry experts with marketing expertise from organisations including the Music Managers Forum (MMF), representatives of independent record labels and BPI. The scheme will be administered by BPI.

Chief Executive for UKTI Nick Baird said: “Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran, One Direction and, of course, Adele are just some of the British artists who dominate music charts around the world, contributing over £100m to the UK annually through sales of their music overseas as well as promoting our arts and culture. The Music Export Growth Scheme will help smaller to medium-sized music labels establish more UK artists internationally and help us meet our target of getting another 100,000 British businesses exporting — an increase which could add £36 billion to the economy.”

As well as encouraging labels to promote their artists in emerging and established international markets, the scheme also aims to increase the number of music labels and music managers with successful international experience, while further raising the visibility of British music in overseas markets.

Alison Wenham, Chairman of AIM commented: “As the UK’s only trade organization dedicated exclusively to the UK’s independent music sector, AIM is delighted that the British Government has acknowledged our organization’s repeated calls over many years to support the valuable commercial contribution made to the UK economy by British music’s success overseas. We look forward to working with the BPI in furthering the opportunities this initiative will bring to the UK’s vibrant music industry.”

Korda Marshall, who has a played a key role in developing the early career of many artists, including the likes of Muse and more recently Mercury Prize winners Alt-J, is the Founding Chairman of leading indie label, Infectious Music said:

“I’m delighted by this announcement, as, I imagine, many other independent music companies will be. British labels have a fantastic track record when it comes to bringing through great new music, but it can be so frustrating when you know you’ve got a really special band on your hands but don’t always have the means to raise their profile internationally as quickly as you would like.

“There’s clearly is a huge appetite for British music overseas, so if this new scheme helps to feed this, it can only be good news for anyone that loves British music and wants it to do well.”

Preference within the scheme will be given to companies seeking to promote new artists who are in their first three years of recording.

London-based duo Public Service Broadcasting, who are signed to their own label, Test Card Recordings, commented:

“This seems a really practical way of helping artists at a time they most need it. British music gets lots of headlines around the world, but if you’re a newly-signed artist with a smaller label on tight budgets, it can be hard to connect with the audiences that are potentially out there for you.

“This scheme will hopefully help — a few thousand pounds or more may not transform your prospects overnight, but it could help pay for a tour slot or a media showcase that could make a real difference when you are trying to break through.”

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