A NEW music festival is to take place in Southampton next month.

SO:Music City is a bid to kick-start local music networks and “professionalise” Southampton’s music industry.

Experts including rock duo Band of Skulls will hold a “demo surgery” to give musicians feedback – while a week-long programme of live gigs and panel discussions will be held across city venues.

Funded by Southampton City Council and Southampton universities, organisers say this is the start of a five year plan which includes asking council chiefs to set up a council music office and employ a dedicated officer.

They want city culture chiefs to back their plans – which would include schemes like reducing summer rates for venues when audience numbers plummet.

It comes just months after a raft of local venues announced they would be closing.

The Firehouse building could be demolished if planning permission goes ahead, while Talking Heads closed last September.

Professor of music industries at Solent University, Martin James, said: “

Amateurs are very well catered for in the city – but all events in the city should have a legacy policy.

“A lot of creatives leave Southampton to go to places like Brighton and Bristol where there’s a perception of a stronger music scene. Brighton didn’t have a fantastic music scene until the ’90s – it emerged through initiatives like this and a combination of private and public partnerships.”

Organisers insist the event won’t rival Music in the City – which takes place later in the year and is aimed at amateur musicians.

City culture boss Cllr Satvir Kaur has signed off £3,980 to help pay for it.

She said: “I am more than happy to talk with anyone to discuss ways to enhance our existing cultural offer and nurture local talent within Southampton, while growing the capacity needed to help deliver this. I do not believe this is a council responsibility alone, and we would need to work with relevant partners and stakeholders to ensure any initiatives of this kind are a success.”

SO:Music City will take place in the week up to and including March 23.