Dan Lewis (PRS for Music) Interview

21 March 2022

Music Patron is a brand new digital startup incubated within Sound and Music to connect composers directly with patrons. We’re close to announcing our first cohort of incredible composers and can’t wait to introduce them. Ahead of this, Music Patron’s Digital Engagement Manager, Matt Harvey, interviewed Dan Lewis, the relationship manager for classical music at PRS for Music.

I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to various industry experts about the current status quo for composers. If Music Patron is to change this, it’s essential that we understand the challenges that composers are facing and what everyday life is like for them in a post-pandemic world. I had to opportunity to chat to Dan Lewis, the relationship manager for classical music at PRS for Music about the organisations view on the current climate for composers as well as what they as an organisation have been doing to support composer over the last 18 months.

  • What do you feel the current climate is like for composers & musicians?

In recent months, we have enjoyed returning to concert halls and venues across the country to hear live music. It is a source of joy and optimism. However, many musicians are still experiencing COVID-19 related cancellations, especially with the risk of new variants on the horizon, and it will take time for audience numbers to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Classical music is heavily reliant on live performance and so we must continue to support its ecosystem, which allows new works to be commissioned and performed live.  

  • As an organisation, how do you feel the past 18 months have impacted the music world?

The pandemic has seen the global music industry experience one of the most turbulent periods in its history, with far-reaching economic consequences. On a more positive note, music provided escapism and enjoyment to many during this challenging time, underlining its importance to society.   

We were proud to support PRS members by launching the PRS Emergency Relief Fund in March 2020, in collaboration with our charity partners, PRS Members’ Fund and PRS Foundation. The fund has since paid out over £2.2m across 5,500 grants to composers and songwriters facing severe financial hardship due to the pandemic. We were also proud that we could continue our work and pay out a record £699.4m last year, as we understand how much royalties mean to members. While this was a welcome achievement, we are aware that there is still likely to be a decline on the horizon in 2022.   

  • What do you think the long term effects of the pandemic will be on the industry and on the creation of new music?

Composers and musicians were forced to explore alternative spaces to create music, forging new communities in the process. Digital media is one example of this. We witnessed a large increase in livestreamed and pre-recorded concerts, where composers and performers experimented with new ideas and formats. Looking ahead, digital content poses an opportunity for the entire industry to continue innovating, collaborating, and reaching new audiences.  

  • Is there a particular recent success story you as an organisation are proud of?

For me, the success story lies in the resilience and solidarity shown by PRS members and the wider classical community; in that musicians continued to write and perform despite enormous financial and logistical difficulties. Each story should be celebrated, whether that was venues and festivals navigating new ways to programme concerts despite restrictions, or ensembles and composers finding new ways to work together. The support we’ve seen for music creators throughout the pandemic, from both the PRS for Music team and the music industry as a whole, has also been inspiring to see.

  • Why should people support new music?

By supporting new music, you will eventually discover works that you cannot live without. Each composer has a unique voice, and you will stumble upon sound-worlds that completely fascinate you. Performers of contemporary music are exceptionally skilled, which adds to the excitement of the occasion. Those looking to bring their new music to life should look into funding opportunities with our charity partner, PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development. 

Speaking with Dan left me feeling hopeful that there are so many organisations out there supporting the creation of new music. I’m really keen to explore and share success stories from these organisations and find ways that we might help each other to support the creation of new music.

Have you benefited from the PRS Emergency Relief fund? Do you work for an organisation that has supported composers? We’d love to hear from you. Email me anytime at [email protected].

We’d love to keep in touch with you about Music Patron. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter here and follow us on our journey to support new music.

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