As an unsigned musician, you are exposed to what is in my opinion one of the greatest perspectives of life; appreciation. You are truly grateful for every gig, collaboration and the most common form of payment you will receive: free beer. So when you come home from a gig one night, only to find an email saying that your BBC introducing show has played one of your songs, naturally you have one
of those ‘OMG’ moments.
Yes I know what you are thinking; a single BBC play alone in most cases won’t change your life. But for me it did. I went straight to the I player, and when I heard ‘Niamh’s Song’ followed by a generously complimentary plug by the presenter (and all round legend) Dave Monks, I felt my musical direction shift. Dave and Kat Macdonald (The BBC Merseyside producer) had opened a door for my songs and I.
A few months later I found myself on BBC 6 Music via Tom Robinson and ‘Fresh on the Net’, and during March of2013 I was whisked off to the BBC Introducing Master class in Salford! I will come back to these events later, but for now let’s move on to the day.
The locations change annually, this year the Northwest’s class was hosted in the BBC Royal Philharmonic. Upon arrival, you check it at the main desk and don your wristbands and passes. I was probably one of the first people to turn up (slightly eager), so indulged in the free cookies and teas they had to offer for us. As the other musicians and industry folk rolled in, I found my BBC Introducing presenter Kat MacDonald and a new found friend of the waiting room Dan Fable. After some more breakfast grub we headed into our first session: ‘Getting your music heard – with Tom Robinson’. Tom who had hits himself with his band, and now DJ’s on BBC 6 music took to the stage for an hour.
He gave his seminar on the importance of gigging, radio play, building a buzz around your music, and finding a good balance between writing that number one hit, and not having a nervous breakdown in the process.
Amongst one of the main aspects that he felt were important in taking your songs from your bedroom, and project them to a wider audience, was the mantra that “musicians should collaborate, not compete”. He didn’t mean that acts shouldn’t be encouraged to be better than their local counterpart, but he meant that co-operation amongst peers could lead not just to musical creation, but the sharing of a fan base! Remember Dan Fable who I said I met at the start of the day? Well as I am writing this, we are currently collaborating on a song called ‘The Girl I used to Know’. I drove to his place in Stockport this week to get some idea’s down, and the demo is already sat here in my MacBook Pro! It’s sounding great, and to think we were both sat in that studio listening to that advice just a month ago is a crazy thought! So a big thank you Master-class. And thank you @Iamkatmac and @Dave_Monks!
After his hour was up, if you felt like it, you could go and have a chat with him. I wanted to go and quickly say thank you for the support, but before I could extend my handshake he interjected with a mighty ‘Ah, M.R Healey!’ We spoke about songwriting and the seminar he gave, and then I shot off into the main lobby to grab some lunch. One of the best parts of the day was being able to put
a face to a name and voice. Meeting these characters in person, like Tom, who frequently support under the radar acts, sort of added realism and a sense of normality to the ethereal image of the music industry that a lot of us (I certainly included) have.
You can catch Tom’s session on the BBC Website, which I will link at the end. I really do recommend watching it, what he has to say about getting your music out there is spot on. Many of you reading this will have amazing material, and just need that nudge in the right direction; Tom has that nudge.
The other Seminars hosted by Steve Lamacq on the art of the legendary ‘Demo’, and by Mary Anne Hobbs about life as a musician, will be linked at the end also. The Demo seminar has a great clip of Steve inviting us to bring our Demo’s up to the stage, immediately followed by a biblical surge of budding songwriters with CD’s held aloft. I would love to talk more in depth but I want to move on to what the day meant to me, and battle the constraints of a two-page word document.
The plays from my local BBC show, Tom on ‘Six music’, and the invitation from the Master-class gave me confidence. Even if you are a self-assured kind of guy (like myself), we all need that extra boost sometimes. I think for any artist, approval from your piers and mentors gives you an encouraging green light for your craft. Saying that, all creative endeavors are subjective. No right, no wrong answers. But for music in this day an age, if deep down even just a small part of you would quite fancy a chart hit, radio play of your material at an early stage really pushes you in the right direction. My EP has been more successful that I could have dreamed. I had complete artistic freedom and got to experiment, yet also got on the airwaves! No, my first album is calling me, and with this boost from the beeb under my belt, I’m very excited to get cracking.
BBC Introducing has created a platform, and a target for musicians, writers, DJ’s, songwriters and singers. A really important (in my opinion) stepping stone on the road to a life in and for music. It’s a pleasure to have been a part of it, and I look forward to where it might all head next!
(since the article was written, Josh’s collaboration with Dan Fable ‘The Girl I Used To Know’ broke into the top 100 on iTunes for Singer/Songwriters, currently peaked at 67!)