Independent U.K. retail chain Fopp is teaming with the Performing Right Society's PRS Foundation (PRSF) and CD manufacturer Clear Sound & Vision to launch the Unsigned Awards.

Independent U.K. retail chain Fopp is teaming with the Performing Right Society's PRS Foundation (PRSF) and CD manufacturer Clear Sound & Vision to launch the Unsigned Awards.

Aimed at encouraging unsigned talent, initially in England and Wales, the initiative represents a four-year commitment to new music by the partners. The scheme will be rolled out across the U.K. on an annual basis, with awards going to a maximum of six acts per year.

Winners will receive free recording time at a professional studio, courtesy of PRSF. Clear Sound & Vision will offer free professional manufacturing, and Fopp will sell the recordings at its 14 outlets, with the promise of in-store performances. Fopp already offers distribution to unsigned acts through its Fopp Unsigned Network program.

"Due to prevailing market conditions and an over-reliance on manufactured pop, it's harder than ever for new acts to secure a record deal," says Fopp managing director Peter Ellen. "The U.K. is awash with musical talent. [The Unsigned Awards] can't promise stardom, but it could help bands to push through that glass ceiling."

A PRSF spokesperson says this is probably the first alliance of its kind. "We don't know of any similar partnerships overseas that include all of the components. That is, recording at a professional studio, professional manufacturing and packaging, then distribution via a chain of independent stores with in-store appearances."

The deadline for applications for the inaugural awards is April 22.

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