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Digital Culture Award Winner case study: Sound and Music

Victoria Johnson-Henckel is Head of Digital and Audience Engagement at Sound and Music. Vic oversees the Audience Engagement Programme and team, community-facing activity, digital infrastructure and data-driven campaigns. She cares passionately about addressing inequalities in new music, through collaboration and innovation, in order to create a more robust, sustainable, and meaningful sector for all. Join Vic as she tells Sound and Music’s winning story.

Sound and Music is the UK’s national organisation for new music and a charity. We work across the UK, maximising opportunities for people to create, enjoy and access new music. For over ten years, Sound and Music has supported some of the most exciting, visionary, and experimental composers, from all backgrounds, styles, and ages. They have inspired young people to explore their musical creativity, and engaged curious listeners and new music fans through our touring programme and dynamic online content.

The word 'equality' written above a number of blocks in different colours

Image: Sound and Music’s Equality Poster

Your winning project

We won the Digital Culture Award for our data-driven activity: our work addressing knowledge gaps and commitment to better understand the needs of our communities, to produce meaningful change.

Over the past year, we have gathered, collected and published our data across a number of projects including: Black History Month, International Women’s Day alongside the COVID-19 Impact Survey, devised in collaboration with the Ivors Academy.

Each of these activities play a bigger part in our national commitment to champion equality and help Sound and Music to shape and improve our work, in response to the needs of our communities.

We utilise data on a daily basis to adapt our approaches, communications and offer to reach new groups, such as refining our New Voices 2021 application process, and changed our business model, during the pandemic, for our educational resource Minute of Listening.

What did you want to achieve?

Since 2015, here at Sound and Music, we have viewed data as a key asset in the battle to remove barriers in new music.

It has always been extremely important for us to know who we are reaching through our work and even more importantly, who we aren’t.

We therefore take a data-driven approach across everything we do, and we both monitor and publish our data regularly to promote an open culture of reflection and transparency.

Throughout these data-driven projects, we aimed to use insight to help us to understand the challenges to access in our sector, make effective interventions to reduce those barriers, create new collaborative initiatives for change, and regularly evaluate our impact.

What happened?

This was a multifaceted project. We firstly used data to adapt the focus of our opportunities. In February 2020, we released a COVID-19 impact survey (in collaboration with The Ivors Academy). This survey revealed how different composers were affected by the pandemic. This allowed us to ringfence all funding for round 3 of the COVID-19 Composer Awards for composers outside of the capital.

In May 2021, we also reviewed and publicly published our data relating to gender for International Women’s Day, using this to empower our goals of reaching gender equality. Our Black History Month data followed, openly highlighting where we have seen some progress, where we are not doing so well and a commitment to change.

What have you learned?

We evolved our business model as a result of data. For instance, we temporarily made Minute of Listening,our educational resource for young children, free at the start of the pandemic and saw a significant increase in sign-ups. As a result, we decided to make the resource permanently free, and adapt our income strategy. We have continued to see significant growth as a result of our decision.

Collecting equal opportunities data across our programmes has allowed us to adapt our communications and output, to enable us to reach, support and engage more people than ever before. For example, when we learned our New Voices 2021 open call had a low number of applicants who were D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse, we made two changes. We commissioned an Easy Read version of our application materials, and hosted a Zoom Q&A session specifically for these communities.

What was the impact?

Publishing our data annually has been a huge help in focussing our attention (and we are still one of the very few organisations that do this). It means we can be held to account, that prospective applicants can see that we really mean what we say, and it roots our work in transparency.

With our Fair Access Principles, which methodically dismantle many of the main barriers to opportunities, we have influenced change across the funded and charitable sector. We have been supporting the partners network to be data-led, and have been public in our conviction that collecting good data, as well as data transparency, are both key to addressing barriers to access within our sector.

Find out more about Sound and Music

Visit our website:

Twitter: @soundandmusic

Facebook: @soundandmusic

Instagram: @soundandmusicuk

YouTube: SoundandMusicUK

Further support

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up for our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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