It's rock and roll, not dole, for young Hackney hopefuls;Focus on the arts

4th June 1999 at 01:00
A New Deal project in Hackney, east London, is backing ten unemployed youngsters to launch careers as rock stars. The project, Arts Mean Business, is a three-way partnership between Hackney Community College, the unemployment project Bootstrap and a local recording studio called The Premises.

But while Bootstrap provides the classroom and computers for a business course the aspiring stars are on, accredited by the college, the studio is the key factor. Used by stars Nina Simone and Blur, The Premises also has a long history of giving aspiring musicians a helping hand and studio boss Viv Broughton gives the aspiring stars advice, the chance to record a CD single and helps them draw up abusiness plan.

Brian Spencer-Smith, the project's organiser, who also teaches business studies at Hackney Community College, says: "Our entire raison d'etre is to create and sustain small businesses in the arts." Rock bands fall under this category and the young hopefuls formed two bands, the Baxters (fronted by brothers Tom and Charlie Baxter) and Persecution Complex. Mr Spencer-Smith says: "They are independent, sophisticated and play good music and we're looking to set up a website to sell their music."

Mr Broughton is also supportive. "Business is very important. The music industry is a business and the fundamental principles of developing a business apply. Bands have got to learn how to brand themselves, how to position themselves in the market."

Under New Deal rules, the young people have to work on their careers for a minimum of 30 hours a week, dividing their time between the studio and the classroom. Mr Broughton says: "This is not a traditional training scheme. There are no tutors trying to explain how to be successful. The bands know what they are about. They drive themselves."

Max Greenwood, keyboard player for Baxter, agrees. "I was a piano player on the dole, playing a bit here and there. New Deal is helping us set up and there's a great little business course for 14 weeks, which has helped demystify the music industry."

Armed with their business knowledge, Baxter hope to win a recording deal and start making money. Mr Greenwood says: "Our ambition is to get good management and a small-label deal." And if Arts Mean Business had not come to the rescue? He shakes his head. "The band would have plodded on hoping something would turn up. Now we're making things happen."

Arts Mean Business 0171 613 9000

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