Earning money as a musician is a difficult task, and many prospective musicians find it impossible to make their dream of working full-time in the music industry a reality. Grant opportunities for musicians offer additional avenue for musicians to find the financial resources they need to stay creative and keep performing. In the United States, grant funding can come from various nonprofit organizations, state governmental agencies and even federal councils for the arts.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, offers a number of grant opportunities for a wide range of musical artists. ASCAP holds grant-funded Songwriter Workshop Series, which gives independent musicians a chance to have their work critiqued by music industry professionals. ASCAP also maintains a fellowship program for one student to study composition and film scoring at the Aspen Music Festival and School in Aspen, Colorado.
State arts and cultural organizations are contributors of grant funding to local musicians seeking financial aid. Arts and cultural governmental agencies were responsible for about $9 million in grant funding for individual artists in 2009, which includes actors and other performers along with musicians. In New York, the state's Council on the Arts, or NYSCA, supports public performances and independent artists and maintains the Musical Instrument Revolving Loan Fund to help musicians purchase instruments. The Minnesota State Arts Board awarded 13 grants to state musicians in 2008, granting a total of $73,000 to be used toward musical recordings and public performances of rare compositions.
National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA, is the federal governmental agency charged with promoting arts and cultural expression across the United States. Along with many other types of performances, the NEA supports independent musicians and musical organizations through a variety of grant programs. The NEA maintains the Our Town grant, which awards an artistic organization for the creation of art that improves community livability, and The Arts on Radio and Television, which supports art projects that are to be broadcast on national radio or national TV. Grant funding can range from $10,000 to $250,000 per grant.
Before deciding to award grant funding to a project, most governmental and nonprofit agencies have to judge the project first against a list of set criteria. This generally looks at both the artistic relevance of a piece as well as its marketability. For NYSCA grants, recipients must prove artistic excellence in idea, practice, development and context as well as competence with financial management; organizations receiving grants must also have a board of directors. Larger grants, such as those offered through the NEA, usually require more on behalf of an applicant; projects eligible for the Our Town grant must be sponsored by a nonprofit cultural organization in partnership with a governmental agency.