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BBC Introducing at Reading & Leeds - A response to your questions

Claire Thomas | 11:04 UK time, Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I wanted to add a bit more detail to the booking process for our stage at Reading & Leeds and indeed our other festival stages. It's obvious from some of your comments on this blog that a lot of our selection processes and policies aren't clear enough on our website. We will aim to improve these sections over time, to cover all the opportunities we offer new musicians; from how artists get a play on local radio, or a slot on the Radio 1 playlist, an invite to the BBC Introducing Masterclass or the opportunity to play a stage.

But today I want to focus on The Reading & Leeds Stage. We have had a stage at Reading & Leeds since 2008 and it has been a place for some really great early performances from the likes of Joy Formidable, Don Broco and Pulled Apart by Horses. We have always programmed the stage in the same way, and always given artists the opportunity to play both sites. The two sites and the movement of the same artists between the two is key to the festival and we feel it's right to treat the BBC Introducing stage like all the others.

In terms of the programming, as you can see in our FAQ section of the site we state that "at some events, we also take suggestions for bands from the festival promoters and local organisations". At Reading & Leeds and the other festivals we go to, we feel it's important to work with the promoters and give them the opportunity to place a few artists on the stage at their festival. Historically at Leeds Festival there has always been a 'new local bands stage' and when we started the BBC Introducing stage there we wanted to acknowledge this tradition, so decided to continue working with local promoter Futuresound, via Festival Republic. This is why there is a bigger representation of Leeds and North West bands on this particular line up.

Holding relationships with other organisations who also support new musicians is important to us and you can see it across our work, be it working with local Hackney organisations at this year's Radio 1 & 1Xtra Academy, or with PRS last year when we took four new artists to LA to perform at Musexpo. However, it is worth explaining that when we work with a third party to select acts for our stages, those acts don't get the same degree of exposure as the artists we select ourselves. We are happy to allow the third party promoters to use our stage as a platform for new bands they support, but we don't film or record them as BBC content.

So, onto how we select these artists. We ask all of the BBC Introducing shows across the UK to send us suggestions of the artists they would like to put forward for the opportunity of playing the festivals. All of this music (over 160 tracks) is then sent to our Reading & Leeds Panel. The panels, which consist of 6-8 well respected music specialists only get the music, not information on which area they are from. This is to ensure the music is judged purely on the music; we want to make sure the quality acts come through. This year's panel included Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq and the Head of Music for Radio 1. (Just as an aside, we change the panel for each festival we programme, so we get a range of people listening to the music.) The panel then send us their top choices from the selection and based on this we draw up the majority of our line up. I as Executive Producer of BBC Introducing then work with the Editor to agree the final elements of the programming, resulting in the final line up you see.

BBC Introducing has always supported unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar musicians via our local BBC Introducing shows and the Uploader. Artists that engage with BBC Introducing are often at different stages in their journey, and at a local level may have been known to the shows long before they go on to suggest them for a BBC Introducing stage. This means that some acts do have agents, have perhaps played a festival before, or may even be signed to a label, but the key is that in terms of wider exposure they are under the radar - their experience or inexperience (to a point) is not what the selection criteria is about, it's about the quality of the music our panel hear.

As I touched on earlier, for the BBC Introducing stages we just send the music to our panels and they make an editorial judgement on what they hear and then ultimately the Editor of BBC Introducing has the final say as to which artists play on the BBC Introducing stages. I hope this gives you a clearer picture of our selection process and as I said at the beginning of this post we will look at ensuring this is made clearer to you all via the site. Our purpose is to support new musicians across the UK and we will work hard to continue to offer meaningful opportunities to as many talented new artists as we can across the BBC.

Claire Thomas is the Executive Producer for BBC Introducing


  • Comment number 1.

    As a licence payer I do not find this acceptable. How many of the acts selected this year for the BBC Introducing stages at Reading and Leeds were actually selected via the Reading and Leeds panel? And which ones were they? There needs to be utter transparency in this respect.

    It is not reasonable to suggest that an artist which shares an agent with Paramore, The Black Keys or The Vaccines, to name but three festival headliners this year is under the radar. Nor it is acceptable to suggest that artists who have previously played, for example, Download or T-in-the-Park are under the radar. They are not, and it is ludicrous to suggest they are.

    The argument that a tradition unique to the Leeds festival should be allowed to impact on 33% of the lineup for the BBC Introducing stage at Reading is tenuous at best. You refer to "working with Futuresound, via Festival Republic". There is in fact a Festival Republic stage, and that is where I would expect such a tradition to be honoured, not on the main BBC Introducing stage. There is no justification at all for allowing such bands to appear on the Introducing stage at either Reading or Leeds when Festival Republic already have their own stage.

    Suggesting somehow that acts not selected by the BBC will not benefit from BBC coverage is disingenuous. Clearly they are already benefiting from the BBC brand name, as a quick look at facebook will establish. For every act chosen by means of the unsatisfactory non-BBC methods and by virtue of the questionable criteria involved, as highlighted in your blog, one act that might have benefited via the BBC Introducing scheme has been betrayed, which is why it is essential that utter clarity is allowed to prevail.

    Your comment that it is important to treat the scheduling of the Introducing stage the same way as the rest of the festival does not hold water. There must be a balance between your desire for homogeneity and the needs of the artists enrolled in the Introducing scheme. Clearly, the marketing and promotion of Leeds and Reading festivals identify the festivals as having the same lineups, and it is the expectation of the paying public that this should be the case. This expectation would certainly not extend to the Introducing stages. Quite the opposite, in fact, and I would suggest that the vast majority of the paying public would endorse a policy whereby the number of bands given the opportunity of playing these stages was maximised. This would also be a fairer and more correct allocation of licence fee money.

    My final comment pertains to the light you have shed upon the function of the BBC panel. I find it absurd that slots at festivals are allocated to bands with no reference at all to their ability to perform live. It might be OK to allocate radio play according to the recorded sound, but where we are talking about live slots, the entire entertainment value of the artist must surely be considered, and I am very surprised indeed to hear from you that this is not the case.

  • Comment number 2.

    The BBC Intro stages at the major festivals are the big attraction for acts to interact with the Introducing scheme and are promoted as being the main incentive to take part. However it's clear that in recent years these stages have been hijacked by the festival organisers - and the chances of bands from elsewhere in the country (who've gone through the Intro scheme locally) have been much reduced.

    What about the USA or Eire bands - how on earth did they get into the '160 tracks' sent to the R/L panel?

    If the tradition is for acts to appear at both venues why the imbalance towards Leeds (why not 11 Reading acts also then?) - it beggars belief to think that the 'panel' had no knowledge of the artists' location!!

    The above reply does not address the competitions which were part of the 'selection procedure' or the money issues (£1000 minimum for CentreStage - was there an entry fee for Futuresound?) - note that the prizes were appearances on the 'BBC Introducing Stages' - not merely at Reading/Leeds...

    And this is the problem - how is it possible to promote the Intro scheme to musicians 'across the country' when the premium rewards of a Festival appearance rely on a postcode lottery???

    Perhaps it's also time to forget the 'unsigned, undiscovered and under-the-radar' criteria as well - as it's obvious that this is no longer the case...


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