NMPUK MIMA Debbie and Kate Walters

Top tips for partnership from our New Music Plus… producers

Since they first met a year ago during an away day at Supersonic festival our New Music Plus…UK producers  have formed a close-knit group, who routinely help each other out with advice and contacts and have even formed an adhoc touring circuit for their various bands and gig nights.

They’ve each also developed strong working relationships with their ‘host’ organisations, working with them to produce a range of music-led, often cross-artform events. These are proving to be as wildly different as you’d expect from a venue cohort that includes Turner Contemporary in Margate, Sheffield Showroom, Plymouth City Museum & Gallery and The Junction in Cambridge. Events that have happened so far include Sarah Kenchington’s Windpipes, produced by Suzy Glass and Edinburgh Art Festival and reviewed here by The Guardian’s Kate Molleson, and Music Language Redux festival, produced by Cry Parrot’s Fielding Hope and Dundee Contemporary Art, again reviewed here by Kate.

So, what’s the key thing they’ve learned about partnership?

One year into the New Music Plus… UK programme, our producers met up at MIMA in Middlesbrough to share the one piece of advice they’d offer to an independent producer looking to partner with a larger arts organisation for the first time.

Here’s what they had to offer…a first draft perhaps of a New Music Plus… producers’ manifesto?!

Danielle Rose
Work out as early as possible in the project who will hold each section of the budget. If your co-production is with an organisation that has to go through a procurement process for every single transaction (such as a local authority run venue), it’s likely to make most sense for artists you wish to work with to be paid direct through the Producer. For services which incur VAT, these transactions may be best handled by the host organisation, which can claim that back. Plot out the cash flow of the project early on, and ensure that as an individual you receive the money you need to pay out in advance of it being due.

John Stevens, Qu-Junktions
In this kind of partnership, the chances are that there are going to be various ‘normal’ ways of doing things. I’d say it’s important that a producer remembers they’re independent and feels happy to constructively challenge their partner organisation to step away from their ‘norms’, if it will benefit the project.

Jordan Bell
Be aware right from the start that you’re working with a large organisation. What that means is that all of their many staff have their own day-to-day roles and responsibilities and no matter how co-operative and welcoming they are, you have to bear in mind that your project probably won’t be at the top of their to do list. There are ways around this – going into the office regularly is really important for getting people on your side or encouraging/hassling people to get stuff done.

Kate Walters
Don’t try to decide on projects too quickly. It can take a lot of time to really get inside an organisation’s mindset and to understand their expectations. It will save time in the long run to spend more time getting to know your partner organisation and letting ideas grow organically.

Suzy Glass
When you’re working in partnership you’re likely to be working with people who have different levels of experience, skill and knowledge across all manner of project-relevant areas. Whether these are artistic, logistical, budgetary etc, it’s really important to build enough time in to understand those differences and then more time either for learning or for negotiation/diplomacy.

Tania Holland-Williams, Curious Planet
Establish as soon as possibe what the organisation’s decision making processes are for each area of your work and also the average length of time it takes to make things happen.


So there you have it – the rules of partnering with a large organisation, as proposed by our New Music Plus… UK producers. We hope you find them useful, and if so, would ask you to forward a link to them to anyone else who might too.

Meanwhile, there are loads more New Music Plus…UK events coming up between now and summer 2014, from British Sea Power going brass band crazy to gigs in former prison cells and everything you could possibly imagine in between. If you’d like to keep up to date with what’s coming up, sign up to our newsletter here or follow all the action on twitter keeping an eye out for #NMPUK.

New Music Plus.. is run in partnership between the hub and PRS for Music Foundation.