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