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Young promoters track down a new U2

The man who helped bands such as U2 and The Cure to gain a foothold in the music business is encouraging schoolchildren to scout the next big thing.

Blastbeat, founded by music promoter Robert Stephenson, is an award-winning programme in which secondary-age pupils are given the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills by promoting young musicians.

Its grand final "battle of the bands" is due to be held in July, with the winning act receiving a development deal with a major record label.

Mr Stephenson has built on Blastbeat's initial success in Ireland, and the scheme is now running in the United States, South Africa and central and northern Europe.

With July's final looming, Mr Stephenson wants more schools in the UK to get involved in the scheme as a way of motivating students to learn about business.

"If you ask a class of 15-year-olds, 'Who wants to know about business?' only three or four raise their hand," Mr Stephenson said. "If you ask them, 'Who likes music?' they all raise their hand."

Blastbeat received #163;300,000 in funding from the former Department for Children, Schools and Families this year to encourage pupils to search for local talent.

There are two competitions - one is an enterprise award for multi-media companies formed by students, the other a "battle of the bands" for musicians.

This year's bands final will be staged at London's 02 Arena in front of a crowd of 14,000.

"It's better than anything you see on The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent," said Mr Stephenson, who has worked in the music industry for three decades.

"Every week I see bands that I would sign as a professional."

www.blastbeat.org.

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