A new pilot programme, NEKO 18, has been launched by live music charity NEKO Trust to help build a sustainable future for music and live events and develop an “at-risk generation” of creative talent.

NEKO Trust aims to support early-career creatives and was founded by live events professional and former MUSE manager, Glen Rowe (pictured below). Its Ambassadors include Bastille, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Jess Iszatt, Nothing But Thieves and King Nun.

The free-to-enrol programme, supported by funders including Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund, is a response to research conducted over the last 18 months into the barriers facing those who wish to progress their career in music and live events.

It has identified 18 early-career individuals from diverse backgrounds, who have a range of skills and experience, to undertake a three-month programme of professional development.

Between September and November, the group will learn from experienced industry professionals and have shadowing and commissioning opportunities with resident and associated NEKO artists, attend focused creative retreats, and benefit from mentorship from programme ambassadors.

The participants will also have the opportunity to achieve accreditation via the CLOCK Your Skills programme, which enables people to learn through work and be validated by sector experts.

The Induction Week, currently taking place from 6-10 September, involves participants focusing on the music and live events sector. Subjects include the history of recorded music and the importance of building a brand, while also taking time to reflect on how to better understand and manage mental health, with yoga sessions part of the week’s itinerary.

Across the three-month period, the individuals will learn about music management, record labels, revenue streams, fanbase building, NFTs and future tech, and the live sector. The programme will also focus on the reality of being a freelancer in the sector, with sessions on debt management, accounting, negotiating day rates, understanding tax, building a business plan, fundraising, how to build a pitch deck, and networking.

The NEKO 18, which includes artists, marketing professionals, graphic designers, music managers and producers, will be provided with free workspace in NEKO’s cultural hub in Wandsworth, South West London.

At the end of the programme NEKO Trust said the cohort may be able to apply for seed funding from the charity to take their creative ideas to the next level, with continued business support and mentoring.

The charity said it is also working with events crewing company Gallowglass to establish a new generation of production professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds. A group of 20 young adults recruited by Gallowglass will learn about all aspects of event crewing and will spend time at NEKO being trained by working professionals in the fundamentals of tour management, production management, live sound and backline.

Rowe said, “The need for the NEKO 18 programme is more important than ever following the last 18 months of challenge and despair for the music and live events sectors. It will allow young creatives and entrepreneurs with an idea and a collaborative nature, who may have been at risk of leaving the sector, to come together to benefit from building a network with like-minded professionals as well as mentors to guide their development.”

NEKO CEO and creative director Mary Rose (pictured right) said, “The Covid-19 pandemic represents the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure, institutions, and workforce in a generation. It is vital that we attract and retain the talent we need to ensure the music and live events industry emerges better and more resilient.

“For NEKO, this is about creating equality of opportunity, so that people from all backgrounds can access, learn and progress within it.  Our focus is on helping young people and early-career creatives develop the skills, knowledge and networks they need to have a successful career in music.”