Breakthrough Artist Development Programme

Successful Artist Support Programme running 6+ Yrs

60+ Yorkshire Artists Intensively Supported for a Full Year

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

Artists Secured: Record Deals, Funding, Media Acclaim, Major Appearances

Unique Programme: Entire Music & Radio Industries In-House

Breakthrough, our artist development programme for emerging music artists from the Yorkshire region is in its 7th year

Originally funded by Help Musicians UK with match funding from Arts Council England Breakthrough, is our intensive, 1 year artist development programme. It has supported some of Yorkshire’s most talented original music artists (of many diverse genres) to grow sustainable music careers.

Breakthrough provides free expert support which includes recording, live festival showcases, music releases, master-classes, radio sessions and professional mentoring, supporting the artists selected for the programme, intensively over a full year.

How Breakthrough works

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

Mentoring is a valuable aspect of the programme, but talking invariably also leads to a need for ‘doing’… and because Higher Rhythm is unique regionally, offering the entire music & radio industries in-house, we can then provide ‘direct’ solutions to any artist’s identified needs. This involves free access to our own recording studios, radio station, record label, distribution and event promotions.

Successes for artists

To date, we have supported more than 60 regional artists involved in Breakthrough to achieve successes such as:

Playing at festivals (such as BBC 1xtra, Tramlines, Live at Leeds, Long Division, Liverpool Sound City )

Gaining regional and national BBC radio play and media acclaim

Increasing income from releasing music worldwide

Building revenue from royalties and securing investment

Developing the business skills needed to be a sustainable artist

We also work with artists to better understand the financial / wider implications of artistic activities. This covers areas such as touring, releasing, marketing / PR, record deals and taxation. Additionally, we support artists to build skills around managing investment, including securing grant funding. The music business support received through Breakthrough enables musicians to operate as more effective industry professionals and micro enterprises.

Who’s benefitted?

Breakthrough has been a diverse programme. To date, 53% of participants were aged 18-24 and 47% were 25-35. Artists identified 50% male, 48% female and 2% other, also including 12% black and ethnic minority artists.

Breakthrough is a truly inclusive programme and we strongly believe that place shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing the music industry. Breakthrough therefore levels the playing-field with 53% of artists coming from towns and villages, alongside 47% from cities / cultural-industry hot-spots.

More good results

The Association of Independent Music (AIM) provide free memberships for artists on the Breakthrough programme each year. This means artists can benefit even further from training, expert advice, networking and exclusive opportunities.

We’ve 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 has also featured in UK Music reports and 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 a few of the artists supported through Breakthrough:

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…).

He is now signed to Partisan records and is a regular at major music festivals.

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.

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LIO (Luxury Goods)

LIO (Now performing under the name of Luxury Goods) an 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 also took part in our PRS Foundation Open Fund project in 2018.

The artist has a string of successful releases and is a familiar act at music festivals. Leonie, the front woman, also progressed to lead on our Breakthrough programme, supporting artists as a project worker at Higher Rhythm.

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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.

Frontman Dylan, is excelling as a music artist, signing with Universal and definitely being another one to watch.

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Rumbi Tauro

Zimbabwean born, Singer-songwriter Rumbi Tauro is an R&B/Soul artist. Rumbi was born in Marondera, Zimbabwe and lived there with her parents up until the age of four. In 2002, her parents decided to relocate to Doncaster.

Joining our PRS Foundation talent development programme then moving onto a Breakthrough program, Rumbi  started to craft her lyrics, resulting in her debut EP The Process released just 6 months later. Rumbi has been listed as one of the upcoming black artists to watch by BBC Introducing.

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August Charles

Born in Zambia, raised in the UK, British musician August Charles’ musical tastes and talents have evolved over many years, and 2020 saw August emerge with his debut single “Take Me Away”.

August progressed from our PRS Foundation TDP artist programme, onto our Breakthrough Artist Development Programme and after releasing two singles as part of these programmes, we supported August to secure funding from HMUK’s ‘do it differently’ fund to help him develop further as an artist.

August now has a string of releases, professional artist representation and has continually appeared at major festivals, as well as supporting artists such as Nile Rogers’ Chic, Emeli Sandé, and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man.

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Hannah Willwood

Hannah is a singer songwriter originally from Snowdonia in North Wales, now based in Leeds, whose music exhibits a unique blend of indie, folk and jazz.

Having spent the summer of 2019 performing with her band across the UK and Europe, including MMVV in Catalonia, Boomtown Festival, Focus Wales & Live at Leeds One’s to Watch, she has captured the attention of a community and is currently working on her debut release.

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Joe Russell-Brown (Bungalow)

Joe Russell-Brown, a 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, and gathering a list of 9k fans, playing gigs across the region and selling his music in 62 countries.

Joe now heads up the PRS Foundation TDP programme at Higher Rhythm supporting artists as a project worker. His current artist incarnation,  , is now gathering popularity with appearances at music festivals and popular releases.

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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

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Floodhounds participated in 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 are playing international dates.

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XL is a Hip Hop artist from the North of England. A student of the game, highlights of XL’s career so far include four BBC Live Sessions in studio, three tracks with UKHH legend, Scorzayzee, featuring on renowned YouTube channels Global Faction and JDZ Media, and most recently performing for the BBC’s “Contains Strong Language Program”. 

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 Rovers Football Stadium

They were shortlisted in the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition, and Record Store Day Unsigned 2019. The band played on 6 Music and regularly feature at BBC Introducing artist showcase nights. The Harriets sold out their first-ever London show and released their debut album HOPEFULS.

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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 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 awesome, Humber Street Sesh in Hull.

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F|U|S are a zany psych power trio based in an analogue studio, which neighbours various other independent DIY spaces, forging a creative community in beautiful downtown Sheffield, UK.

The band joined our Breakthrough programme in 2019.

They released a 4 track EP that might be described as Zappa, Primus, and Gong doing a drive-by on a classic rock band… It’s better than that though, make sure you give it a listen.

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