UP and coming musicians taking part in an innovative music mentoring scheme may be sitting on some chart-worthy songs as a result of the Covid lockdowns which have put live performances on pause for 18 months.

The music industry is among some of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic but an innovative non-profit music development scheme, backed by musicians Robert Plant and Jonn Penney, has managed to continue nurturing emerging local talent - keeping bands and artists on track throughout the coronavirus crisis which made face-to-face jamming and rehearsing impossible.

Rock legend Robert Plant, former frontman of Led Zeppelin, is a patron of the MAS Records programme, which offers a bridge into the industry by combining expert music industry knowledge and experience with conventional training and education, while Jonn Penney, of 1990s indie outfit Ned's Atomic Dustbin is the artist development lead at MAS.

The lockdowns of the pandemic could have turned the sound down completely on the scheme which offers rehearsals, live demos, recording sessions and photo sessions for free along with mentoring from industry experts and which usually centres heavily on face-to-face engagement between mentor and artist.

Jonn, a coach and mentor for MAS at Stourbridge's Base Studios who has worked with talented bands for the past year, had to shift all contact to online meetings - with musicians unable to play gigs and rehearse together.

But he told the News there have been some unexpected benefits as a result.

Stourbridge News: Jonn PenneyJonn Penney

He said: “With so much time spent focussing on what a band in lockdown can do, not what they cannot do, I’ve noticed these bands have honed down aspects of their craft that often get overlooked in favour of rehearsing for gigs. Songwriting especially has been accepted as a main priority. Now many of these bands will reap the benefits when they finally take to the stage in a live venue with chart-worthy songs to showcase.”

The results of this year’s challenging but groundbreaking scheme will be showcased at MAS Base Blast at Stourbridge Town Hall on Friday September 10 where eight of the bands Jonn has mentored at Base will perform live.

Jonn said: "The past year has been a massive challenge but the bands I’ve been working with have really pushed on regardless and it’s been hugely rewarding to see their progress."

As well as getting ready for the live showcase now bands can finally rehearse together, Jonn is also looking forward to working with a new intake of talent onto the MAS scheme this year.

A MAS Records Base Studios Open Day has been organised so interested artists can meet with him and others in charge of the programme ahead of application processing and auditions during the next month.

He said: "I’m ready to welcome a new batch to the MAS family and see where we can take them in the next year. It would be great to meet anyone who is applying or considering applying at the open day.”

The event will run from midday to 2pm on Saturday August 21 at Base Studios, Rufford Road, Stourbridge.

Emerging artists can check out the facilities and chat to the MAS Records team who will also be offering feedback in a short demo derby for acts keen to submit recordings for review.

Andy Edwards, head of music at Kidderminster College, will also be at the event along with Scott Garrett, head of MAS Records, who said: “To sustain a career in the music industry, artists need to be part of a supportive community.

"MAS Records is the gateway into a community of hundreds of musicians and industry personnel. Through MAS, artists will network with people who are radio pluggers, owners of management companies, booking agents, labels and other artists to gig swap with. We encourage artists to apply today as places and funding are limited."

Bands with members aged 18 and over can apply to join the MAS Records artist development scheme online at masrecords.org/apply.

Artists interested in submitting a track for the demo derby must be able to supply a streaming or download link to jonn@masrecords.org ahead of the event or on the day.

Tickets for the MAS Base Blast are available online at boroughhalls.co.uk/mbb.html.