OPINION: Save BBC Introducing!

OPINION: Save BBC Introducing!

BBC Introducing is under threat for its existence. Last week Tom Robinson asked listeners and artists to sign the Fresh on the Net website and explain why they value the service. “BBC Music Introducing is a network of radio shows across the UK supporting new and interesting music at grassroots level,” he said.

Established around 2007, BBC Introducing is a brilliant network of shows that are an absolutely vital platform for grassroots and local music across the regions. “The backbone of that network consists of 32 local shows on stations across England and the Channel Islands. They’re supplemented by flagship programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and on the BBC’s national networks such as Radio 1, 6 Music, 1Xtra and Asian Network,” Robinson continues.

Helmed by music enthusiasts from the regions, the BBC Introducing music shows that air each weekend across the UK gives music fans the chance to hear exciting and diverse new music whatever the genre or level from their local areas. They unearth gems that you won’t hear on commercial radio, deepening the connections between music and artists in each community. With its Uploader introduced in 2009 and a network of shows across the UK, it provides a first entry point for artists locally. If these are cut it will devastate already struggling artists, venues, promoters and small labels. Introducing also provides experience to budding broadcasters with distinctive regional voices, when the UK’s music scene is already highly centralised in London.

BBC Introducing is critical now more than ever in an era of streaming and algorithms dominated by the same major names, with it being increasingly harder for small local acts to break through. There is a narrowing of opportunities to make a career as an artist from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds, and arts and music is at risk of becoming the preserve of those with privilege, connections or wealth. BBC Introducing is one of the few lifelines left for artists starting out or those who don’t have the backing of a big label or management.

The news spread on social media that BBC Introducing presenters had been served redundancy notices, following plans announced at the end of last year that BBC local radio stations will see a significant number of programmes cut. All 39 networks in England will keep their current schedule from 6am to 2pm, but after that shows will be shared. This is a knock-on effect from the license fee freeze at the start of 2022, with the BBC’s director general Tim Davie warning services would need to be cut to make savings.

The artist Emzae responded on Twitter, “in a climate that is desperately difficult for musicians to survive and thrive in, this is THE LAST thing we need. Most of us are already here clinging on to our careers without THIS. And they are each presented by passionate, music-obsessed individuals who spend an incredible amount of time listening to, promoting and pushing new music, along with offering advice, education and support to their local artists.”

“For anyone who doesn’t know, the support of BBC Introducing doesn’t just stop at radio play. They can be a new or emerging artist’s only/first foot in the door at gigs and festivals. They can introduce artists to the aforementioned connections they didn’t have.”

“Many of today’s hotly-tipped names got their first airplay through BBC Introducing,” Robinson explains. “Though our job isn’t just to act as scouts for the UK record industry. Introducing’s crowning achievement since 2007 has been helping listeners find interesting new music and help interesting musicians find new listeners year in, year out – whether or not that music was destined for the Top 75.”

BBC Introducing has also given a platform to thousands of artists including Little Simz, Wolf Alice (pictured), Chvrches, Loyle Carner, Arlo Parks, Florence and the Machine, Sam Fender, Mabel, Lewis Capaldi, Nao and many more.

Yard Act commented on Twitter, “Not only do BBC Introducing support and promote new artists, they also train the future workers of the radio industry. Regional diversity is integral to balance within the industry. Removing local shows presents less opportunities for local voices to break through nationally.”

 Neil March of Trust the Doctor podcast explains “the importance played by BBC Introducing in supporting, nurturing and developing the careers of countless talented artists over the past 15 years is unquantifiable. It is a key part of what enables the UK music industry to produce so much success.”

“Even if it is kept at a national level – which is better than nothing – the pool will get a hell of a lot smaller, and most probably get taken up by those who already have label and management representation etc. the true new and emerging artist needs a PLACE, ” Emzae argues.

With my other hat on as a plugger in the past for the likes of The Orielles, R. Seiliog and Adwaith and many more, I know first-hand how BBC introducing – and presenters like Bethan Elfyn and Adam Walton in Wales, Phoebe Inglis- Holmes in Scotland, Dave Monks in Liverpool, and Emily Pilbeam in Yorkshire, are a key building block for breaking new artists, and can help grow an act’s career from grassroots to national radio play.

Shakk, a presenter of BBC Introducing Tees, commented, “there are some proposed changeswhich means our Tees show may not survive.”

The artist Tilly Lou argued: “BBC Introducing is not only an excellent way for new and independent artists to get radio play, but it’s also a way for us to get our feet in the door/only chance of playing big shows and festivals.”

Under the Radar Journalist and music champion Dom Gourlay said on Facebook, “here in the East Midlands, Dean Jackson has been something of an institution for decades. Breaking new artists and Introducing listeners to new music on a weekly basis. He’s been instrumental in keeping the Nottingham, Derby and Leicester music scenes vibrant as have his counterparts in other parts of the UK.

Without BBC Introducing it will be so much harder for artists to break in what is already becoming an increasingly more difficult climate.”

The band Pit Pony tweeted: “If they scrap #bbcintroducing it’ll be another thing that’ll tip the already skewed scales in favour of those with connections and ££. Introducing gives any upstart the chance to get national radio play based solely on the music, that’s so so vital. Save BBC introducing.”

Following the proposed winding down of BBC4, the removal of Top of the Pops from Christmas day, and numerous cuts to local arts and cultural services over the last thirteen years, it looks very much like another attack on the cultural fabric of our country by a government that doesn’t value the arts and culture. We can’t all study maths or excel in business as our PM seems to suggest.

Britain has always excelled in the areas of music and the arts. It’s a cultural beacon around the world, and cutting and devastating vital support at a grassroots level is a further kick in the teeth for artists and cultural workers many of whom lost their jobs during the pandemic. As I argued a few years ago during the pandemic when this government tactlessly shared adverts about “viable” careers suggesting a career in the arts or culture or music isn’t viable. Well, for me, music isn’t just viable, it’s vital!

Podcaster and Fresh on the Net writer, Derek made the point that the democratic set-up of Introducing allows artists whatever their connections or background the opportunity to get airplay and a step on the ladder.

This is a massive mistake in my opinion because artists rely on this. It’s the best way for independent artists to get heard and to take away this resource will be a problem.

Emzae agrees: “If we lose all BBC Introducing regional shows, it will have a catastrophic effect on the diversity of the UK music industry, ripping away opportunities from musicians who weren’t born with connections and benefit immensely from their democratised support.”

The artist Tim Arnold said: “BBC introducing has been vital to my solo career. There is nothing wrong with a global music community, but without the mycelia of local communities and talent at radio to represent local music, the UK would be all the poorer for both artists and listeners.”

Tom Robinson – who hosts one of the national BBC Introducing shows – said on Twitter last week: “If you’ve appreciated our network of local BBC Introducing shows across England and the Channel Islands over the past fifteen years, here’s a chance to say so.”

Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust issued a statement last night reacting to the news “this would be a fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector. New and emerging artists already face significant obstacles to breaking into the music industry, challenges that are amplified for those artists and musicians living outside of the major cities. BBC Introducing has been essential in providing access routes into the industry, with local and regional opportunities available right across the country. Whatever reorganisation might be required to meet the demands of the future stability and viability of the BBC, it should not be the case that BBC Introducing is the unintended victim of those changes.”

BBC Introducing has been running for 15 years and is a prime example of a unique public service that only the BBC can provide. A democratic national portal for new and diverse sounds that strengthens the bonds to local communities, providing a vital platform and first step on the ladder, that opens doors and allows artists to say they were played on the BBC.

Save BBC introducing for the fans, the musicians, the broadcasters and most of all for the UK’s music scene! Without it, this country will be a much more diminished place.

I’ll leave the final word to Emzae: “BBC Introducing has been crucial to my career and so many others. It would be catastrophic for independent and emerging artists if it lost its funding. finally a note to the listeners. The amazing listeners of each and every one of these shows, who tune in loyally and engage in the output. The same people who attend gigs and buy the music of the artists. The beating heart of these shows. We MUST #SAVEBBCINTRO”

You can share your objections at the potential loss of BBC Introducing here.

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