"Top Music Grants for Musicians & Indie Artists" Close up View of Hand Writing A Donation Check

Top Music Grants for Musicians & Indie Artists

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

In these times where record label signings are practically nonexistent, indie artists need alternative methods of funding their careers. While there are plenty of ways for musicians to make money as indie artists, it’s true that musicians often must use their own money or crowdfund to complete an album. One outside funding option that many artists don’t always know about is finding a music grant. Grants can help artists fund recordings, tours, and pursue projects they might have considered frivolous due to lack of income, with the best part being that grants provide financial support that you don’t have to pay back.

What are music grants?

A grant is an award of money from an organization often for a specific purpose of use. Grants are gifts — not loans or investments, so there is no return or repayment expected. Music grants are available from private and public organizations. They can be very specific and aimed at certain demographics and genres, or sometimes are open to all. Music grants are often for producing a specific project or for a particular part of the process.

How can music grants help you?

Unless otherwise specified, grants for musicians can be applied to any of your expenses, including recording costs like studio time, paying musicians, and equipment rentals. Music grants can also fund tours, marketing and promotional expenses, and even music videos. You can use grant money to help your professional development into areas you’ve always wanted to explore, but maybe haven’t been able to afford to pursue.

Preparing for your grant application

So you’ve found a grant opportunity or music scholarship. How do you write a proposal that stands out, especially as an emerging artist?

Crafting a winning proposal

It’s crucial to put your best foot forward when applying for music grants, as the competition can be fierce. Be clear about what you propose to do with the money and have a clear vision of the artistic merit of your endeavor, along with what it will take to achieve it.

Many grant programs will require a written grant proposal along with your application. There is a specific format and style of presentation for grant proposals. In fact, there is an entire profession dedicated to writing them! You can learn the basic steps of grant writing online if you can’t hire a professional. Most grant proposals have a cover letter, executive summary, a statement of need that describes the problem you’re attempting to solve with your project, and a detailed action plan. Be sure to thoroughly research how to write grant proposals if you intend on writing it yourself, as your presentation will be evaluated as part of the process.

Budget planning

Part of your proposal will be a detailed budget for the grant funding. Keep your projections realistic, but don’t plan too close to the bone. It’s better to allocate a little more money than you need for each item than to come up short. Some of your typical line items will be detailed studio and manufacturing costs, promotional and marketing expenses, and living expenses. Go over your budget several times with an eagle eye, making sure you haven’t neglected any categories and that you’ve allocated enough money to ensure your project will be completed. Do your due diligence and compare prices before committing to an amount in the budget (this will require some research).

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Top music grants available for application

If you’re not sure where to start in looking for these funding opportunities, we’ve got you covered. Discover important grant information from the top music organizations.

National and international grants

There are numerous national and international grants for musicians. The National Endowment For The Arts (NEA) awards music grants to individuals and organizations in the USA from $10,000 to $100,000 in all genres of music. You must have a specific project in need of funding. Projects can include recording, touring, and educational initiatives, among others. The NEA awards grants in many different artistic fields; sometimes a music-related project might be best served under a different category than “music,” so be sure to review all of their offerings. They have two application deadlines a year (one in February and one in July).

The performers’ rights organizations ASCAP and BMI offer national music grants as well, aimed at musicians in various stages of their careers. And if you are Canadian, FACTOR has a multitude of grants helping to fund most musicians’ needs.

Demographic-specific grants

There are also a variety of music grants aimed at serving historically underserved demographics. Black musicians have several grant and artist-in-residence opportunities available through the Black Artists’ Foundry. Regionally, the NBAF Artist Project Fund awards $2000 in grant money to a few Atlanta-area black artists each year. The Black Artists Fund distributed by Fund For The Arts in Louisville, KY has given music grants of $500 to $2000 to local black artists in the past.

Women have specific grant opportunities as well. The New York Foundation for the Arts Women’s Fund offers yearly grants of $20,000 for specific projects for women artists, including musicians. This grant requires the funded project to be finished within 12 months. Applications are due in the fall and recipients are notified in the spring. Also, the PRS Foundation offers a Women Make Music grant to UK women artists with grants up to £5000.

Quite a few grants are also open to young artists who haven’t released projects before. If this describes you, be sure to check the age range in the grant description; many are for artists under 30. Whatever your demographic might be, it’s worth doing research to see if there are any grants available for your particular background and needs.

Genre-specific grants

If you’re a jazz or classical musician, there are a multitude of grants available in these genres. The BMI Foundation distributes jazz-related prizes and grants, including the Future Jazz Master Award, which awards $5000 each year to one jazz performer between the ages of 17 and 24. They also host the BMI Composer Awards for classical musicians, welcoming submissions for any instrumentation in any classical genre. The American Musicological Society also offers grants in a variety of disciplines for all types of classical and folk musicians.

Don’t be alarmed if you’re an indie/rock musician, though — there are music grants for you, too! The Salt Lick Incubator is a non-profit organization offering grants from $5,000 to $15,000 for musicians in song-oriented genres. They have three grant cycles a year, so you have three opportunities per year to apply. Also, the Dolly Parton Songwriters Award gives $20,000 for up to two original song entries in seven different roots-based American music genres. You must be between ages 17 and 24 and must not have applied to any other BMI Foundation awards program that year to qualify.

Tailor your submissions to genre-specific grants according to the listed requirements. Make sure you read the rules and know when the deadlines are. It’s good to do as much research as you can for your specific genre, as you never know what’s out there.

The submission process

Grant committees receive thousands of applications per cycle. Make sure your application is complete, neatly presented, well-researched and detailed when it comes to your plans and budget, and written professionally in a clear, business-like style. Each application should be tailored for each grant. Be clear about why you should receive the grant and tell them why you are the perfect applicant. The goals of your project should align with the goals of the organization sponsoring the grant, and that should be reflected in your application.

Submission do’s and don’ts

  • Do’s: Prep your application thoroughly. Follow the submission guidelines exactly, proofread multiple times, and quadruple check to make sure you haven’t omitted any sections of your application. Make sure your timelines and budget allocations are realistic, reasonable, and doable. Let them know clearly why you are an excellent candidate. And obviously, make sure you meet the exact deadline! Grant deadlines are hard and fast. Often it is at least a year before you can submit again.
  • Don’ts: Some common mistakes in submitting music grants are not being eligible, re-using the same pitch written for other grants, not providing enough budget detail, and not writing professionally. Grant reviewers like the grant to follow the three C’s: clear, concise, and compelling. Have a professional grant writer look over your application if you are skeptical of your own writing abilities.

Follow-up and reporting requirements

Some grants require you to keep them informed of your progress and report back to them, and some also have requirements that the project be completed in a specific period of time. Make sure you know what these requirements are and don’t miss a reporting deadline. Potentially you could have the grant revoked, which would be a disaster!

Maximizing your chances of securing a music grant

No matter your experience, musical expertise, or background, applying for and receiving music grants is well within anyone’s capabilities. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember that the best money is free money! It’s worth jumping through some hoops to receive funding you don’t have to repay. Research, plan well, and take your time writing the grant application as you’ll need it to be letter perfect. Make sure to educate yourself about the grant opportunities available to you based on location, genre, and demographic so that you can find the perfect ones for your project.

And if you do receive money to help fund your album release, look no further than Disc Makers for custom vinyl records, a wide range of CD packages, and top-quality audio mastering to complete your album in the best possible way.

How to Make More Money With Music, the Complete Guide

Chris Huff

About Chris Huff

Chris Huff has been a professional singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer for over 25 years. He has worked as a sideman with Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul, and Mary), Echo and the Bunnymen, Chuck Hammer (David Bowie, Lou Reed), and Tom Kitt (Broadway composer of Next To Normal). Chris also wrote liner notes for David Bowie’s Live And Well CD, and his full-length album, 'bout Time is available on iTunes.

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