The BBC is the don of the British media. Music coverage from this trendy corporation is a badge of honour and seems unobtainable in light of its big, booming image. Fortunately, its also runs a dedicated team that scour the country to unearth musical talent.
Launched in 2007, BBC Introducing seeks out new artists and grooms them for the national stage. Notable acts that have benefited from the service include Dry The River, Florence and the Machine and Chipmunk. Its duties are varied; BBC Introducing arranges everything from studio sessions, video interviews and appearances on the festival stage.
For the time being, we’ll focus on its main asset: the radio show. With a prime slot on every local station (Saturdays, 8pm) and the Radio 1 Playlist, it’s not to be sniffed at. With a bit of luck, getting in with the Beeb can be achieved early in your career, giving you that much-needed encouragement to continue. Here’s how to maximise your chances.
The BBC Uploader: An Overview
There’s no public profile to speak of; you add your music to the aptly named ‘Uploader’. Registering is simple – simply sign up, enter your relevant details and upload a couple of songs. There’s no need to bring across an entire EP. It’s preferable to catch producers’ attention with one or two ‘singles’ that suit radio audiences.
Your music might lie dormant for many months afterwards, but at some point the presenters will listen to them. You’ll receive an email when they do. At that point it’s down to whether or not you’re suitable for their particular show. It’s all very subjective, but bear in mind that Introducing producers have a nose for new music. Here are a few things you should take on board to impress them:
1) Be radio-friendly. DJs have to cram a region’s worth of content into one hour. They’re more likely to pick you if the songs are short, clean and appropriately lively for a Saturday evening. That’s not to say you should fret making a perfect single, but look within your collection for the most suitable entries. What’s broadcast on the radio should be a stepping stone between the mainstream and your wider collection. Melita Dennett sums it up nicely in this five step guide from BBC South.
2) Be helpful. Keep your band’s information up to date and fill in as many fields as possible when you create your profile. Don’t make the producer work to find your content; give a good, detailed biography and provide your social media URLs. Just as you would with your music, you must be imaginative with how you are introduced; ‘indie band from Brighton’ doesn’t cut it and hardly makes for interesting radio. Also, make sure to leave up-to-date contact numbers for all your band members and crew. Producers sometimes phone during the week to arrange a brief interview, or have you come into the studio.
3) Be sparing. To ease congestion, the BBC has limited the number of tracks you can upload. It shouldn’t take a whole album to give producers a feel for your music. You should catch their attention with a choice selection and hope that your online network (which you’ve worked hard at, haven’t you?) is strong enough to invite them further.
4) Music Brainz. Head over there and add your information. Music Brainz is a collaborative database that organises your metadata, making it available to to high-profile broadcasters. If your song is aired with data stored in Music Brainz, digital sorcery will automatically create your profile in the BBC Introducing artists page. Neat! This lesser-known feature mustn’t be overlooked when setting up.
There are two emails to look out for: 1) your track has been listened to and 2) your track will be broadcast. Brace yourselves. On hearing the good news you must ensure it’s put to the largest possible audience. Plant the seed on your social networks a few days before broadcast, and again in the hours running up to it. It’s an exciting time so apply that energy to the newsfeed! That said, don’t stray into spam territory. Nobody likes a spammer.
With your online credentials updated, local DJs should have no problem finding you on Twitter for a pre-show announcement. Keep your eyes peeled for that juicy retweet, and return the favour by namedropping the presenters. The same applies to Facebook, where possible. A few well-executed @ symbols can increase your audience tenfold.
I’m not a BBC insider (yet!) so can’t give you a full list of their schedule. Features differ between regions and tastes change between DJs. Generally speaking, the schedule is what you’d expect from a Saturday evening – chatty, well-to-do and energetic. Tracks are played in full, prefaced by the presenter, sometimes with a short phone introduction from the band. Returning acts are often interviewed – particularly when plugging a new EP – while local promoters are invited to talk about gigs and soapbox events across the area.
One feature worth highlighting is the demo panel whereby three songs are presented to industry judges who score them out of ten. The highest mark is declared glorious victor and has their track played in full. The acts in the following clip demonstrate both the range of tastes the BBC account for, and the X-Factor mode of ‘winning’ to which we’re sadly accustomed:
As you can hear, they don’t cut corners when it comes to variety. The above demo panel features ’60s feel’ folk-pop, a sibling rap duo from Reading and a heavy metal, anthemic chronicle of The Battle of Newbury.
1) Celebrate. Having been aired, give yourselves a hearty pat on the back; you’ve had the thumbs up from one of the UK’s leading radio stations! However small it might’ve seemed, airplay by the BBC is a sign that you’re on the right track. Well done.
2) Marketing. Backs patted, you must take some time out to follow the trail. Shortly after the show ends it will be uploaded on iPlayer for one week. This is your window to promote. When you’ve tracked the show, spread the news among your various channels. While dedicated fans may have halted their evenings to tune in, others need a point in the right direction. Throughout that week update your blog posts, Twitter and Facebook feeds to alert fans of the show. It’s best to stagger your activity; blog one morning, Tweet the next evening, Facebook the following day etc. I’d recommend this over a large, blanket update because your posts will reach a more varied audience.
Additionally, be sure to thank the DJs by linking to their respective accounts. Musicians aren’t the only ones needing recognition; radio presenters, especially on a local level, appreciate that their show has been listened to and shared.
‘Played on BBC Radio’ Badge
3) Credentials. As I said earlier, the BBC are a reputable broadcaster and worth shouting about. Sneak this accolade into your band biographies – ‘Having released their first EP online, Wretched Death Cottage were quickly picked up and broadcast by BBC Radio’. A few days after broadcast, you should also see a new ‘badge’ appear in your BBC profile settings. Sport it proudly on blogs, sites and across social networks. You’ve earned it.
4) Repeat. Back to the guitar and notepaper. No slacking now.
Thanks for reading. Get in touch if I’ve missed anything out.