Urban Development, a music and talent development organisation based in Stratford, East London, were one of the very first clients on the Creative Industry Finance programme when it launched back in September 2014. Founded in 2000, their vision is to become the premier agency for supporting the UK’s urban music scene.
Over the last 16 years, the charity has been acknowledged for the social and cultural impact of their work and won respect from the commercial music industry for supporting and developing the careers of artists such as Devlin.
Urban Development applied to the programme to secure working capital to enable the development of a new commercial venture – UD Music. Urban Development’s Chief Executive, Pamela McCormick worked closely with business advisor Jeff Gilbert in revising their business plan as well as carefully scrutinising budgets and cash flow. “His attention to detail was phenomenal. I felt confident when I was speaking to him because he understood exactly where we were coming from”, Pamela said.
After receiving business advice, Urban Development were referred to the London Small Business centre and secured with a loan of £15,000. The money allowed the organisation to pursue the commercial venture and contributed to taking on new members of staff to manage the project.
On the impact of the loan, Pamela says that it was a real stepping stone in developing a successful commercial strand of their organisation: “By pursuing this venture, it will contribute to the long-term sustainability of our business.”
Urban Development beginnings
Pamela began UD as a direct response to a group of musicians based in East London that she felt were being underserved by the music industry. “I felt like I could be a translator between the industry and the artists”, Pamela said. In a team of just three people, UD embarked on a mission of creating opportunities for young urban artists to grow and realise their ambitions.
By 2000, the team had grown and become a fully fledged arts organisation backed by funding from the PRS Foundation and Arts Council England. "It was such an achievement at the time, as up until that point funding was usually given to organisations from more traditional art backgrounds, it was a real turning point for us.”
After 16 years, the challenges initially facing Urban Development have changed rapidly. “When you have been around for as long as we have, the needs become greater” explains Pamela. “Securing grant funding for long-term projects and running of the business - and when you have a big new idea, that costs £300,000 a year to run - they’re not willing to take it on”.
UD look to the music industry as much as they do the subsidised sector. Music labels recognise the important work organisations like Urban Development do, and there are growing signs that they are willing to support and fund artists from their roster. However, there are potential risks - and according to Pamela, “labels will only support our artists, when they are at a level comfortable for themselves to take those risks.”
Urban Development were awarded funding from Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence initiative at the end of 2015, receiving £350,000 to set up a national youth music organisation and a centre of excellence in commercial and urban music based in Stratford.
Additionally, Urban Development are developing a series of talent development programmes to support young talent to get a head start in the music industry via work experience, degree qualifications and business accelerator courses.