With the next deadline for our Emerging Excellence Awards rapidly approaching, I wanted to offer a few hints and tips to musicians who might be thinking about applying for funding – not only to our awards but to any funding organisation.
1. Read the Guidelines. It might seem obvious, but so many applications get rejected straight away because the applicant either hasn’t read the scheme guidelines properly or has chosen to ignore them. Try to understand what the funder is looking for – it’s usually quite clear. Don’t apply for something that’s specifically excluded. If you’re unsure – ask.
2. Keep it simple. Try to find the right balance between providing too much information and too little. Avoid jargon or overly academic language. Be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve and how you would do it if you received a grant. Headings and bullet points can help to structure an application in a way that makes it easier to read.
3. Make it compelling and tell us why this is the time we should invest. Funders want to invest in artists at the right time. You need to convince us that our support – at this particular moment – will make a crucial difference for you and your career.
4. Think long term. Try to articulate how the funding will make a difference to you beyond the activity you’re applying for right now. How will it move you forward – what do you plan to do next – and where do you hope to be in 1, 5 or 10 years’ time? Be ambitious but realistic.
5. Think about your application as a kind of business plan…Funders are willing to take risks, but we want to see a strong plan in place. Convince us that the money will be well spent. Think of the funder as an investor – it’s not an X-Factor-style talent contest and funding isn’t a prize to be won.
6. …but make us excited about your music too. At the same time, don’t forget to tell us about your music and your creative ambitions. We’ll listen to your music of course, but try and convey passion in your application too.
7. Tell us who else is backing you. Funders are looking for artists with credibility. If you’re not yet starting to get noticed in the industry, you’re probably not quite ready to apply for funding. Provide evidence that shows if you’re getting radio airplay, good write-ups, prestigious gigs or a fast-growing fanbase. We’ll probably google you too – so make sure you’ve got a presence on the web that you’re proud of.
8. Don’t rush into it – take time, re-read, re-write. Do your preparation. Start writing well ahead of the deadline. Put it aside for a couple of days and come back with fresh eyes. Ideally, get someone else to read it through. Bad spelling and grammar won’t necessarily rule you out, but they leave a bad impression and don’t inspire confidence.
9. Say Thank You! Funders are more likely to help you again in the future – and to provide helpful advice – if you keep them ‘warm’. If you’re lucky enough to receive a grant, make sure you take note of any specific conditions, and keep the funder up-to-date with any changes to your plans. There is usually some flexibility if your project develops in a slightly different way to how it was originally planned. Remember also to credit the funder appropriately, invite us to gigs, and to give us a shout-out every now and then!
10. READ THE GUIDELINES!! Again.
Want more advice on funding? Head over to our Get Advice pages. There’s plenty more out there on the web too – check out the putmeonit DIY Guide to Music Fundraising, Julia Payne’s recent blog post about finance for emerging artists, or MusicTank’s ‘Easy Money?’ publication.