Supporting our next gen writer-producers is essential, says funding expert

bhav prs foundation

‘We’re seeing more and more songwriters and artists becoming interested in developing careers as producers, and getting more involved in all aspects of music creation,’ says Bhavesh Patel, programme manager at PRS Foundation.

Alongside the charity’s flagship Momentum and International Showcase funds, Bhavesh also oversees the new Writer Producer Fund.

Launched last month to support the new ways artists, music writers and producers come together to create, the initiative is aimed at supporting the career development of these behind-the-scenes hitmakers – many of whom are often less acknowledged by the wider industry than artists and performers.

Writer-producers are very often the first port of call for emerging artists, and help support the next generation of talent coming up – so are extremely important to the wider music ecosystem, Bhavesh explains.

‘The early [artist] development period is so crucial and lays the foundations of what we, as an industry, can contribute on a global scale,’ he says.

‘[We want] to develop the careers of these songwriters and producers, really address the needs of songwriters throughout their careers, increase their recognition across the wider industry and support all aspects of their work.’

The Writer Producer Fund is offering successful applicants grants of up to £10,000 for activities including recording, musician fees, attendance of songwriter camps and sessions, training/skills courses and maternity/child care costs.

With the first deadline fast approaching (applications must be in before 19 June) we find out more from Bhavesh about the fund, the unique role of writer-producers and how the changing music industry has affected their work…

Who are writer-producers?
They’re songwriters and producers who aren’t always forward-facing artists in the music industry. They may have started out as topline writers, artists or producers, and they don’t tend to get the same shine as artists do. But they’re instrumental in making the songs and the records we all love… a good writer-producer will help the artist capture their vision and get it on record.

The record industry has really changed over the last decade and this fund is acknowledging and addressing creatives’ new needs.

So, what’s changed?
The perception and blurred lines between songwriters and producers and the role they play when making a record. If the producer is writing original music/track in a session, there is certainly a case for them to receive a songwriting credit for their work – if that production is really what made that song a hit. Ten to 15 years ago that wouldn’t even be a conversation – the producer would be paid a per track rate for producing the song and given points on the record. So we now see more and more songwriters and artists becoming interested in developing careers as producers and getting involved in more aspects of creation.

What’s been the catalyst to this?
One of them was when major record companies stopped producing physical singles around nine years ago, and concentrated on downloads. That threw everything into a spin. People started asking how to organise the splits better, and where the money should go.

So producers were getting cut out?
I think it was the start of another transitional period where people were trying to work out where songwriters and producers sit in the record making process and how they should be considered when discussing writing splits and points on record. And now streaming is taking over, the industry is continually having to work out new deals all over again. There are less set deals these days – we have loose and traditional guidelines, but ultimately you get what you can negotiate.

Are writer-producers overlooked by the industry today?
They’re definitely less represented, but I don’t think they’re overlooked as such. The savvy managers and A&Rs will know all the movers and shakers in the writer-producer community and what their options are when they’re making a record. But, further down the chain, the radio plugger may not know who produced and engineered the record, or who wrote the song.

The label’s concern is with the artist and the publisher’s concern is with the songwriter.

Here in the UK we don’t have super producers in the same way the US has, say, a Swizz Beatz. Sure, we have well-known characters, but none as publically profiled as someone like [US rapper, producer and songwriter] Mike WiLL Made-It is right now.

Many of our great songwriter-producers over here aren’t forward facing, but people like Paul Epworth have been great for the community because they’ve become super-producers and are raising the profile of British songwriter-producers.

What’s the primary aim of the Writer Producer Fund?
To develop the careers of songwriters and producers, really address the needs of songwriters throughout their careers, increase their recognition across the wider industry and support all aspects of their work.

It can cost a lot of money to make a record. When artists and songwriters go into a session, there are costs involved if you’re working out of a studio – which is why a lot of writer-producers have home set-ups. But we know that, sometimes, that’s just not ideal. We want to be able to support and fund the important studio/recording process.

What other specific needs do writer-producers have?
Our fund should help writer-producers spend more time working with new talent. If we can help support writer-producers and artists this way, we’ll be happy.

Most writer-producers I know love the early artist development stages. They’d ideally spend most their time developing new artists, but they need to be realistic. I’d always advise that any songwriter or producer spend 80 percent of their time on projects that can earn them an income and 20 percent on developing new talent.

Picking and choosing your projects and how you spend your time is important – it’s a fine balance and you’ve got to make sacrifices. But the early development period is so crucial and lays the foundations of what we, as an industry, can contribute on a global scale.

Training is very important too. A lot of people start out as artists or songwriters but when they’re in the studio they want to get involved. They want to take more of a holistic approach to record-making. The more strings you can add to your bow, the better. Hopefully this fund will be able to help creatives in this area. Continual training and development is essential.

Who can apply?
Songwriters and producers working in the UK. You need to have had some demonstrable success as a songwriter. That doesn’t mean you need to have current chart-topping hits under your belt, just some records that have been cut and released.

You must be a PRS member and consider yourself to be a songwriter. Some people start out as producers and get into songwriting – that’s fine. We’re also welcoming songwriters who have never had any production experience before. We want to help people make records.

When’s the first application deadline?
June 19th. You can apply for up to £10,000. We’ll be open for applications twice a year, with the next deadline later in 2017. Learn more about the fund, and apply, at http://www.prsformusicfoundation.com/funding/writer-producer-fund/

Bhavesh Patel is programme manager at PRS Foundation, managing the charity’s Writer Producer, International Showcase and Momentum funds.

Starting as a DJ/promoter in Sheffield, Bhavesh worked at Universal labels Mercury and Polydor Records in the A&R and promotions department before going on to Z Management.

He also founded his own club event, Blackjack London, curating shows at The Social, London, and stages at The Great Escape and SXSW for artists such as Shakka, Disciples, Blossoms, Only Real, Ghetts, JUCE, Frances, Krept and Konan, Rosie Lowe, Boxed In, Jessie J, Jake Isaac and more.