Jason Carter on six years of BBC Introducing and the vibrant UK music scene
Head of BBC Introducing
My role leading BBC Introducing across the BBC is a truly privileged and special position to hold. It is my job, but to me, and I'm sure any other passionate new music fan would appreciate, a dream position – to lead a team to find the best new music, and give them access via the BBC to a broader audience.
My original brief from Radio HQ bosses before I created BBC Introducing nearly six years ago, was to get the BBC working harder 'together' at local and national level to support brand new talent.
Surely if the BBC could all hook up across the UK through local radio, share new artists, we could do some powerful things to support credible gifted new musicians? Not rocket science really. Having done that, what if we also used the BBC's unique position to invest in recording new artists; filming them, using our world class production teams, and giving them prime airtime slots too. And used our live industry connections, to bring some of them to the UK’s major festivals such as Glastonbury?
Well, nearly six years on, BBC Introducing has stages at the major festivals, around 40 BBC local Introducing shows whose producers, critically, talk to each other every day, sharing info on newly uploaded acts from across the nations and regions.
These shows in turn also share new exciting acts with network radio, particularly BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and 6 Music. This kind of dialogue was non-existent before Introducing - we have come a long way.
Jake Bugg at Glastonbury in 2011
It's been a great 12 months too, especially seeing the likes of Gabrielle Aplin and Jake Bugg hit the top spot in the UK charts - both are artists who uploaded their material to BBC Introducing. Jake and Gabrielle also came to see me a year and a half or so ago for advice as unsigned artists - and now both are in a different world from that point.
But more artists, good artists are coming through the system all the time now. Via the Introducing Uploader, we are currently receiving 1000 new tracks every week, and 80% of all artists that have uploaded music have been listened to. No easy thing! And we intend to continue that commitment to artists - to listen to as much music as we can.
Last week I sat in on the latest recording of a BBC Introducing session down at Maida Vale, with a band called the Ruen Brothers, from Scunthorpe. Five weeks ago they were sat in their London bedsit, thinking of strategies to 'get noticed'. They had no management and interest was pretty much non-existent. Tough times for the boys, and they'd worked hard for almost 10 years gigging northern bars and clubs (yes, and they are only 22 and 23 years of age).
So they tell me now, one evening they uploaded three tracks to BBC Introducing through the Uploader. They put their home postcode in when submitting. When they awoke first thing the next morning, they had a reply from their local BBC Introducing show, at Radio Humberside. Shortly after, BBC Introducing in the East Midlands replied too, and a local session with Dean Jackson on The Beat quickly followed.
In a matter of days the tracks made their way to me and my team, and from us to Radio 1, multiple plays and much gushing from Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens and other Radio 1 specialist shows. In just a matter of weeks huge industry excitement has been generated, and a very bright future beckons for those boys from Scunthorpe. A game changer for them, they say.
Ruen Brothers perform Aces at Maida Vale as part of a BBC Introducing session
So, what do I take from their story, and that of Jake, Gabrielle, and prior to them Florence, Rizzle Kicks and quite a few others? I take one thing really; that the UK is in a truly vibrant music place right now, with new exciting raw young talent seeping from every corner of the country. I'm convinced this great talent must eventually always get found, but I'm also proud that the BBC is a springboard for many of these new acts, bringing them to the attention of people perhaps that little bit quicker than before the BBC Introducing era.
For those acts who have captured attention, they say it's been critical to their journey. The Ruen Brothers’ Maida Vale session has just gone up online as I write, and tracks will be played all this week in daytime and specialist shows on Radio 1.
So, spread the word to all new musicians looking for that first break, and tell them to upload tracks to BBC Introducing! Across the corporation we have the most amazingly dedicated and passionate presenters and producers who are just waiting for the next piece of exciting music, and the evidence suggests if they do upload, it may just open some doors!
Jason Carter is Head of Popular Music, Live Music and Events across BBC Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra, Radio 2, 6 Music and BBC Introducing.