IN THIS PHOTO: Last year's BBC Introducing Artist of the Year, Izzy Bizu
BBC Introducing at Ten
ANY function or faction that actively promotes…
the finest artists out there is to be commended and applauded. BBC Introducing started life in 2007 and showcases unsigned, self-signed and emerging artists. It runs across BBC radio stations and, when each act is featured/wins, they retain their own identity and sound. That is rare in an industry where, if one wins a competition, they are often forced to compromise their music and fit into a label’s agenda. Since its formation; the competition has seen winners feature at Glastonbury – spotlighting wonderful acts on the main stages there. By 2010; BBC Introducing was awarded the best new platform to discover music at the BT Digital Music Awards. The following year, it won the Gold award for Best Use of Multiplatform at the Sony Radio Academy Awards. Since January 2013; every BBC Local Radio stations across England and the Channel Islands broadcast a BBC Introducing show (8 P.M. on Saturdays). The idea, originally, was for the BBC to introduce new talent to its stations – artists that have a definite future and are have commercial possibilities. Its brand was discovered by Jason Carter – who continues to lead to the proposition for the BBC – and has expanded and evolved since its first year. Back when it first arrived, many local BBC stations created competitions to showcase local bands. That became so popular and powerful that, as of 2010, that any local BBC station that had not rebranded themselves with the ‘Introducing’ component did so. It is amazing to think BBC Introducing had a stage at Glastonbury in its first year. That is power to a format that is not here to make money and sign karaoke singers – looking for serious artists who have the potential to headline the Main Stage very soon. The fact 2011’s incarnation featured Ed Sheeran at BBC Introducing (in Glastonbury) meant that desire fulfilled itself – Sheeran headlined Glastonbury this year. I am not a fan of his work – as many will know – but understand BBC Introducing has a wide remit and casts its net right across the musical ocean.
Many might say celebrating ten years of BBC Introducing is a minor thing: they have not spawned THAT many modern legends. It is true we have seen few breakaway stars survive and inspire but there have been plenty that have made a real impact and compelled other acts to come into music. It is the way BBC Introducing has spread to local stations and helped artists in those areas get their music heard. I know a lot of musicians who have auditioned and performed as part of the regional BBC Introducing events and it always puts them in a better mood. By that, they get their music to judges and new crowds; they get an impression regarding how their music will fare in the market and the fellow musicians around them. It is a tremendous networking opportunity and a showcase that is free from label pressure and viewer call-ins. Against the tide of televised reality T.V. shows and circuses: BBC Introducing seems like an old-fashioned showcase for musicians who are not leering after the camera – equipped with sob stories and broken-hearted tales. There are filmed segments and YouTube videos but, largely, BBC Introducing is about music and radio. It is great looking at each county and the talent that emerges forth. There are few national events/ideas that extend to local areas. The televised talent shows like The Voice are all about the glamour of the stage and finding something mainstream. That is not the case with BBC Introducing. Even though it has the BBC brand; that does not mean it is aimed to discover a talent that would be exclusive to Radio 1 and 2. One assumes they would search for a Radio 1 star – the age of the participants suggests a younger audience – but past winners, as I will explore, find their music played on several BBC stations – and other national brands. Sceptics have looked at other BBC initiatives like their annual ‘BBC Music Sound of…’ list and queried the winners and their longevity.
IN THIS PHOTO: WOWH at Glastonbury
It is always hard seeing, when you do crown a winner, how they will assimilate and adapt to the demands of music. The same can be said of BBC Introducing. It scouts for the finest artists out there but there is no way to say how the artists will fare – and whether they will be a long-term success. The upload tool, launched in 2009, allows users to upload their music direct to BBC Introducing producers and presenters. Artists can enter their postcode and submit their songs to producers. It is a quick and great mechanism for artists to get their music into the hands of producers without having to post material or audition. My final point will look at the upcoming anniversary concert that is taking place but we need to consider artists that credit BBC Introducing for bringing their music to the U.K. public. Jake Bugg, back in 2007, was covered during Glastonbury and, thanks to Introducing, it brought his music to a greater number of people. Other acts, such as Florence and the Machine, The Temper Trap and Two Door Cinema Club have seen similar benefits. Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Everything and Izzy Bizu – more on her, soon – have credited BBC Introducing. BBC Introducing launched their Artist of the Year which highlights an Introducing artist worth extra merit. Jack Garratt claimed that honour at the end of 2015. Catfish and the Bottlemen won the award in its first year but both artists have found success following the nod. Before that, they were well-known, but it is an extra layer of accreditation and congratulations. When Izzy Bizu received the award last year; BBC ran a piece:
“BBC Music has announced Izzy Bizu as the winner of its BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year Award ahead of the 2016 BBC Music Awards which take place at the ExCeL London on Monday 12 December.
Announced as the winner on The Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw this morning, Izzy Bizu says: “It’s an amazing honour to have won BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year. The BBC has been hugely supportive of my music ever since my independently released Coolbeanz EP and it’s a real honour to follow in the footsteps of acts like Jack Garratt and Catfish and the Bottlemen.”
BBC Introducing, the BBC’s scheme for emerging musical talent, showcases undiscovered and unsigned artists and has helped to kick-start the careers of James Bay, Jake Bugg, Florence and the Machine, and George Ezra plus many more since its launch in 2007, providing a platform to propel the best new acts from across the UK onto the national stage.
IN THIS PHOTO: Izzy Bizu/PHOTO CREDIT: H&M
Jason Carter, Head of BBC Introducing says: “Izzy is a huge talent that I’m certain will be a huge success story both at home and abroad. I’m proud of the part that BBC Introducing has played in launching her career and look forward to her live performance at the BBC Music Awards, and supporting her in the years to come.”
Born in London, Izzy Bizu started her journey with BBC Introducing back in 2013 when she uploaded her EP Coolbeanz to the talent scheme’s website. Picked up by her local BBC Introducing show on BBC Radio London, the unsigned singer-songwriter gained exposure on the Radio 1 and 1Xtra BBC Introducing playlist slots, garnering support from the likes of Jamie Cullum who played her on his Radio 2 show before being chosen to perform at the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury in 2014.
She then supported Sam Smith, Rudimental and Foxes on their UK tours, and last year performed on Later…with Jools Holland and was shortlisted for Critics’ Choice Award at the Brit Awards. This year Bizu was longlisted for BBC Music Sound of 2016, performed at and was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2016 MOBO Awards, opened the 2016 BBC Music Day concert from Cornwall's Eden Project on BBC ONE, and was the voice of the BBC Euro 2016 theme tune, singing her version of Edith Piaf’s La Foule.
Now signed to Epic Records Sony, she released her debut album Moment of Madness in September. Alongside other BBC Introducing artists Spring King and Sundara Karma, Izzy recently performed at the first BBC Music Presents US tour - a partnership between BBC, Live Nation and the GREAT Britain campaign - showcasing the best UK talent in the US. Beginning in November 2016 and running over the next 12 months, BBC Music Presents will deliver four tours across America, with the first tour visiting New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Washington, DC.
Izzy Bizu will perform live on BBC One and bbc.co.uk/music on Monday 12 December from 8.30-10pm with additional programming on Radio 1 and Radio 2, alongside Kaiser Chiefs, Craig David, Lukas Graham, Zara Larsson, John Legend, Emeli Sandé, Robbie Williams and The 1975.
Last year’s winner was Jack Garratt who since his performance at the BBC Music Awards in 2015 has gone on to release his debut album and be named the BBC Music Sound of 2016. The first ever recipients of the award in 2014, Catfish and the Bottlemen, have enjoyed continuing success in the UK and the US appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman and winning the Brit Award for British Breakthrough act in 2016”.
Bizu’s album, A Moment of Madness, was released in September of last year and, alongside the BBC Introducing prize, completed a fantastic year for her. The L.P. was received well by critics and her music was played on T.V. shows and adverts. Her music has reached millions and it is debatable how far along she would be was it not for BBC Introducing. She has natural talent but the connections she has made through BBC Introducing cannot be undermined.
I will finish by bringing in the details surrounding the tenth anniversary of BBC Introducing – and the gig that is going to take place:
BBC Music Introducing has announced a gig at O2 Academy Brixton to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
George Ezra, Blossoms, Nao, Slaves and The Big Moon are among the names on the line-up for BBC Music Introducing Live, with more yet to be announced.
The night, featuring artists who have all been backed by Introducing, will be hosted by Huw Stephens, Annie Mac, Phil Taggart, Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson.
BBC Music Introducing Live takes place on 4 October.
Since launching in 2007, acts supported by BBC Music Introducing have gone on to release 14 UK number one singles and 28 UK number one albums between them.
There are now over 460,000 tracks, which is more than three years-worth of music, uploaded to the BBC Music Introducing website and 170,000 artists are registered.
Each BBC regional radio station across the country has a BBC Music Introducing programme dedicated to finding local talent.
Some of the musicians they discover are then picked up on a national and international stage through BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, 6 Music, Radio 3, Asian Network and World Service.
Bob Shennan, Director, BBC Radio and Music, said: "I'm incredibly proud of the work BBC Music Introducing has done over the last 10 years to bring talented UK artists, from all musical backgrounds, to a national and international audience.
"So many of the musicians supported by BBC Music Introducing have gone on to achieve great success and this gig will be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate all that is special about new music in the UK."
IN THIS PHOTO: George Ezra/PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Blackham
"The music industry was a very intimidating and confusing world for me when I was 18.
"I knew I wanted to perform and write for a living but had no idea how to make this a reality.
"BBC Introducing was, and still is, the most amazingly inclusive platform I could have asked for. Long live Introducing."
IN THIS PHOTO: Blossoms
"The BBC plays a significant part in everybody's lives in one way or another, but BBC Music Introducing (specifically) has certainly played a colossal part in ours, especially in our embryonic stage, and has continued to support us throughout.
"They provide a service like no other and are at the forefront when it comes to championing and nurturing new talent."
IN THIS PHOTO: NAO
"BBC Introducing were fantastic to me when I was starting out.
"Not only did they give me my first radio play but they put me on at Glastonbury, which at the time was a dream come true.
"They're a hugely important part of the BBC and a big reason why more interesting music can break through in the UK compared to other countries."
IN THIS PHOTO: The Big Moon
The Big Moon
"They've championed us from the beginning and given us the opportunity to play amazing festivals in the UK and abroad.
We're incredibly grateful for their support and are so so happy to be playing at their 10th anniversary."