The Importance of being on BBC Introducing

BBC Radio is incredibly important for bands and once you have done everything else, your band needs to submit your music to the BBC -it will be listened to. The BBC is a tremendous resource and if you get played then nice things can happen. But you still need to present it to them properly and even if you do not give a shit about social media and how many likes you have, you should know that they certainly do.

Isn’t trying to get mainstream radio outdated? Do you live in a bubble Mr VoxBox? You do know the internet has existed for a while…

Thanks, devils advocate. But the way the music industry pays artists is still old fashioned. Making decent money from music requires PRS/PPL that you get from proper old fashioned radio play, adverts and getting good live gigs and festival slots. Get a million streams -great! It won’t pay you much but it might help get you on the radio. So streaming/bandcamp/soundcloud etc are important but ignore radio at your peril. That is where every band should be aiming to be. Here is a wee trailer for BBC Introducing:

One thing with the changing of how music is consumed. You know, there isn’t a Top of the Pops anymore. Since 2006, when it fizzled out, there has been no illusion among grassroot artists that you can get a number one at all. Bands turned their backs on the charts when Pop-Idol/X-Factor moved in and, American Hip Hop and Beyoncé took over the world. The significant illegal downloading trend began 20 years ago with Napster and the industry began panicking over declining CD sales. The older executives didn’t know what to do and the kids they brought in to help probably didn’t know enough about music. The big labels became wary about signing wee bands on big advances based on their demo tapes. The money dried up. Kind of.

The bonus to this was that bands stopped trying to write radio friendly 3 minute pop songs. I am sure that to be seen to be trying to be commercial seems bad to some in the Indie scene. However, it has given bands the space to loosen up and take their time; albums full of the extended foreplay of the 5 minute song’s introduction have become more routine which is a turn off for me. I like to be finished quickly… In a Blitzkreig Bop so to speak. Then go again. Erm all night. Sorry for this.

Long songs are more difficult to get played on the radio. When doing our Freshair Radio show, we liked to squeeze in as much as possible. With punkier sensibilities, a 5 minuter was frowned upon but as folkies also, we played this new 7 minute beast by James Yorkston released earlier this year.

I would certainly suggest that bands cut out their long introductions and have a shorter radio edit when sending tracks for people to listen to, to increase chances of airplay. Art vs. commercialism isn’t something new.

The grassroots in Scotland are mostly making art. Why do folk make art? Because that is what they have to do whether they get paid or not. Which is a terrible negotiating position to be in when it comes to asking for money.

I heard someone add to the works of Oscar Wilde “It is only art if you can sell it” and whether you are a work of art or wear a work of art, like it or not, there is a truth there.

Back to the BBC Introducing blurb:
“Every week over 30 local BBC Music Introducing shows all over the UK play music they have discovered through the Introducing Uploader. Our family of local shows across the UK are at the frontline of discovering and playing new artists from their area – and it could include you. But it doesn’t end there. Our local shows also recommend the best tunes from their area to shows and DJs on Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6 Music and Asian Network. That means, if you’re the cream of the crop, your music could be heard by a nationwide audience. It all starts by signing up and uploading your best tracks.”

I cannot stress enough how much I love the BBC and how important it is. Every up and coming band should get themselves a profile on BBC Introducing and submit their best tune. But only after listening to Tom Robinson for almost an hour. He starts off talking about the space shuttle and I almost got bored but persevere as it makes sense later on.

This is a really important lecture by the BBC’s Tom Robinson on how the BBC Introducing system works. Every wee band that wants to get played on radio should watch this. He is lovely yet some of what he says is brutal. How musicians can get their music heard:

“There has never been a better time to be an artist to get your music heard” he says. He also says that getting 1000 Youtube followers is more important than a spot play on Radio 1. “And easier to get”! Oooft! Was he serious? Basically his point is that radio can’t help a wee band unless you have done a lot of ground work first. Think the Beatles in Hamburg then the Cavern.

He says gig a lot and build a following. They like to see momentum. You need to be patient. Steve Lamacqs’s advice: How good are you now? How good will you be nine months from now? So when do you want to send the song in? [You remember the Arctic Monkeys overnight success. – 4 years between forming and debut album]

He also says that Radio (my deliberate capital R) is not the be all and end all. It is vital to increase the momentum but can only grow on what you already have.

Other bits of wisdom:
If you send in a track it will definitely be listened to but perhaps only for the first 30 seconds. So you need to grab their attention.
Don’t send in good stuff -send in your belter.
The key to quality is quantity! Lower your standards and write more songs.

Andy Warhol was always saying to Lou he should write more songs.

He says 70% of BBC content is played by computer playing songs from a playlist. 98% of commercial radio does the same. That’s why getting playlisted is so important.

You have 0% chance of getting onto a playlist without a plugger or major label backing. Read that sentence again.
They trust radio pluggers. Some wander around the building handing CDs out.

The gist is that they believe that if someone believes in a band enough to pay a plugger then they are more likely to be a good band than one that hasn’t paid a plugger. He genuinely believes this balls and gives anecdotes. 46 minutes in he tells you a bit about good and bad Radio pluggers.

If you don’t listen to this Tom Robinson thing because “yeahIknow” everything. Then your band are on the road being to the wrong Lou and Andy:

On radio 2000-2002. TV from 2003-2007

Tom says he gets 170 songs per week sent to him and half are good songs according to him. So send your super-charged-full-of-rocket fuel-belter in to stand a chance. The Beeb would playlist anything Bowie released but he is in space already -so the space shuttle analogy at the start makes a lot more sense. That is, it takes loads of rocket fuel to get someone into orbit. But once there, you don’t need so much fuel to move around which is why he could release anything he wanted and get radio play. Or so his analogy goes.

Bowie’s in Space! by Flight of the Conchords

A question that should be asked more frequently:
Why are there so few Scottish artists on the BBC Introducing Stages at major UK festivals? They curate stages at Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Lattitude and The Radio 1 Big Weekend. They also sometimes send bands to South by Southwest in Austin Texas once a year. (Also recently Reeperbahn Festival in Germany)

I wanted to find out if this true. Are we underrepresented? BBC Introducing has been around since 2007 and I’ve been interested in new Scottish music since opening the shop in 2011. Something hasn’t been right for a while. So I’ve spent some time and I had a look.

Glastonbury 22 acts on the BBC Introducing stag 2019e. Most from London. A separate issue to Introducing… out of the 122 acts playing the 5 main Glastonbury stages there were 3 Scottish acts. The Proclaimers. Lewis Capaldi and Gerry Cinnamon. How the hell a renegade like Gerry Cinnamon got there I’ll never know. That was a remarkable achievement!

BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival 2019 27 acts Nada.
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude Festival 2019 23 acts One Scottish – Kapil Seshasayee You should check him out.
BBC Introducing Stage at Radio 1 Big Weekend 2019 in Middlesburgh 19 Acts Nope.
BBC Introducing 2019 at SXSW 6 acts You get the idea.

Glastonbury 2018 -no festival
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude 2018 23 acts.
BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds 2018 26 acts. The Dunts are from Glasgow.
BBC Introducing Stage at BBC Radio’s Big Weekend 2018 Swansea 22 Acts
BBC Introducing at SXSW 2018 10 acts One Welsh one NI, no Scots.

BBC Introducing at Glastonbury 2017 9 acts
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude 2017 had 21 acts
BBC Big Weekend 2017 in Hull 24 acts
Reading and Leeds 2017 Special 10 year anniversary 36 acts
BBC Introducing Showcase at SXSW 6 acts including Glasgow’s Catholic Action.

Look I didn’t have the time to look up absolutely all these acts, but I looked up a lot of them and let me just say that hardly any are from the Scottish grassroots. You get the idea right?
If my counting is correct that makes 246 UK artist slots over three years of which 3 artists were Scottish. Please tell me there were more! A fair allocation would be another TWENTY or so. Think of the boost your favourite wee band could have got. That was only looking at the past three years but it goes back longer. If you have the time and indignation/inclination, have a look and let me know.

This is a scandal right?

Why are the best Scottish bands not getting picked up by BBC Introducing?
Well there are lots of shows! 32 English “Local” Introducing shows that broadcast every Saturday.
We have one “Regional” show on BBC Radio Scotland. The Welsh have 2 and Northern Ireland one.
There are also 13 “National” shows broadcast to the whole UK.
Remember that there are 10 people living in England to every one person living in Scotland.

I presume that each show gets to put forward a local act or 2 for consideration and it makes sense that Scottish acts put forward by Vic Galloway’s team will be swamped by the others. Perhaps the Scottish Introducing folk are overwhelmed? With a population of 5.5 million, we make up the largest BBC Introducing region.

Also, although BBC Introducing is promoted as a way that acts such as Ed Sheeran, James Bay and others have become famous. The reality is that many bands that break a few years after being showcased were already signed to a major label before getting the Introducing slots. It is too easy to be cynical but some acts do get signed as a direct result of Introducing (Jake Bugg comes to mind). So it is vitally important. These slots are written about in the Music Press, Music Week, Local and National Newspapers and are also broadcast on TV. This kind of exposure is potentially worth thousands of pounds to the artists.

Perhaps London is too far away. There is a 3 day networking event called BBC Introducing LIVE. A glitzier version of Wide Days or Xpo North. Tutorials, Q&As and Networking for those starting out in the music business. Here is last year’s trailer.

The purpose of this blog piece is simply to say: The music made here in Scotland is of an incredibly high standard. I love the scene. The Scottish Album of the Year Award has been going since 2012 and they longlist 20 Scottish bands per year but as far as I can tell the unsigned (to major labels) bands rarely get support outside of Scotland. It is high time that this changed, not just for SAY Award nominees either. Perhaps the SAY Award organisers, the Scottish Music Industry Association could exert some political pressure?

There is a huge economic cost to not getting a fair share of the BBC airtime and the ensuing publicity. As this persists for years on end, artistically there is a void. Economically we are suffering too. When bands make money, any spare gets reinvested in the scene.

If a major label found out that BBC Introducing was aware that they have underrepresented Scottish bands for years and wanted to redress the balance, they would send someone up to have a look. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. Things must change as until the BBC figures out that there is a problem, this will just continue.

Until things change, when you upload your band details to BBC Introducing, say you are from Devon and Cornwall (population 550 000, 1/10th of Scotland’s). As things are, I worry about the psychological health of our artists trying to make a living out of music.

BBC 6Music is the best hope for emerging bands…
Or is it?

Next week an analysis of 6Music’s playlists.

Enjoy SAY Award Winner 2019 Auntie Flo’s album Radio Highlife.

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