Operation Concrete

So, I’m continuing to go through my Arts Council grant application process for Operation Concrete at the moment, and it’s not easy. I’ve put together proposals for massive projects with blue chip clients before now in my professional life, and it’s not has hard as this.

gordon gekkoIt’s relatively understandable though, I can see how they only want the best of the best to get the money, so it takes time, effort and patients, as anything good in life does. Without naming names I recently talked with an Arts Council rep at a friends exhibition launch and she actually admitted there are problems and concerns with and over the application process and the difficulty that it contains.

Anyway, one of the points they make in the how to apply form that’s available relates to sponsorship and other sources of income. They "expect" an applicant to raise at least 10% of the final budget from other sources, and say that during 2006/2007 successful applicants raised on average 65% of their final budget from these other sources.

Now, 65% of £5000 is £3250, and at the start of a project that sort of figure can be a little daunting to say the least. I can easily see a lot of people dropping the thought of applying on that basis alone.

Anyway, must remain positive. Personally, things have been going pretty well on this front, so I'll share some tips. My skills as a marketer / PR type person mean I can effectively plan out what I need, how much it’s going to cost, who I need to talk to to get it, how much I need it to cost, and finally, how can what I’m doing benefit them, how can I sell this into them.

At the moment I’m currently talking to a number of brands to get reduced rates on all aspects of the project;

  1. Lulu are open to producing the novel and picture book at a reduced rate,
  2. The oxford editors are willing to help me with the proof reading, which costs inordinate amounts.
  3. The vibe bar, where the launch and exhibition are going to be held, are giving me a reduced rates
  4. Area 18 studios at which the music will be produced, are doing the same
  5. The very awesome Mikey has built the website and helped me out with development for a pittance
  6. I’m waiting to hear from Canon to see if they’re interesting in lending me some high quality recording equipment for the video blog and possible book trailer

So, it’s going pretty well at the moment, I think the biggest piece of advice I can give in this regard is simple; if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Thick skin in this sort of environment is essential but my general ethos when it comes to anything from getting interviews when I was my uni magazine’s music section editor, to getting advertisers when I was running my own mag, is carpet bomb the fuck out of it. Just talk to as many people as possible all the time and don’t count on one single thing or person. I can be a bit bad at this sometimes as I tend to get too excited about things and forget to keep talking to people, but I soon remember when someone drops out, why I shouldn’t have relied on that single contact.

When I mentioned before about selling the idea into a potential sponsor, it sounds basic, but that’s just what you have to do. As in life, you have to convince people that what you can offer them is a good thing and will be beneficial to their cause, on the phone, via email, in person, you have to believe in what you’re doing. It’s basic marketing 101, but it’s apparently a crucial part of applying for an arts council grant, In fact, it’s expected of you.

Below I’ve put down an excerpt of how I’m trying to make potential sponsors realise the benefits of getting involved, hopefully, if you’re using this as a resource, it’ll give you some ideas.


What you’re doing – Start by opening with the detail of what you’re putting together

Operation Concrete is a collaborative media project that I’m putting together. It’s to launch my first novel, Concrete Operational, and it’s going to involve a whole lot of awesomeness. I’ve put everything into quick bullet points below to explain just what it is.

  • As mentioned the project is to self publish and launching my first novel, 'Concrete Operational' utilizing the social media, via a collaborative media project
  • I aim to show that self publishing via print on demand services is not only completely legitimate, but is not a second class version of publishing that many think it to be
  • I aim to have five bands and five artists creating content around themes explored in the novel; jealousy, fate, madness, celebrity, etc
  • There will be a launch night at Vibe Bar in Shoreditch, London, just off Bricklane (http://www.vibe-bar.co.uk/). It’s got a 250 capacity that I aim to fill with everyone from the public to publicists, artists, musicians, A&R, industry types, creative’s and so on
  • After the launch there will be a seven day exhibition where the art creations will be held, and the music of the project will be played and available for people to listen to alongside excerpts from the novel
  • The launch will ultimately be launching the packages for sale around the project, this is done on a tiered basis, and includes, an initial run of about 800-1000 .

Tier 1 – ‘Full package‘ – Novel, audio CD, art picture book, DVD 'making of' and possible ‘book trailer’, and USB stick with all digital media

Tier 2 - All parts of package available for separate, individual purchase via POD services

Tier 3 - All media available online for free to download with donation option
What the benefit to you is – now how all this can benefit the potential sponsor

Promotion and advertising are the two key benefits to you helping out with the project through sponsorship. Essentially there are multiple fields through which your brand will be associated with a highly professional, individual and creative project that is exploring a new face of book publishing

  • Above the line – traditional means of promotion will be utilised as you would expect with a book release. Packages will be sent to all of the usual and unusual outlets to gain column inches
    • In this regard, your name will be in a number of highly visible areas and in multiple press releases, for instance, in the novel, in the picture book, in the inlay of the CD, on the website, on posters, banners and flyers that will be promoting the launch and exhibition and at the exhibition itself
  • Below the line – Social media and digital outlets will be utilised to the highest degree with blogger outreach, competitions, forum interaction, to create conversation and buzz throughout the space
    • In this regard, your name will still be in all the same places as mentioned, but promoted in a digital format, with the digital press release highlighting your sponsorship

So hopefully, you can see, from a small amount of outlay, your involvement will push your brand in online and offline portals, with an association with the project.


glengarry glen ross

This is very basic, if you want to get really technical you want to start involving some serious numbers, the sort of thing that’s typically called ‘equivalent media value’, which is what someone would have spent if they’d just bought advertising. Like I said though, it's a few tips to help if you've never had any experience in this field before. As an artist you can sell yourself, but selling a project is sometimes a bit different.

This isn’t a message or speech you have with a potential sponsor on the first round of communications either, make sure they even do project sponsorship in the first place, and introduce yourself first of all.

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That’s my take anyway and it’s been working fairly well so far. People will tell you different probably, I’ve got no formal education in marketing, but the basics are easy to pick up, just lay out an argument for how awesome you and your project are and don’t leave any holes, know how to argue your point and don’t give in, be your own Gordon Gekko.