Celebrating the NextGen fund one year on...
We can't believe it's already been a year since the first round of Youth Music NextGen Fund creatives received their grants.
Youth Music has been investing in young people’s future for more than 23 years now. In 2021, we went one step further by launching a dedicated fund for 18-25 year old creatives (and under-30s who identify as d/Deaf or Disabled).
The Youth Music NextGen Fund offers early-stage musicians and wider music adjacent creatives across the UK grants of up to £2,500 to make their ideas happen. This has been made possible thanks to generous support from our partners at TikTok, Turtle Bay, and players of People's Postcode Lottery.
The aim? To support the future of the music industries. We opened applications to singers, rappers, songwriters, producers, MCs, DJs, A&Rs, managers and agents, right through to roles that have yet to be defined.
One year on, we’ve run the numbers, and in the first three rounds, Youth Music has invested in 103 young creatives, around 12% of applications we received, showing strong demand for financial support from emerging artists and aspiring industry professionals.
Before being given Youth Music NextGen grants, 86% of recipients had not previously received significant funding (above £1,000) for a creative project. It is this sense of trust and belief in young people and their ideas that has set Youth Music apart from our peers. Vitally, early career funding allows emerging creatives to take risks and try new things as they grow and develop.
We’ve been incredibly impressed with the output from our Youth Music NextGen recipients. They’ve worked on a whole range of projects over the past year, from singles and EPs to music videos, record labels, music platforms, event series, zines and more.
Equalising access to the music industries is at the heart of everything Youth Music does. Our NextGen Fund aims to proactively support those currently underrepresented in the UK music industries. In the first year 52% of recipients were from the Global Majority, 36% were LGBTQIA+, 26% were d/Deaf or Disabled and 54% identified as women, non-binary, or gender fluid, and 42% from a working class background. We also invested 73% of our NextGen Fund to creatives outside of London, even though nearly 40% of applications have come from Londoners.
Youth Music’s inclusive approach to funding is exemplified through our Access Fund, which provides funding to cover any additional access costs d/Deaf or Disabled creatives may need during the application process. We’re delighted that in 2023 this will be supported by Dr Marten’s Foundation.
Encouragingly, the fund has kickstarted sustainable progression routes, with many NextGen fund recipients planning on creating and releasing more music after their funding ended, having found a consistent rhythm of creativity over the past year. In fact, half of NextGen fund recipients have progressed onto new employment opportunities as a result of their grant.
100% of the Youth Music NextGen community agreed that the funding improved their confidence and self-belief, quality of work and non-industry skills. Crucially, they all felt that the funding had enabled them to make things happen on their own terms.
One of the NextGen recipients told us that: “The grant has allowed me to self-fund the release of my debut EP. With the funding I could spend much more time in the studio experimenting with my music and creating a project exactly to how I imagined it.”
“I've become better at asking for what I want and being decisive with producers,” another recipient revealed. “I have also learnt more about marketing and the importance of TikTok. I've also learnt about how necessary it is to be organised as a person who is releasing music.”
Many artists supported through the NextGen fund reported increased exposure and opportunities. “A week after my project was released, I was asked to perform at three shows. At the shows there were managers and high end people who work in the music industry. After my show they got in contact with me and suggested working with me and taking things to the next level,” one said.
Other artists planned EP release parties and hit their first 100,000 streams on Spotify thanks to the help of the NextGen fund making their ideas possible.
Odox, an artist supported in the very first round of the NextGen fund, saw his first single used as a sound in more than 50,000 TikTok videos. He told us: “The grant allowed me to invest in all of my releases promotion and production wise and create music videos for each. The music videos tied in with the fluctuation of new listeners from TikTok saw me develop a small but loyal and consistent fanbase.”
Plus, popular media such as Notion, Clash, Gay Times, DJ Mag, Dork, The Line of Best Fit and 1883 Magazine covered songs released by artists through the NextGen fund.
The projects themselves have broken genre boundaries, with most of Youth Music’s NextGen funded artists experimenting cross-genre while also releasing everything from rock and grime to hip-hop, folk, garage, Afrofuturistic, jazz, house and R&B.
Lyrically, the NextGen funded musicians opened up about the effects of the pandemic and their musical journey, as well as more emotional topics such as heartbreak.
Our Blueprint for the Future report (2021) found that a lack of access to relevant music industry connections was the third most significant barrier to breaking into the music industries, along with a lack of opportunities in the local area and lack of financial support to follow their dreams. Not only has the NextGen fund actively combated all three of these obstacles by providing participants with the funds they need to make their ideas happen, but young people have been taking things into their own hands, too.
With collaboration at the heart at many of the funded projects, the young creatives often worked with other up-and-coming artists and producers on their music, connecting underground music scenes and reinforcing creative communities.
“The fund helped me collaborate with more artists and producers than I ever have in my history on the scene. It’s honestly opened me up to the scene a lot more,” a NextGen artist told us.
We also collaborated throughout the year with our Fund partners TikTok and Turtle Bay. They helped us make decisions at our industry-led funding panels, ran workshops, created performance opportunities, and supported funded artists across their platforms.
NextGen fund awardees financially supported a further 32 young people through their projects, onboarding them in a range of roles to make their creative ideas happen.
“I have… used this opportunity to network with other underground creatives in similar positions to my own by commissioning them to work with me on my album. These connections will last with me for the rest of my career and are invaluable,” a NextGen artist fed back to us.
Through this process of collaboration, 100% of NextGen fund artists told us that they had also been able to grow their creative skills, opening them up to more revenue streams in the future. “Artistically, I have really developed during this period of time as I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the studio and also working with other creatives and learning from them,” a NextGen artist said.
Even during the midst of a live music crisis where many established musicians are unable to tour, Youth Music NextGen Fund recipients let us know that they are planning their own live shows or are set to perform at various music showcases. It’s reassuring to hear that the next generation of talent are just as invested in the future of live music, despite the difficulties facing the sector at the moment.
We know young creatives are having to navigate a challenging and constantly changing music industry, but alongside this there are also huge opportunities for new forms of creativity and to build audiences in ways that weren’t previously possible. It’s vital to us at Youth Music that we’re levelling the playing field in terms of enabling people who face financial barriers to get started, learn as they go and have their voices heard.
One year on, Youth Music is gearing up to announce the recipients of Round Four of the NextGen Fund and open applications for Round Five. Looking back, the success of the fund is undeniable. Not only did the recipients grow their creative skills and collaborate with and fund other young people through their projects, but they grew their confidence and ultimately released music on their own terms. We can’t wait to see what the future brings.
Round 5 of the Youth Music NextGen fund opens for applications on Monday 19th December. To find out more and apply, visit: https://youthmusic.org.uk/nextgen/nextgen-fund
The data represented in this feature was collected from Youth Music NextGen funding rounds 1-3.