Money, money, money
Jeremy Pound wonders if classical music should be eking out a little more from private wealth
Tonight is, I’ve noticed, a double rollover on the National Lottery. With the odds of winning the jackpot a mere 13,983,816 to 1, I’ve figured that I just need to pop into the newsagents this evening, fill in my six numbers and my bank account should be larger by around £10m tomorrow morning. Easy.
But then comes that much-loved and, OK, hypothetical question: what would I do with all that money? In general, I have no idea – some new tiles for the roof would be a good start – but I do like to think that I’d put at least some of it towards the classical music scene that has given me so much pleasure over the years.
Yesterday evening, I attended the autumn launch of the 2011 Cheltenham Music Festival, an event pitched largely at businesses who it’s hoped will sponsor various concerts. While Donna Renney, the Cheltenham Festivals’ chief executive, has the sort of upbeat air that could turn a trip to the dentist into a cause for celebration, even she admitted that the Government spending cuts around the corner will mean tough times for arts organisations, the Cheltenham Music Festival included. Now, more than ever, is the time for the private sector to delve into its pockets.
In theory, rustling together enough funds for a two-week festival, or even a full-length concert season, shouldn’t be that tough, as there’s certainly enough money out there. And most people seem to agree, in theory at least, that a diverse arts scene is important. But, with one or two notable exceptions – Sir Peter Moores of the Littlewoods dynasty, for instance, or Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross – few of the UK’s biggest financial players seem to have shown much interest in lending a helping hand to the classical music world.
What’s more, the sums involved are relatively small. Let’s put this all in perspective. Newspaper pages are filled with stories of wealthy businessmen chucking hundreds of millions at mid-table football teams that, staffed by a mix of the apathetic and the inept, are about as likely to win anything meaningful as I am to walk away with that £10m tonight. OK, so funding mediocrity may be how some people get their kicks (forgive the pun)… but one week’s worth of the average Premier League player’s wages would comfortably pay the entire sponsorship of a world-class music festival. Even as a lover of the beautiful game myself, I find that just a little depressing.
So why is there relatively little interest in funding classical music among the UK’s super rich? Maybe it’s because, with the comfort of state funding behind them, festivals and orchestras have been slow in asking, though I doubt it. Maybe it’s because there’s a perception that arts organisations spend money frivolously – certainly, things aren’t helped by examples such as the PRS for Music Foundation’s recent decision to award its £50,000 Prize for New Music to a project that has produced not one note of new music. Or maybe it’s because the vast majority of very rich people simply aren’t interested.
Whatever, in these times of tightened governmental belts, classical music is going to somehow have to persuade those with large wallets to open them, both wide and soon. It can’t rely on winning the lottery.
Jeremy Pound is deputy editor of BBC Music Magazine