- Words Mike Vinti
This weekend BBC Introducing host Amplify, a weekend of music industry panels designed to inspire a new generation of artists, producers and managers.
It should be easy to get into the music industry these days right? Now that anyone with an internet connection can have access to all the cracked production software, YouTube tutorials and distribution platforms their heart desires, becoming a musician, label boss, manager or any other of the myriad of roles in the music industry is, theoretically at least, a walk in the park. In practice, however, that ease of access means that more people than ever are competing for space in the industry and, like any industry, the music business has limited resources.
The reality is, a lot of music industry success comes from being in the right place at the right time. It’s an exclusive, unfair and deeply unequal fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless. Normally getting into the right place proves impossible for aspiring artists, especially those outside industry hubs like London. However, this weekend, BBC Introducing and Amplify are offering thousands of would be musicians and music industry folk the chance to hear from, and meet, hundreds of established industry figures at Amplify, a three-day series of panels, workshops and more at the ExCeL centre in South East London.
“It’s like a weekend of really high-profile music industry meetings,” explains Huw Stephens, the weekend’s ambassador at the BBC. At Radio 1 Stephens is the defacto face of BBC Introducing and has championed plenty of emerging and unsigned acts in his time on air. For him, this weekend is a logical conclusion to that work, bringing together aspiring musicians, his BBC colleagues and people from across the industry in one space to champion new music and empower a new generation. It’s set to be first event of its kind in the UK and possibly even in the world, a music conference for the people, with tickets for entire weekend priced at just £26. To find out what’s in store at ExCeL come Friday we sat down with Huw and Tim Etchells, the managing director of Amplify to talk changing attitudes, breaking new talent and making the music industry more accessible.
What is Amplify and who is it for?
Tim: Well, it’s a new event for aspirational musicians, musicians who want to network, hear from people like Huw and people in the music business, who want to hear about how can be better musicians, how they can learn about the business of being in the music industry. It’s not just about playing music; it’s about doing deals with the band, it’s about getting the right manager, getting the right break, how you make money… it’s really just an opportunity to come and find out [about the industry], have a good day out and network with other people.
Huw: BBC Introducing has been going for ten years now, it’s been a big success in discovering and nurturing talent, an event like this… it’s a natural step, I suppose, for BBC Introducing to be part of it. We know there are talented musicians out there this is about what you do next. This event brings a lot of interesting people together.
How did the idea come about?
Tim: The BBC came to me because we were looking at doing another event in the music industry, then they approached me with this and said do you think there’s an event here? When I look at events like this, I always ask if there’s an audience there. With Introducing it’s actually really easy because there are 200,000 people subscribed to it, that in itself is a database of people who would be interested in this. Then I looked at what else was out there, and of course, there are lots of festivals, but festivals are more about listening and watching music, there’s nothing out there like this. You’d only think of doing this event with the BBC behind you because the BBC has such a commitment to music and promoting new music.
Huw: If you do an event like this as well, you’ve got to do it properly. There have been events like this but they’ve always been more specific to one area of the music industry, and you look at the line-up for this and its really high quality. It’s something that if you have an interest in making music in 2017 and you’re interested in pop culture and music then I think there’s something every day for you.
When did you get personally involved in it?
Huw: Well I’ve heard about it since the beginning and been really excited about it. I’m taking part in some panels; I’m interviewing Frank Carter, some industry panels about labels, I’m interviewing Blossoms about their rise. They started on introducing, and they ended up the Mercury shortlist this year, main festival stages, top 10 album, how does a band from Stockport do that? What’s their story? Obviously, there’s new Blueprint or rules to follow but I think by coming to events like this you’re going to learn a lot, and if you’ve got your wits about it whether you’re a manager or an artist or any of the other jobs there are out there, you’re going to learn a lot of valuable things over the weekend.
It feels like there’s been an effort by the music industry to open recently, do you think that’s true?
Huw: It’s weird industry, because it’s all centred around music, this thing we all love, but everyone is trying to make their own way around the industry. I think what you have now is people who don’t want to peddle myths or lies about the industry; they want open, honest dialogue about things and they want to see young people getting to the heart of information about the industry.
I think younger people in the business might know about the myths but have pushed them to one side and are doing things their way and so that’s what you see at an event like this. You have people who are out here doing things; they are starting labels and running nights and making their own waves in the business. Because people are passionate about music, they want to share that information freely and share and discuss how the industry works. That’s why I think there might be more events like this and why I think it’s a good one: I don’t think you’re going to be lied to at this event. I think it’s going to be very honest.
Tim: I think that’s a good way of summarising it, there’ll be honesty, and there’ll be opportunities for people to have one and one discussions with each other, and I think people will come away with lots of information.
Huw: What’s great about this is that you have people who these jobs day in and day out, but it’s not often they get to stop and look at their own story and career. They’ll give us information that’s second nature to them, but that’s fascinating to the audience.
How did you reach out to people to be on the panels?
Tim: Quite early on we realised we needed people who really knew their stuff. We were lucky that we had this amazing woman called Lindsey Bogis and Jason Carter who were involved introducing, so we hired them and they became like my editor. They went out and reached out to everyone in the industry, and they knew everyone.
The main avenue for new music now is the internet, how do you consider that when you’re putting together an event like this?
Huw: Well, what I’d say is, a lot of these panels will talk about streaming and digital platforms and the internet but we don’t want to be, and you can’t be if you want to work in music, on your own behind a laptop not talking to people, you still want to meet people and watch live music and be learning and debating things, and that’s what this is about. It’s like a weekend of really high-profile music industry meetings, which is practically impossible to do, even people who work in the industry don’t do that. It’s a once in a lifetime event really.
You and Steve Lamacq are running the Demo bag…
Huw: Apparently so, Steve is the master of this, he’s dedicated his life to discovering and sharing new music so what you’ll get is a really honest insight into what it’s like to send him your demo.
How honest is too honest?
Huw: Well, listen, music is such a personal thing, isn’t it? And if you believe in your music enough good things will happen but it’s always good to get advice from people outside of your circle especially from someone like Steve Lamacq whose job it is to listen to music, so I think it’s good to get bad advice and be self-critical, it’s very healthy.
What is your highlight of the weekend going to be?
Huw: Well. I’m looking forward to Bob Harris’ UK country takeover. I think the music manager master class as well, I see that with a lot of new artists, they’re brilliant but they need managers, and it’s a difficult job, but if you do it right, you’ll be the best manager in the world.
Tim: I think Jamie Cullum will be interesting you’ve got a musician turned broadcaster, he’s an interesting guy. Whether or not you like his music, to hear him talk about his journey would be very interesting.
Huw: Grime is the new DIY will be an interesting one as well with Alex Lawless.