Over the last year, diverse acts Royal Blood, Bondax and George Ezra have all fast-tracked their way into the mainstream on a wave of media hype and burgeoning fan bases. Although seemingly disparate success stories, all three of them have something in common – they’ve been given a hand up by BBC Introducing.
The platform, which has been successfully shouting about new talent since 2007, also counts the likes of Jake Bugg, Daughter and Florence + the Machine among its alumni, and has helped scores of young hopefuls reach a wider audience over the years.
Initially seen as a way to unite the Corporation’s vast array of new music radio shows under one banner, it has evolved into a multi-platform initiative with international reach.
It now boasts a network of 30 specialist regional shows and hosts stages at the UK’s leading festivals including Glastonbury and Bestival – and is fast diversifying its vital work to cover more electronic, urban and world music.
We chatted to BBC Introducing lynchpin Kieran Yeates (pictured above) to find out how it all works. Kieran has been at the BBC for six years, producing Huw Stephens Radio 1 show, curating the BBC’s influential Sound of… poll and now working alongside BBC Introducing creator Jason Carter to help ensure the continued success of the platform.
Here he reveals his top tips for getting noticed by the initiative’s regional teams – the first step on your path to success – and explains how BBC Introducing is evolving in exciting new ways.
He also discusses a new project with PRS for Music Foundation to take upcoming acts to the South by South West showcase in 2015.
What does your day job at BBC Introducing entail?
As producer, I lead the day to day activity at BBC Introducing and work closely with Jason Carter. I sort out the line-ups for the festivals over the summer and deal with the playlist slots on Radio 1 and 1Xtra. I also deal with the different shows and their production teams, including Jamie Cullum, Steve Lamacq, Huw Stephens – basically working from within to promote BBC Introducing and BBC Introducing acts throughout the year.
How does BBC Introducing feed into the rest of the BBC musical output?
When an artist uploads a track through the Uploader service on our website, it automatically gets sent to their local BBC Introducing show. We’ve now got over 30 throughout the country. So, if you’re a band from Leeds, your music will automatically go through to the team at BBC Introducing West Yorkshire. If they like it, they’ll play it. If they really like it, they might think that Huw Stephens would be into it. Within the Uploader you can forward on tracks to a dropbox that him and his producer would listen to, and that’s the same for loads of shows and DJs. There’s one for Steve Lamacq, Bob Harris’ folk show, Jamie Cullum’s jazz on Radio 2, there’s going to be a world music one – so it works like an internal social network. It looks after itself once an artist has uploaded tracks to it.
How are BBC Introducing acts selected to pick at the various festivals you’re involved in?
Say for example, Glastonbury – in March or April I’ll email all the shows round the country and get in contact with their specialist presenters to ask them to recommend two acts they think would be great for the festival. Through the Uploader they forward them into a special Glastonbury dropbox. I then download all the tracks and assemble a panel to go through them. This year we had Huw Stephens, Nigel Harding (who’s the music producer for Radio 1), a load of people from specialist programmes on Radio 1, 2, 6 Music – they listen to everything and email me with their favourites. I’ll then plot together a line-up.
That’s how it works for all our festivals; Glastonbury, Reading, T in the Park, Bestival, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Radio 2’s Hyde Park in a Day. We use the local shows to recommend their favourite acts and then after that the national network of specialist DJs and producers will feed back to us.
Is there a BBC remit that encourages the national radio shows to play a certain number of BBC Introducing acts?
No, we don’t want to introduce quotas – we want the shows to be passionate about the music and not play stuff because they think they have to. Occasionally a song will come in that you’ll be blown away by and you’ll just want to tell everyone about it. Huw, who’s just launched his new show on Radio 1 at 10pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, has committed to playing Introducing artists throughout the week – but there’s not a set number.
What are your top tips for uploading your music to BBC Introducing?
I’d make sure it’s really good quality mp3. Make sure your contact information is up there, because often we’ll need to get in touch with someone straight away to ask them for a file or a biography. Keep it really simple. Put your best music on there.
If you don’t get played by your local show at first, it doesn’t mean they don’t like it – it just means they get sent so much music that they don’t have enough time to play everything they want to. But maybe they’ll play the third or fourth single. Just keep going.
How long do artists normally need to wait to get heard?
It completely depends. With some shows, an act will upload a song on a Friday and it’ll get played the next day. In other cases it might take a few months, so it’s hard to generalise.
Obviously the BBC Introducing remit is really wide, but is there a type of music that just works better through this route?
Traditionally, the more successful artists have been more guitar-based or alternative, but we’re now seeing a lot in the dance and urban space. So we have a 1Xtra playlist slot and DJ Monki – who’s the specialist DJ on Radio 1 and 1Xtra – is on the Uploader listening to everything that comes through. So is her producer. DJ Target’s show on 1Xtra also has a BBC Introducing presence. And for Bestival this year, we had guitar bands in the day and new DJs on at night. We had Bondax and TCTS headlining, who had originally come through BBC Introducing a couple of years ago. We’re committed to showing off new DJs and hip-hop too, even though some people may still associate us with guitars.
Do you notice any geographical trends?
All 30 shows have a commitment to listen to everything that’s coming through. We’ve got big show areas, so for instance, Dean Jackson’s East Midlands show takes into account Nottingham, Leicester, Derby. And that’s the same for BBC Introducing in the South, which covers Southampton and Portsmouth and West, which is Bristol and all the areas around there. Those ones cover a huge patch, so often a lot of successful acts come through there.
But also, we’ve got Jersey and Guernsey, which are smaller regions but also committed to playing local artists.
How can emerging acts improve their chances of getting airplay?
Get everything in place before you upload your music. Make sure you have a SoundCloud account, put stuff on YouTube, have an active Twitter page. If a producer goes onto a page they’ll want to know what’s happening with an act. They’ll want to know where they’re playing, what their influences are… With Introducing, the idea is it gives more of a level playing field for unsigned and under the radar acts.
What’s next for BBC Introducing?
We’ve partnered with PRS for Music Foundation, so we’re going to do four international showcases next year. We’re just deciding what they’ll be, but the first is South by South West so we’ve already started the selection process for that. We’ve asked our local shows to suggest acts they think are suitable. We’ll be taking four British acts out there to play. We’re also looking at what else we’re involved in next year, like the 6 Music Festival, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Glastonbury conversations will be starting up soon no doubt…
What’s your favourite act you’ve discovered through BBC Introducing?
Because it’s been my first summer, I guess it was really great to see all the acts playing live. So at Glastonbury, I thought SOAK was incredible, and Lapsley. Also, I think James Bay, who’s come through the Three Counties show, is going to be a huge hit next year.
Read our magazine feature On the Radar – BBC Introducing
Kieran recently appeared at the Young Guns Network event, Amplify the Buzz