Nile Rodgers, Emily Eavis, Huw Stephens, Zoe Ball and Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickins are just some of the industry heavy-hitters who shared their insights at the Beeb’s three-day music expo in East London at the weekend.
BBC Music Introducing Live 2018, an offshoot of the broadcaster’s highly regarded new music scheme, hosted talks and workshops on all facets of the industry, along with gigs and networking opportunities.
With a varied line-up of guests discussing everything from synching to songwriting, and styling to streaming, lots of ground was covered but a few themes emerged: the representation of women; mental health; and the obsession with data (hits, likes, followers etc) which appears to be subsiding – to some degree.
First up, women in the industry
What a difference a year makes. At BBC Music Introducing’s equivalent event Amplify last year DJ Adele Roberts hosted a tepid discussion about women in music in which panellists tiptoed around issues of misogyny and under-representation. Fast-forward 12 months, and the game has changed. In the post #MeToo era, the consensus (publicly at least) is that things are changing, but there’s more work to do.
Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis says the live music scene had long been dominated by men, but that things are changing.
“I’m doing my best to get women on the bill,” she says. “That does sometimes mean wrestling with older men booking the stages who don’t see it as important. It’s hard to change their thought processes. In the end I’ve said if it’s not happening, I will do it myself.”
The biggest challenge is booking major female headliners. “There just aren’t enough females to be heading the Pyramid Stage. It’s a smaller pool. But I think the good thing to come out of everyone pressing [for greater representation] is that the pool is getting bigger. In five years’ time, I don’t think we’ll be in this situation.”
Eavis would love to see Madonna, Kate Bush and Fleetwood Mac play Glasto. Here’s hoping.
We’re finally talking about mental health
Help Musicians UK hosted several talks throughout the event on the subject, while artists Bill Ryder Jones and Dodie both spoke movingly about their struggles with mental illness.
BBC broadcaster Zoe Ball, a vocal supporter of the Samaritans, says: “It’s a huge thing and I think we have a long way to go. But it’s great that generally more people are talking and sharing.”
Ball says she makes a conscious effort to step back from social media from time to time to ground herself. “I have to have a word with myself every now and again – I spend so much time on my phone. It’s about getting back to earth, away from electronics.”
Getting back to basics
When it comes to deciding who to sign to a label or play on radio, it seems the music industry is (a little bit) less obsessed these days with data. Old-fashioned gut instinct is back in fashion.
Matt Fincham, an Editor on the BBC Radio 1 Music Team, says: “A few years ago we all got obsessed with data. It’s now only part of the story.” He says when compiling playlists producers look for: a great song and consistency. A good track record playing live helps too.
Columbia Records UK President Ferdy Unger-Hamilton says instinct drives most of his decisions.
“It’s an instinctive decision most of the time. I like who I like. I don’t need the internet to tell me who I like.”