Employment is booming in the West Midland creative industries, according to new figures.
The number of people working in the sector now stands at 60,000 and is likely to rise by seven per cent within the next 12 months, the Learning and Skills Council has said.
The training body said employment levels were driven by a #1.8 million pot of European money which has been used to train 1,000 people in a range of technical, leadership and management skills.
Michael Ryan from Birmingham LSC said: "We are now seeing the impact the creative industries are having on our economy with at least 60,000 people now employed in the sector.
"This is a 15 per cent increase in just two years, with more and more graduates turning their attention from traditional professions to careers in media, graphic design, educational software and cultural heritage.
"We are making progress in diversifying our economy. The challenge now is to make sure we build on recent successes and growth."
Employers in the region first came together in 2004 to create the Interactive Media Cluster Opportunity Group, which aimed to develop skills in interactive media – such as film, TV, radio and digital, and creative and cultural media – including music, design, advertising and the arts.
This led to eight specialist training projects including University of Central England’s TIC i4 and Online Music Development, Creative Alliance, the Screen WM Training Fund, Creative Launchpad and Kidderminster College with MAS Records
MAS – short for Mighty Atom Smasher – is a project helping to promote some of the West Midlands’ newest rock and indie bands.
The project provides training and guidance to 96 musicians in the region. As a result, up to six local groups are in the process of securing record deals, finalising management contracts and landing first-time appearances at major music festivals across the UK.
Kevyn Gammond, the driving force behind the initiative, said: "Music is a major driver for the creative industries, but apart from the usual academic-led programmes there has never ever been anything put together to help rock bands develop, launch and successfully market themselves. This is what we set out to do.
"With this in mind, we enlisted Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant as a patron and, using our knowledge of the industry as a focal point, we teamed up with Kidderminster College to package this expertise into a BTEC Level 4 part qualification."
Mr Gammond added that MAS had launched five specialist centres in Kidderminster, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent, Tipton and Birmingham in order to attract talent across the whole of the West Midlands. Birmingham-based Hanging Doll is one of the bands already making progress after receiving specialist support.
The "dark intense gothic" group has teamed up with Madhouse Productions for a marketing and distribution deal in Europe, whilst there is a potential album release planned in Japan through King Records.
Walsall-based indie rock alternative, The Attic has been equally successful with Major Key Studios helping them to release their debut album on CD and as a digital download.
The band is also in the process of finalising a tour, with a special show planned for 80,000 people at the Grand Prix Showcase at Donington.
Other groups assisted by MAS, include Death by Miss Adventure (Coventry), Oneyesblue (Walsall), Interloper (Birmingham) and the Kamikaze Pilots (Stoke-on-Trent).
Mr Gammond said: "The project provided at least two days of recording time in the studio, the bands music released on CDs and live photos and videos produced of their performance.
"We have also organised events and provided assistance with their website, not to mention a personal business development plan for guidance with their future careers.
"You only have to look at the Beatles, Oasis and Birmingham’s own UB40 to see the impact a successful band can have on a City and its creative ‘vibe’. Hopefully, we’ll look back in ten and fifteen year’s time and think we helped play a part in helping to create a whole new scene."