Do you know what the BBC in BBC Music stands for? If you guessed ‘Bangers, Bops, and Chunes’…you’d be completely wrong, but I’d applaud your guess, as this is what BBC Music provides the British music scene with daily. There’s a huge spectrum of British musicians who now dominate the charts and are firmly supported by the BBC, allowing them to maintain their presence in the media. Interestingly, what people perhaps don’t know, is that many of the musicians we see may have risen to the heights they’re at today thanks to the help of the BBC launching them onto the scene via their dedicated BBC Music Introducing initiative. With the aim of bringing together all the supporters of Britain’s unsigned musicians, artists can upload their music to the service in the hope that Introducing provides them with the exposure they desire to kickstart their career.
In the spirit of elevating the freshest faces in the game, BBC Music Introducing took over Tobacco Dock in East London to hold a three-day extravaganza of live music, industry sessions, and interactive workshops aimed at anyone looking for a career in the music industry: aspiring artists, potential producers, and dreaming DJs alike. We, on behalf of Felix, were lucky enough to attend one of the days, exploring the festival, and sampling the plethora of masterclasses that the event had to offer.
Imagine Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but instead of endless sweets and chocolate, we saw countless guitars and keyboards. Instead of rooms full of food-based exploration, we experimented with the newest technology that music had to offer. Instead of oompa-loompas, we had some of the most well-informed names of the music industry, from employees at industry giants to the artists themselves.
My first taste of one of the masterclasses was the ‘Making it in Pop Music’ panel talk, a talk which aimed to nurture the creative direction of budding pop artists. While initially I was drawn in by an impressive panel which included Danny Jones from McFly, it quickly dawned on me that the advice being given would serve helpful for when I finally realise I should give up my maths degree and pursue my love of music.
Meanwhile, Jiangxuan’s reward for waiting in one of the longest queues for any event was a cramped spot on the floor for the ‘Art of Songwriting’ workshop, where the likes of Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, One Direction), Kieran Shudall (Circa Waves) and James Gillespie (Rag & Bone Man) talked him through the workflow involved in coming up with musical and lyrical content. A unifying theme was persistence – the majority of the speakers mentioned that it takes years of practice and endeavour before getting noticed. Tips to aspiring songwriters: always have a guitar plugged in and ready somewhere; keep recording yourself and don’t lose track of your ideas; a good demo always leaves room for imagination.
Ali Tant from Polydor Records, who works with a remarkable range of artists from Eminem to The 1975, insightfully commented, “the best popstars are the ones who aren’t ashamed of things that fail”, which seemed to resonate with the room. The room was jampacked full of eager faces and wide ears which appeared to absorb all the advice given by the knowledgeable speakers. This interest only seemed to heighten throughout the day as I attended more talks such as ‘Music & Tech: VR, AI, Bots & Blockchain Explained’ which talked of a future of robot-led music and virtual reality concerts. In a later talk, we heard Afro-Swing giant Hardy Caprio talk of how he balanced his university work with making #1 records; inspirational to say the least.
Stephen Taverner, current manager of Mercury Prize winning groups Wolf Alice and alt-J (∆∆∆∆∆∆), brought about some insights on how these two bands dealt with success, reminiscing about the early days of a cash-strapped alt-J with low-quality instruments which their songwriting was distinctive enough to transcend, and Wolf Alice’s evolution in stage presence and musical confidence – Wolf Alice recently embarked on their first ever Asian tour, and Stephen was especially pleased at the large local fanbases the band has garnered.
A climatic end to the day brought the BBC Radio 1Xtra Takeover which treated us to a handful of live acts. While my West-Midlands heart was slightly crushed on hearing the news that Lady Leshurr was too ill to perform; we were not left disappointed with energetic performances from the likes of: Geko, Shakka, Lotto Boyz, Donae’o, and Chronixx, among others. The highlight for me was a performance from Nao. I’d best describe her work as a tasteful blend of Mura Masa, Frank Ocean, and SZA, so I was excited to hear her perform songs from her new album Saturn.
It was clear to me that the event forms the musical foundation for not only the expertise, but also the inspiration, of the next generation’s musical talents. The best of which I’m sure were present over the three days. Many people exchanged their details and Instagram handles with me (e.g. @alexmitcham ahem) throughout the day so I hope to keep an eye on this flourishing talent in years to come.