apm ’23 panel discussion: opportunities for music creators in northern ireland

Still buzzing from the Northern Ireland Music Prize the night before, the conversation quickly turned to funding support offered by the Arts Council Northern Ireland, the PPL Momentum Music fund and more widely by PRS Foundation. Jo was quick to point out that Arborist, winner of Album of the Year at the NI Music Prize was a former recipient of the PPL Momentum Music fund. She described how it helped him to shape the direction of his career. Jo said “[his career has] gone from strength to strength, and he wouldn’t have had access to the [industry] networks if he hadn’t had that award.”

Artists Reevah and Chris W Ryan agree the funding grants available from the Arts Council, Help Musicians, PRS Foundation and PPL are invaluable, but they also stressed the need for resilience and planning. They believe it’s important to pick the right time to apply, be open to feedback and be ready to adapt if your application isn’t immediately successful.

With a plethora of networks and support available for artists, sometimes the challenge lies in deciding which path you want to take and leaning into the support networks that can take you there – a challenge Chris has experienced first-hand.

When asked about making the most of opportunities when they present themselves, Chris said, “I’m actually in a little bit of a place at the moment where I’m trying to say no because I said yes too many times. It’s a balance. And I think it’s about knowing you only have so many hours of the day. Burnout is real.”

As an artist manager, Aine believes that timing is everything. She said, “It’s important to let artists figure out who they are, who they want to be, and then be there to support that.”

Since her very first performance, Aine has seen Reevah develop and grow: “I watched her over the next few years build the direction that she wants to go. You could hear that development in her sound to the point where I was like, OK, I’m excited now. Let’s work together.

It’s really incredible for us behind the scenes to hear that initial voice, star factor or songwriting and really watch an artist develop and go on that journey from their first track”

As the session drew to a close the conversation turned to support for underrepresented voices and genres. Jo and Aine are co-founders of Safe and Sound – an organisation that tackles some challenging issues including the night-time economy and abuse within the sector. It also looks at raising the profile of underrepresented genres.

This discussion was merely the tip of the iceberg. The music scene in Northern Ireland is vibrant and with a range of grants designed to fund international development and career enhancement on top of the well-established support available for artists, that’s not about to change anytime soon.