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Tips of the trade: Grant applications

Tip Published Thursday 22 July 2021
Getting external funding can help musicians access performance opportunities and propel their careers (Source: Jen Cloher)

Real talk about grant applications

Grants. You know they are out there. You know people and organisations that actually get them. Pitchfork recently went in-depth on the different arts funding models around the world and spoke to Courtney Barnett about how funding from Australian granting agencies at the early, crucial stages of her career supported her so that she could make music and perform overseas on her own terms.

“Government grants gave me creative independence when I was starting out, because it meant I was worrying less about impressing for label and publishing advances, and I was less reliant on taking some big-company sponsorship to fund a tour,” Barnett told the publication.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So, how do you become one of those lucky recipients? You don’t get lucky, you do the work. Let’s break it down and demystify the application process.

1. Purpose, purpose, purpose.

Know what it is that needs support – your debut EP, your first foray into the international market, your all-ages, solar-powered music festival, etc.

2. Do not apply for a grant that does not suit your purpose.

Your purpose might be amazing, but if you need funds to record your debut EP and the grant specifically does not fund recording, please do not apply. It is imperative to know what it is that the granting organisation is supporting, as well as its timeframe and deadlines. Don't change your purpose to suit the grant, it detracts from the focus on your project.

3. No such thing as a stupid question.

Want to get a grant for being a first-time showcasing artist at Homegrown but you subbed as the bass player in a band a couple of years ago? Call and ask – and try to gather all of your questions and get them answered in one call.

4. Verbosity doesn’t win this game.

Read any grant writing tips list (for instance, , and here and you will see that the key ingredient to a successful application is keeping it clear and concise and focused on your purpose.

5. BUDGETS. Oh the glamour of it all.

Grant expert extraordinaire Emily Collins (CEO of Music NSW) recently told The Brag, “Do not submit a budget that doesn’t balance. We don’t want to see you $3k in debt, or make a $3k profit from a project in which you’re asking for a $2500 grant.” There are plenty of budget templates out there to suit your project, find one to start you off, it makes it less daunting.

6. Outcomes.

Be mindful that these organisations are looking to award grants to meaningful projects that benefit the greater good, e.g., your burgeoning live career that employs local crew, or funding a residency that gives you skills to bring back to your community. Make a point of those benefits in your application.

7. Get it together.

Recommendations, supporting material, your IRD # and so on are usually a requirement. If so, afford yourself the time to gather these very important components. Chances are you will want to ask a very supportive music industry mentor for recommendations in the future, so don’t ask her a day before the deadline to write 500 words. Ask her a few weeks before the deadline and give some context as to what the granting agency is looking for.

8. 2nd pair of eyeballs.

Spellcheck can be a fickle friend. You have been staring at this document for so long, be sure to have a fresh pair of grammar-inclined eyes read the application before you hit submit.

9. What the heck is an Acquittal?

Yay! You got a grant! But that's not the end of the process. Granting organisations require a post-report called an Acquittal form, so they can see the outcomes from the funded activities. Make sure you keep track of your spending, media coverage, outreach results, and anything that is measurable like audience sizes, social media growth, community involvement and so on. It's really important to follow through or you will seriously jeopardise your chances for further funding or the funding of future applicants. Also, send a thank you note for the personal touch.

10. If you don't succeed...

If you weren't successful on your first go, you can try again. Keep doing what you're doing and focus on that purpose.

Where to find the grants

Keep tabs on these resources and organisations.