Hi Tom, as much as I applaud the general ethos of BBC Introducing and your (and others) support for it, I am increasingly concerned that personal preference is diluting it’s effectiveness. I will not be specific about which regional centre we’re talking about here, but my experience is that those DJs/producers who select uploaded material are often genre-specific and do not give as broad a choice of new music as is warranted by the many, many excellent bands out there. Are there any safeguards in place to prevent this? What are your thoughts on this?
Hi Alastair – the first thing you need to remember is that the BBC’s currently going through major budget cuts, especially in local radio. Many areas of the corporation have been asked to find 15-20% reductions across the board. Locally, BBC Introducing was already being run on a shoestring – most local shows are staffed by freelancers as a labour of love. Even in times of plenty nothing’s ever perfect, and in the current climate the fact that BBC Introducing is still there and continuing to help unknown artists get heard, however imperfectly, is a f*cking miracle.
I scratched a living as a musician in a corrupt and hostile music industry for 3 decades and there was nothing – literally nothing – like BBC Introducing available to any of us in that time. However talented you were, unless you had big bucks, insider contacts and some seriously lucky breaks, then the chances were that nobody would ever get to hear your music.
In fact, the entire music industry has always been one big unfair jungle, ruled right across the board by personal preferences. The preferences of the managers, publishers, promoters, record company A&R scouts, the preferences of the Radio One playlist committee, of the individual radio producers, of the DJs, of the MTV schedulers. Not to mention the personal preferences of the record buying public.
Since The Dusk are based in Cheshire I’m guessing that particular show you’re talking about is BBC Introducing In Manchester but it’s hard to see what safeguards could be put in place. There are a great many musical genres – Folk, Rock, Prog, Jazz, Americana, Reggae, Latin-American and World Music to name but a few – that are scandalously under-represented on British radio in general. It’s one of my long-term goals to help get UK acoustic roots music better represented at radio – given that there are 600 flourishing folk festivals across the British Isles every year. But that’s another story.
Manchester is awash with talent from a wild and bewildering variety of musical backgrounds and influences and producer Chris Long is swamped every week with a tidal wave of new music from the uploader, emailed mp3s and CDs sent in the post. Every one of those tracks is the result of someone’s long hours of hard work, inspiration, dedication and dreams. How can Chris make the difficult choice every week as to which 30 tracks will get played, and the heartbreaking decision of which 70 won’t?
Maybe he should hold the other 70 over and consider them the following week? But seven days later he’d then have 170 tracks to choose from. The only possible way ANY radio producer or DJ can choose which music to play each week is to pick the 30 songs that make you personally most excited. Even then, you’ll probably have to agonise over another 20 that you really liked but had to leave out, just because there isn’t enough time.
In our own small way here at FOTN we try to offer open access to all artists – and to let the public give honest feedback on their music. But then we receive hundreds of tracks a month as well - far more than the public could possibly listen to. So every week we have to pick just 30 to go on our public Listening Post. And how do we do that? You guessed it, personal preference.
Thank God these days there are avenues by which gifted musicians can bypass the whole damn pack of us middlemen and get heard direct by the public. You only have to shoot a gobsmackingly outstanding song on a mobile phone and people will eventually flock to your YouTube Channel in their millions. It happens all the time. Not for many people, because not that many people write gobsmackingly outstanding songs. But it does happen. All the time.
So I’m sorry your experience of BBC Introducing has been disappointing – but as musicians we all choose what kind of noise we want to make and the world doesn’t automatically owe any of us an audience. Or BBC Introducing airplay. You’re already building a fanbase without it – with your upcoming show at Gullivers, Manchester on August 11th, 400 likes on Facebook and nearly 1900 followers on Twitter.
My best suggestion would be to focus for now on tripling that audience via gigs and by making better use of social media. At the moment your timeline on Twitter and FB is just a series of advertising messages. If you want people to look forward to your posts and tweets and share them with their friends, you need have a conversation with them. Be funny and interesting about life and the world in general: only about one tweet in 20 should be about promoting your music. Fix the out of date info on your official biog page; add links to your Twitter – plus a full proper email address – on your contact page and Facebook. Make it easier, not harder, for fans and music professionals to get in touch.
Finally make your music more accessible – in 2012 you shouldn’t just be relying on MySpace and Reverbnation. Get your music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud where it’ll be 200% easier for people to hear your tunes and link to them. Most importantly of all, devote as much time as possible to writing new material (here’s why). Once you’ve got a couple of world-class killer songs under your belt, everything else – including radio airplay – will take care of itself.