Agenda item


            The Committee was reminded that the Northern Ireland Music Prize honoured and celebrated the very best of new, established and emerging Northern Irish music and was a key music event for the city of Belfast and its UNESCO City of Music status. It was an annual awards night organised by the Oh Yeah Music Centre and took place in the Ulster Hall during the Sound of Belfast Festival every year.


            The prize was a high-profile celebration of music from Northern Ireland. Five main awards were available, namely:


·        PPL Album of The Year;

·        Single of The Year;

·        BBC ATL Artist of The Year (BBC Introducing award);

·        Live Act of The Year; and

·        YouTube Video of The Year.


            There was also two special awards, namely:


·        Outstanding Contribution to Music presented by PRS; and

·        Oh Yeah Legend Award.


            The Director of Economic Development advised that over 100 music industry professionals were invited to take part in the nomination process of the awards. The general public were invited to vote for the winner of Single, Live and BBC Introducing Award, whilst an invited industry panel selected the winning video and the winning album. He stated that all genres were eligible and a diverse mix of acts were invited to perform each year to showcase the wealth and variety of music Belfast has to offer, including Trad, Folk, Indie, Rock, Electronica, Punk, Singer Songwriters, Pop, Hip Hop, Soul and R&B. He highlighted that supporters of the Prize included the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, PPL, PRS Foundation, Help Musicians, BBC Introducing, Arts and Business, Music Venues Trust, IMRO, Shine, Music Video Marketplace and Destination CQ.


            He informed the Committee that the 2023 Music Prize would host an audience of 1,000 people, including music industry guests from all over the UK and Ireland, Europe and the USA, as well as musicians, artists and music fans. He pointed out that the event would be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster and filmed by a production company for YouTube. He advised that many key industry professionals that attended were also involved in presenting and running panels at the Sound of Belfast conference earlier that day, including 200 young emerging artists who attend these panels which are streamed live on YouTube.


            The Director of Economic Development reported that this was an important event for music in Belfast and to complement and strengthen the initiatives and ambitions laid out in the UNESCO City of Music. It would be an investment in our world class and strong emerging diverse talent and was also an opportunity to showcase our local talent through extensive online reach and would demonstrate that the Council was committed to supporting and investing in music.


            The Director of Economic Development advised that the Sound of Belfast was a festival that showcased the Belfast music scene and sector with gigs, panels, talks, workshops, discussions, exhibitions, showcases and special events at various venues across Belfast. He described the event as a unique offering in the cultural landscape, with a sole focus of turning up the spotlight on our world-class talent by promoting Belfast as music city by celebrating the artists, venues, promoters, studios, performances spaces and record stores of the city.  He stated that 2023 would be the tenth year of the festival and the plan was to host a 10th Anniversary festival in 2024 to align with Belfast 2024.


            He pointed out that the programme included a community focus that would encourage people from all backgrounds to enjoy the music of the city. So far 26 venues were on board for Sound of Belfast with around 50 events – showcasing the capability of places and spaces of the city for live music across the grassroots venues, arts centres, pubs and cafes as well as the palm house, the Titanic distillery, a library, cinema, church and hotel. The event would feature venues in every part of the City – North, South, East and West.


            He described the programme of events, which would also feature a series of storytelling events called “Echoes of a Music City”, involving people with stories to tell in each community on different genres and scenes that made an impact on Belfast. They would take place all over the city and cover everything from Trad to Electronica – across cafes, in shops, arts centres and other key spaces.


            The Director of Economic Development explained that the Council had supported the NI Music Prize since its formation, with funding ranging from £15,000 to £30,000. The loss of Tourism NI National Events Fund had had a detrimental impact on the delivery of both the Sound of Belfast programme and the headline event, the NI Music Prize.


            He highlighted that, to ensure success of these events in 2023 and to build towards 2024, it was proposed to allocate £30,000 toward the NI Music Prize/Sound of Belfast for the November 2023 programme.


            In relation to the Strategic Review and Roadmap for Development, the Director of Economic Development explained that the NI Music Prize had been supported annually via Committee approval due to their wider impact on the music industry and the city. However, there was a desire amongst organisers and Council officers to explore longer-term approaches to ensure that this event could continue to grow and achieve its full potential.


            He emphasised that, with the continuing implementation of recommendations from the Music Strategy, these events had the potential to play a central role in the delivery of objectives within the music strategy. Similar to Belfast City Council’s support of the Output Conference, which took place in the springtime, it was hoped that the development of both Sound of Belfast and the NI Music Prize would provide a key touchpoint in the year for wider music initiatives and opportunities.


            He informed the Committee that, with a view to maximising the impact of the event, it was proposed to conduct an independent review of the NI Music Prize and Sound of Belfast. This independent review would consider alignment to music strategy and the role that it could play in achieving objectives through a longer-term strategic partnership and the value that it would take to achieve this. It would involve consultation with peers, including benchmarking against similar events both nationally and internationally and produce a series of ‘recommendations’ or ‘next steps’ as part of a roadmap for development.


            The Committee:


        Agreed the allocation of £30,000 to the NI Music Prize; and


        Agreed the allocation of £15,000 for an independent Strategic Review and Roadmap for Development for the NI Music Prize/Sound of Belfast.


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