Academy Music Group is on the expansion trail. The British live music and club venues firm has struck separate, long-time lease agreements with a view to open new sites next year in the northern English cities Leeds and Sheffield. The London-based company is also making progress on its development in Brighton, the coastal town on the country's south east coastline.

AMG will revamp the former Town and Country Club on Leeds' Cookridge Street, the former Roxy nightclub on Arundel Gate in Sheffield, and the Grade II listed Hippodrome in Brighton. All three buildings will be rebranded as "Academy" venues.

"It's just a progression of my vision for the company, that every major location in the U.K. would have an Academy Music venue," John Northcote, CEO of AMG, tells Billboard.biz. "Brighton, Sheffield and Leeds are three major U.K. towns and cities which don't have a quality mid-range, live music venue."

The three new properties are all expected to open for business in 2008, taking AMG's venue estate to fourteen. Full details of the developments will be announced in due course.

Bob Angus, founder of leading independent promoter Metropolis Music, which along with SJM, Gaiety and Live Nation is a shareholder in AMG, reckons each of the three cities' live music cultures will feel a positive knock-on effect.

"Historically, we tend to find where there is a need and get in there and open a venue," Angus, a director of AMG, tells Billboard.biz. "And once in, you build the live circuit in the area as you go. It helps with the growth of the [sector]."

AMG's string of venues include Carling Brixton Academy and Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, plus sites in Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Birmingham, and the most recent addition, the Carling Academy Oxford.

AMG reopened the latter site - formerly the Oxford Zodiac -- in September, having invested £2 million ($4 million) in the project, and raising its capacity from 500 to 1,200. "That venue is trading above expectation," notes Northcote. "People who live in Oxford now get to see bands that wouldn't have played there before, because of the (greater) capacity."

Northcote anticipates adding further venues to the group's collection of interests. "We have a very supportive bank," Northcote notes, "and we're currently negotiating on three or four sites for 2009. Providing I can keep finding buildings, I can keep opening them. The challenge for me at the moment is finding buildings."