Breakthrough Artist Development Programme

  • Successful Artist Support Programme Running for +5 Yrs

  • +60 Yorkshire Artists Intensively Supported for a Full Year

  • Holistic Model: Recordings, Releases, Festival Gigs, Radio & Mentoring

  • Artists Securing: Record Deals, Funding, Media Recognition, etc…

  • Unique Programme: Entire Music & Radio Industries In-House

Skinny Pelembe, Breakthrough artist development programme alumni
Skinny Pelembe, Breakthrough programme alumnus










Breakthrough, our artist development programme for developing and emerging music artists from the Yorkshire and Humber region is now in its 5th year!

Funded by Help Musicians UK with match funding from Arts Council England Breakthrough, our successful, artist development programme, has supported some of our region’s most promising original music artists (from a range of diverse genres) to grow their music careers, by providing free expert support which includes recording, live showcases, music releases, master-classes, radio sessions and professional mentoring.

To select the artists we work with, we run annual calls,  working with industry experts  from festivals, radio, record labels and management, then score submissions under three categories: musicianship, professional / online presence, and overall impact, also taking into consideration which artists would benefit most from the support.

Breakthrough supports artists for a full year and because Higher Rhythm is unique regionally, offering the entire music & radio industries in-house, we also provide ‘direct’ solutions to any artist’s needs identified by offering access to our own recording studios, radio station, record label, distribution and event promotions. Talking is valuable, but actually ‘doing’ is needed in most cases… So far, we have supported more than 60 regional artists involved in this programme to achieve successes such as:

* playing at festivals (including BBC 1xtra, Tramlines main arena, Live at Leeds, Long Division, Liverpool Sound City )

* gaining regional and national BBC radio play and media support

* increasing income from releasing recorded works worldwide

* building revenue from royalties generated by registering works

* developing the business skills needed to be a sustainable artist

We also work with artists to better understand the financial / wider implications of activities such as touring, releasing, marketing / promo, record deals and taxation as well as building skills around managing  investment, including securing grant funding (such as HMUK’s ‘Do it Differently’ and PRS Foundation’s ‘Momentum’). The music business support received through Breakthrough enables musicians to operate as more effective industry professionals and small enterprises.

Breakthrough has been a diverse programme, with 53% of participants aged 18-24 and 47% aged 25-35, artist identifying 50% male, 48% female and 2% other, also including +10% black and ethnic minority artists.

As a neutral organisation, operating outside of the competitive tussle which can sometimes exist between cities, we are able to deliver Breakthrough as a truly inclusive programme. We believe that ‘place’ shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing the music industry, and Breakthrough levels the playing-field with 53% of artists coming from Yorkshire’s towns and villages, alongside 47% from the region’s metropolitan cultural-industry hot-spots. 

As part of the programme, we have published some free tools for music artists produced as a result of direct feedback at Breakthrough music industry panel events held in Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Scunthorpe.

Breakthrough featured in a Parliamentary debate, praised by Louise Haigh MP, discussing the work of Higher Rhythm, who described the programme as a “regional asset, which helps artists tangibly progress in their careers”.

Below are just some of the artists we have supported through the Breakthrough programme:


Skinny Pelembe

Starting out as a young artist in various bands recording at Higher Rhythm, then graduating from our Breakthrough artist development programme in 2016, Skinny Pelembe’s stellar success followed, signing with Brownswood Recordings, playing sell out tours and major festivals, and, being championed by BBC Radio’s Lauren Laverne, Mary Ann Hobbs, Giles Peterson and Tom Ravenscroft (to name just a few…). Skinny still records his music at Higher Rhythm Recording Studio including his debut album in 2019 which was album of the week on BBC Radio 6.


Floodhounds were successful applicants to our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in  2017. Festival appearances at Live at Leeds and Long Division (Wakefield) followed, alongside BBC Introducing airplay and sold out local live shows in Sheffield. Floodhounds also won an ‘Honorable Mention’ for the Sensoria Festival ‘Beats working for a living’ Music Commission Award in 2018, awarded with a grant to support further career development presented by Richard Hawley, and ended 2018 playing international dates.

The Harriets

The Harriets were selected for our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in 2017. The band landed festival appearances at Live at Leeds and Long Division (Wakefield), alongside a BBC Introducing live radio session, playing live at Doncaster Rover Football Stadium, and rounding off with a sold out headline appearance at 360 Club, Leeds, and a performance at the Brudenell Social Club. In 2018 they were shortlisted for the Glastonbury Festival emerging talent contest. The Harriets are a hard working band that never stop pushing themselves and typify what being a self managed artist in the modern music industry is all about.

Bi:Lingual (Dylan Cartlidge)

Bi:Lingual, fronted by the energetic Dylan Cartlidge, were a band that took the phrase ‘power trio’ to a whole new level… They won a place on our first Help Musicians UK and Arts Council funded pilot year of the Breakthrough Artist Development Programme, and took the roof off Maida Vale when they played live at our artist showcase event. All members are still making music, as new acts, and the frontman Dylan, is excelling as a music artist, signing with Universal and definitely being another one to watch.

Joe Russel-Brown

Joe Russell-Brown, a 19 singer songwriter from Scunthorpe, was selected for our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in 2018. Joe developed as an artist, turning out a self-recorded EP with a fair label of ‘lo-fi dream pop anthems’ being attached. Gathering a list of 9k fans, playing gigs across the region and selling his music in 62 countries, perhaps Joe’s own description of “a reet ole year” summarises how things have gone for him on 2018. Joe is also now heading up the 2020 PRS Foundation TDP programme of activities at Higher Rhythm supporting artists as a project worker.

no fixed idENTITY

Successful applicant to Higher Rhythm’s Help Musicians UK and Arts Council England funded Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in 2018, no fixed ID, is a unique musical talent that almost manages to sneak into the gap between the boxes of ‘alternative rap pop’ and ‘art rap’. With appearances at HerFest, Live at Leeds and The Big Boulder Festivals, being selected for a physical single release through Come Play With Me, and being a speaker on a music industry panel at the Yorkshire Music Forum annual conference, 2018 was definitely a productive one for, no fixed ID.


LIO is an ambient alt-pop band fronted by Leonie Sloots from Sheffield, and were selected for our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in 2019. Having enjoyed festival appearances at Outlines, Tramlines, and Y Not Festival and  radio play on Amazing Radio and BBC Introducing, LIO took part in our PRS Foundation Open Fund project in 2018 and progressed from this onto Breakthrough with the ambition of releasing more music, building artistic profile and growing their fan-base. Leonie, the front woman in LIO progressed to lead on the 2020 Breakthrough programme, supporting artists as a project worker at Higher Rhythm.

Let Man Loose

Let Man Loose, from Hull were selected for our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme in 2018. With a sound bridging indie and desert rock, they can really play live, and they do… a lot! Summarising their year in their own words: “We’ve had a blast! We’ve played on the ferry to Amsterdam, recorded and released our second EP, received increasing support from BBC Music Introducing and have just wrapped up our UK tour…”  Other highlights for Let Man Loose included supporting Black Honey, playing Sheffields Big Boulder Festival and Nottingham’s Dot to Dot Festival, and the pretty awesome, Humber Street Sesh in Hull.