We had a chat with Gareth Fletcher of BBC Introducing to find out more about how bands and artists can get airplay for their tracks. Having worked as a producer on the Introducing show on BBC Lancashire for many years, he had loads of invaluable advice to share about how the BBC Introducing process works.
Q. Please outline what BBC Introducing is and how it helps unsigned bands & artists.
A. Sure, the official description is that BBC Introducing was created in 2007 to support unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar musicians. We've brought all of the BBC's supporters of unsigned music together under one brand to nurture and give great exposure to the freshest artists across the UK. Your music could be played on our family of local and national BBC Radio shows, broadcast throughout the UK every week.
In practise BBC Introducing is a way of getting your music heard by the people that matter. There are 38 local shows that have a team of music fans listening to every track uploaded to their region which they can then play on their shows. If the team like what they hear then you could be invited in for an interview or live session and they might put you forward for a slot at one of the many festivals and music events that BBC Introducing has a presence at such as Glastonbury or a SXSW showcase. The local shows also have the ability to forward music to a huge variety of national shows from Huw Stephen on Radio 1 to Classical on BBC Radio 3.
Q. How can I get my music heard through BBC Introducing?
A. It’s a simple as uploading your music to . All you need to do is register and then upload your music. Your music is then sending to the local shows based on your postcode. We make sure that everything uploaded is listened to within 6 months of it being uploaded. The time period is because geographically some areas have a larger number of artists uploading weekly than others. For example, Manchester and London will have several hundred tunes uploaded each week, whereas somewhere like Jersey won’t have as many tunes uploaded.
Q. I uploaded my tracks on BBC Lancashire a few days ago. Could you sum up the next steps after that, what happens?
A. The next step is that the team will listen to the track and then make a decision about whether it is suitable to play on the show. In Lancashire each member of the team listens independently to the tracks and then we get together to discuss the relative merits of the track. The track might then get played on the show. If we like it enough then we can also get in touch with you to come into the studio and have a chat about your music. In terms of further opportunities within BBC Introducing, there is a whole range of options. The local shows have the ability to recommend tracks to a huge range of national shows from jazz and classical through to dance and electronic. Sometimes a show will like the music but it might not necessarily fit within their show so will forward it onwards. There is also a range of Introducing festival stages that shows can put artists forward to.
Q. What do you look for in demos?
A. Ah, the million dollar question! There are a couple of different elements to it really and this is only my take on it - I can't speak for other shows. Technically the track needs to be of a good enough standard to be broadcast on air. This doesn't mean it has to be perfect, it can be a little raw around the edges but it need to be up to a certain standard which shouldn't be a problem with the equipment available to record at home. Secondly, we listen to see if there is something about the track - a great hook, catchy lyrics, a different slant on things. Basically, something that makes us take note of the track and makes it stand out a little. Sometimes you don't know what that is but the track just has something about it.
Q. BBC Introducing is a great channel for acts that are ready to be broken to the mainstream. But what about the acts at earlier stages? Demo reviews would be good, or a round table format so instead of reviewing new singles, people from the music business could sit and listen and review on the air some of the demos that were received but were not good for the BBC Introducing programme itself.
A. Actually, BBC Introducing is for acts at that earlier stage just as much as it is for artists ready to be broken. We love picking up on artists just as they are beginning their musical journey. We are all music fans and there is that part of you that gets excited discovering a great artist that is just starting out that no-one else knows about. There is numerous occasion on the show where artists have taken a while to breakthrough but because we love what they are doing we have supported them all the way from the beginning.
In terms of demo reviews or round table format, I can see a place for them and I know some shows do use them but you also have to remember that you don’t want to discourage or dishearten artists that might not review as well as others or that are from a niche genre. I know that shows will try and give feedback if they can. There has been times where a track hasn’t been right for the show but we have got in touch with the artist to say that we like what they are doing or to give advice on what is required to get the track suitable for airplay.
Q. Do you offer internships at BBC Lancashire for artists who would like to know more about the radio world and what is happening behind the scenes?
A. There is a general work experience scheme at the station that you can find at . There are also sometimes vacancies for team assistants on BBC Introducing which are also advertised on the site.
Q. Does BBC Introducing entertain requests from bands located outside of the UK?
A. Unfortunately, at the moment you can only upload music to BBC Introducing if you're based in the UK. You'll need to enter a valid UK postcode, so that we can work out which Introducing radio show is closest to you.
If you're based outside the UK and still want your music to be heard by the BBC, you can of course send a demo CD to your chosen programme or DJ, or email them a link to a site where they can hear your tunes. You should find the relevant contact details on the radio station or programme's web pages.
I'll admit that sometimes on the Lancashire show Sean (BBC Introducing Lancashire presenter) has played some international artists but in general they have some connection to the region such as they went to university here etc.
Q. Do the regional BBC Introducing shows ever play non-local artists? If so, does the fact an act has been played nationally and locally affect this?
A. It varies from show to show. Some will play a non-local artist if it is relevant to their area - maybe a big show going on or they have advice for local musicians etc. The main time that we will play non-local artists is when we are trying to reflect the wider BBC Music Introducing family. So, for example, we will play tracks from the BBC Introducing stages at festivals to highlight the opportunities available to artists. There is also a weekly tip from Huw Stephens which is mostly non-local artists. Also, sometimes the postcodes fall on show boundaries so the artists will get sent to both regional shows. For instance, on our show we might have acts that appear to be from Manchester but actually part of the postcode falls into our broadcast area so we will be sent the track as well as Manchester. This happens all around the country.
Q. I go to a lot of gigs, big and small, but do prefer to see the whites of the bands eyes and support small local venues. Lots of these bands play endlessly for no money, have great songs and have big followings but never make it to the big stage and are never successful when they apply for festivals or 'new music' stages. My guess is because they may have been playing for some years or their age goes against them as they not regarded as 'new'. How do they get their 'new' songs on the air? I'd be really interested to know how they can breakthrough to an audience that isn't in between what appears to be your usual 16-25 age bracket.
A. In terms of age and being playing for some years, certainly on our show this doesn't come into consideration. When we listen to the tracks we try to do it a blind as possible so we just have the artist name and track title when listening. There is a profile with more information but we only tend to look at his after we have listened to and shortlisted tracks. There is this idea that BBC Music Introducing is for a Radio 1 type audience, whereas in reality we have a whole range of genre and audiences that we try and represent. For example, the Introducing stage at Latitude was made up mainly of World and Classical artists.
Q. How many tracks would you say are put forward from the local shows for consideration for national airplay? And what sort of stage do you need to be at to be put forward?
A. Sorry, I don't know exactly how many tracks are put forward from local shows for national airplay. I would guess a large number though as there are over 15 different areas that we can forward tracks to, not including events. For example, we can forward to Grime, Bass shows and Classical on BBC Radio 3. If every show sends just one track a week then it adds up. We also have events that we can recommend tracks to so this weekend BBC Introducing has a stage a Creamfields which all the local show could forwards artists to. Tracks might get forwarded that don't get played on the local shows as well for a variety of reasons. The artist, or more importantly the track (as that is what it is based on) needs to be a certain level. In general they need to fit with the other material being played on the national shows.
Q. Are there any little bugbears or areas that unsigned acts can improve upon that you come across regularly when listening to tracks. For instance, not including info about themselves, or links to social media/websites being out of date?
A. Not including all their social media links is one major bugbear. If you have a social media profile make sure that you always put it down. It is so frustrating to have to go from an artist's SoundCloud to Facebook to then find out their Twitter handle. If the shows like you then they want to get in touch and you can help them by putting as many details down as you have. Another bugbear is swearing unless the show REALLY like the song and have time to make a radio edit. If a song has swearing in it, unfortunately it isn't going to get played on the radio. Help the radio shows out by making your own radio edit beforehand, that way it can fit with the rest of the song and not have a blank in the middle. And the other thing is to send your best material! You only get one chance to make a good first impression so don't send in a really rough demo of a song you have half finished.
Q. Do you have any good examples of musicians that have started through being heard on BBC Lancashire Introducing show and gone on to be successful in the industry?
A. There are lots of them! Rae Morris was probably our first success story but we have also had artists like Aquilo, Lapsley and Darlia all come through the show. Other artists that have appeared on the show and gone on to bigger and better things are Charlotte OC, Strange Bones, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Britain. Some of the artists around now like Lake Komo, Pixey, Violet Youth and Lowes have also been signed to labels or are attracting major interest. Sean will probably shout at me for forgetting some other artists as well.