While the main focus of this year’s LIMF will undoubtedly be on the two show-stopping days of music in Sefton Park, there’s a further strand to this sprawling festival that has Liverpool’s great tradition as a music hub at its heart. LIMF ACADEMY is an award-winning artist development programme that has been a key part of the festival since it debuted in 2013. Its emphasis is on ensuring a legacy of inspiring new musicians that will outlast all the fireworks and live antics in Sefton Park.
The Academy process is open to all Merseyside musicians between the ages of 16 and 25, and offers a springboard to the best emerging talent in the region for developing a career in the music industry. Along with funding from PRS Foundation, LIMF Academy has established an Elite Talent Development Programme for three artists, selected from hundreds of entrants, deemed to be ‘most ready’ for a year-long period of mentoring and support. This year’s three Most Ready acts – electro-noir vocalist LUNA, soulful RnB singer-songwriter RAHEEM ALAMEEN and prodigiously talented producer-vocalist KYAMI – will embark on a course of focused development from industry professionals, aimed at pushing them in areas like songwriting, live performance and general industry knowhow. Each artist will receive a bursary of £2,500, 12 months of mentoring from LIMF curator Yaw Owusu, professional press and promo assets, access to industry-specific masterclasses and a studio session with producer Steve Levine. Artists will also be invited to play on the ItsLiverpool Next Gen Stage at LIMF over the weekend of 21st and 22nd July, as well as further showcase performances across the UK.
A further three acts – CAVEPARTY, NEW JNR and DELIAH – will also get the chance to perform at this summer’s LIMF and other satellite events across the country, and will have access to all the industry workshops as well as financial support and rehearsal time. A highlight of the previous two years’ Academy activity has been a collaboration between the Most Ready artists and Liverpool Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra, the kind of experience that just wouldn’t be possible without the help of a platform such as this.
With traditional routes into the music industry on the decline, initiatives like LIMF Academy are becoming ever-more important to the development of young musicians. Since launching in 2013, the Academy has provided opportunities for almost 6,000 young artists to access the kind of industry insights that would normally only be available to artists on major label development deals.
“The Academy continues to be a key indicator of potential elite talent and the actualisation of that potential,” says Owusu, who has been a driving force behind the Academy from the outset. “[It] continually focuses on the pathways for new emerging music artists from Merseyside. I think our ability to source, support and move forward a diverse set of new talent has been our strength.”
The last five years have seen LIMF Academy showcase elite talent such as XamVolo, MiC Lowry, Eleanor Nelly, Jalen N’Gonda and Pizzagirl, with many picked up by major labels and leading management as well as achieving national and international radio support. And these artists have all noticed the upturn in their careers having been a part of the programme.
“Aside from the confidence boost and the real world motivation to create, the tangible support the Academy offers you helps you think about everything in a different way,” says XamVolo. “I can only think of good things that have resulted in being a part of it.”
“LIMF Academy has a been a really big help to me over the last few years,” agrees Pizzagirl. “The equipment I use to record and perform with was funded by the money given to me by PRS and the Academy. The help from all the guys at the Academy, personally and musically, really made me understand the industry a lot more clearly and feel more comfortable with managing other areas of music besides recording and performing.”
In previous years there have been close to 20 artists selected to go through the whole process, and Owusu believes that paring it back to just six acts this year will enable them to dedicate more tailored advice to each of the musicians. “We are focusing on a smaller intake so that we can go a little deeper with the offer and activities, and play a really significant role in really helping these artists move to the next stage of their careers.”
This year’s intake are also well aware of the opportunity they’ve been given and are prepared to grasp the chance with both hands. “I’m absolutely ecstatic to have been chosen as one of LIMF Academy’s Most Ready!” says Luna, who has been adding more strings to her bow of colourful electro production for the past couple of years. “It’s such an amazing opportunity for artists needing that push to the next level – through them I will be given opportunities that I would not be able to obtain myself.”
It’s a sentiment that is echoed by singer-songwriter-prodcuer Kyami, originally from upstate New York. “The opportunities we have are something that a lot of self-starting artists really need. I think there are a lot of artists out there that are ready to take their careers seriously and take it to the next level and the support that LIMF Academy gives is really advantageous.”
Having been involved in the process before, Raheem Alameen is well aware of the advantages of being part of the Academy’s tailored support, and the profile that comes with it. “I’ve worked with LIMF over the last two years, each year has got bigger and bigger. If you’re an artist who wants to take your career to the next level, LIMF Academy is definitely the place to start.” Splitting his time between his own soul-inflected grooves and writing with MiC Lowry, Alameen is ready to take the plunge on his own now that this great opportunity has presented itself. “They give you support, guidance, contacts and a huge platform to showcase your talent on. It’s a perfect starting point for someone who’s serious about their career.”
This is the third year that I’ve been a judge on the LIMF Academy selection process, and the opportunity given to these artists keeps getting better. The chance to really hone your craft and learn from experienced music industry bods is such a big thing for lots of these emerging artists, and it’s genuinely exciting to see how it will help them make the next step upwards in their careers. Unfortunately, opportunities to learn and develop on this kind of level don’t come up very often in the music industry, which makes LIMF Academy all the more important: it shows that they are committed to ensuring that the future of music in the city is invested in – both with time and money. That’s vital for continuing to develop a musical legacy that doesn’t just rely on things that have happened in the past, but which strengthens what will happen in the future.
Keep up to date with all the activity around LIMF Academy at limfestival.tumblr.com. And watch out for our live sessions with the three Most Ready artists coming soon to bidolito.co.uk.