RPS Audience Fund

in association with the Rachel Baker Memorial Charity

All of us working in classical music believe in its power to inspire and enrich people’s lives. While this is evident to those who cherish attending performances and listening to music at home, the challenge remains in sharing that conviction with others, encouraging the population at large to get involved and discover its rewards for themselves.

‘Audience Development’ is a familiar term to all arts organisations. Too easily, however, we can regard it as the responsibility of a sole figure in the marketing department, undertaking initiatives that may only have a modest effect with just a sliver of the overall marketing budget. Nonetheless, ensuring a future audience for our music is a shared responsibility for us all, on stage and behind the scenes.

We are pleased to announce a major new fund that aims to give classical music organisations the means to think afresh about ways to attract, engage and retain new audiences.

The fund is generously granted by the Rachel Baker Memorial Charity, with whom the Royal Philharmonic Society is pleased to be joining forces in its delivery. This is particularly fitting as the Philharmonic Society itself was – in essence – one of the first ever audience development initiatives in classical music. It was established in 1813 by a group of musicians who wanted to share their music with a wider public, seeking to rouse curiosity and patronage by presenting regular concerts, showcasing a wealth of exciting new repertoire, and drawing celebrated musicians like Mendelssohn and Wagner from the continent for the first time. Their endeavours not only developed an audience but established a culture that others were then to emulate, and that continues to this day.

What big ideas have you always dreamed of? With the new fund, we invite colleagues across the profession to contemplate bold new initiatives – in the spirit of our founders – that you believe could draw a new audience to classical music today.

What funds are offered?

The fund constitutes a total of £180,000. It is anticipated this will be divided the following ways:

  • Three grants of around £50,000 each to fund larger-scale projects
  • Two smaller grants of £15,000 to fund smaller-scale projects

In all cases, projects are expected to run for two to three years and each grant will be given in instalments according to the applicant’s timeline and budget.

Please note, this is a one-off funding opportunity, so do seize this moment to apply for it.

Who can apply?

Trustees of the Rachel Baker Memorial Charity specify that the fund is open to classical music ensembles (of any size from quartet to symphony orchestra) based in the UK, and UK venues where classical music is principally programmed. Such organisations can apply independently or as the lead party in a shared bid with other partners, but the fund is not open to applications submitted by individual performers, festivals, opera companies, ballet companies or record companies.

What might the fund support?

The fund is intended to encourage imaginative new approaches to growing audiences for classical music in the United Kingdom. Duly, criteria are not intended to be too prescriptive. Nonetheless, applicants are encouraged to:

  • Define what cohort or cross-section of the market you would aim to engage through this initiative to broaden your existing audience demographic. It’s good for you and us to have a sense at the outset of what kind of people you are aiming to attract, though there are no right answers in this, and please note this fund is not intended to focus exclusively on a particular minority or disadvantaged area of the community.
  • Be creative, thinking about the traditional ways you promote and present classical music to audiences, how these may not wholly entice some people, and reflect on ways of overcoming perceived barriers to make the experience you offer more widely appealing. This may entail both what happens at the performance venue and beyond it, utilising live music and musicians in your plans as you wish.
  • Be truly innovative. An element of risk is involved in doing things differently and this fund views risk-taking positively as a means of exploring fresh ideas, unlocking creativity and promoting genuine long term change. We are keen to hear big ideas beyond familiar gestures like talking from the stage and pre/post-concert talks.
  • Address ways to engage new audiences with your existing range of performances, rather than a wholly separate initiative that – however engaging in itself – may not draw people to the applicant’s core activity.
  • Think anew about audience development as an organisation-wide mission, instead of the sole responsibility of a marketing department; evidence of how the initiative will involve a range of stakeholders will be required in your application.
  • Address legacy, giving a tangible picture of the extents to which the funding will help achieve lasting change for the applicant, leading to a greater contingent of people booking for future concerts, not just for the duration of the funded initiative. In this, you should give some consideration to how you are going to measure the project’s success and its impact.

Applicants may use some of the grant towards core costs but applications should clearly demonstrate how the fund would enable them to do things for which they would not otherwise have the means.

The funded activity should not begin prior to Easter 2020. Initial funds will not be granted to the successful applicants till then. It is fine for your project not to begin until the start of the 2020-21 concert season in September 2020.

How do I apply?

There are two stages to the application process.

Stage one
This stage is about sharing your idea, your passion and your creativity. Any interested ensemble or venue is asked to make a short film as an expression of interest, of no more than 5 minutes in duration. Please do not be deterred if you have never made a film of any kind before. This need not be high-quality and we welcome it being filmed on smartphones: at this stage, we are principally looking for spirit, originality and imagination and will not be judging the production values of the film itself. You can include whatever you like in your film, but it should give a broad outline of the initiative you would undertake with this funding, a sense of what its impact might be, and reflection on the criteria above including some essence of organisational commitment, drawing on whatever stakeholder voices you wish. Though you may use clips of existing footage within this, that is not necessary, and applicants must not submit an existing promotional film outright.

Films should be privately uploaded to an online platform such as YouTube or Vimeo, and a link sent to the RPS (with password if necessary). You should choose an individual to be your organisation’s representative for the application and they should send an email with the link to Robin Sheffield, RPS General Manager, at robin[at]philharmonicsociety.uk by the closing date of 11am on Monday 9 December 2019.

Please do not send any supplementary written documents or other materials with your film. We do not expect any budget detail at this stage, but you should either within the film or when emailing it simply specify if your interest lies with one of the larger or smaller grants.

Stage two
Once all films have been reviewed, a number of shortlisted applicants will be contacted by Friday 17 January 2020 and asked to prepare a more detailed written project outline of a few pages to submit by 11am on Monday 2 March 2020. This will entail more specific information including a timeline with key phases and milestones in its two-to-three year span, a provisional budget, and details of how you would measure the success of your initiative.


Decisions will be made in March 2020 and shortlisted applicants notified of the outcome by the end of the month. It is expected that in April 2020 the recipients of the fund will be publically announced.

Once initiatives are underway, recipients will be asked to provide occasional updates to the RPS on their progress, including a final evaluation report outlining its successes and what next steps the organisation intends to take. In this, recipients will be asked to provide some modest quantitative measures of success and be willing to share their story as a potential useful model for others to follow in future.

Any further questions?

As you and your colleagues contemplate a potential application, you may value a conversation with the RPS about what you are planning. While we cannot give any steer on the potential merit of a project or otherwise, we are very happy indeed to talk through any queries you may have. Please email Robin Sheffield, RPS General Manager on robin[at]philharmonicsociety.uk in the first instance, and he will either reply by email or arrange for a conversation with a member of the RPS team.


Kathryn McDowell, Director, LSO: The RPS has been a meeting point for musicians, composers and audiences for 200 years and remains a passionate advocate for music today.


Voting for the RPS Gold Medal is still carried out using the original 19th century yes/no voting box.