In September, an innovative new pilot programme, NEKO 18, was launched by NEKO Trust to help build a sustainable future for music and live events. The free-to-enrol programme, supported by funders including Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund, was a response to research conducted over the past 18 months into the barriers facing those who wish to progress their career in music and live events. It identified 18 early-career individuals from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of skills and experience to undertake a three-month programme of professional development.
Between September and November, the cohort benefited from knowledge sharing with peers and experienced industry professionals, shadowing and commissioning opportunities with resident and associated NEKO artists, focused creative retreats, and mentorship from programme ambassadors.
NEKO 18 participants also had 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, which took place from 6 to 10 September 2021, saw participants focus on the music and live events sector, including the history of recorded music and the importance of building your brand, while taking time to reflect on how to better understand and manage mental health, with yoga sessions woven into the week’s itinerary.
Across the three months, the NEKO 18 learned about music management, record labels, revenue streams, fanbase building, NFTs and future tech, and the live sector.
The programme also focused 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 – giving vital practical knowledge and skills to those looking to develop their career further.
The NEKO 18 – which includes artists, marketing professionals, graphic designers, music managers, producers and more – were provided with a free workspace in NEKO’s thriving cultural hub in Wandsworth, South West London, to progress their own ideas and collaborate on tailored creative opportunities.
Overall, the programme seeks to improve an individual’s experience and skill set whilst giving them the confidence, knowledge and a network of like-minded creatives to direct their own career. With the program now coming to an end, the cohort may be able to apply for seed funding from NEKO to take their creative ideas to the next level, with continued business support and mentoring.
Speaking of the launch of the programme, NEKO Founder, Glen 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,” he said “We have attracted some of the most talented, determined and passionate individuals committed to working in music and live events, with a view to safeguarding the future of the sector and levelling up opportunities to work.”
NEKO CEO and Creative Director, Mary Rose, added her thoughts on the programme: “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,” she said.
“I’m thrilled to welcome this company of 18 to our thriving cultural hub in Wandsworth at such an exciting time for the charity. They bring a diverse range of skills and experience as well as real entrepreneurial spirit. I would particularly like to thank Arts Council England for their support via the Culture Recovery Fund as this has helped make this scheme possible.”
Although NEKO 18 is the first education programme to emanate from NEKO Trust under the NEKO Futures umbrella, the charity is also currently working with Gallowglass, one of the leading events crewing companies in the UK and Europe, to establish a new generation of production professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Once recruited by Gallowglass, a group of 20 young adults 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. More details will be available in the coming weeks. For more information and to pledge your support to NEKO’s inspirational work, visit the charity’s brand new website at: www.nekotrust.org
This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.