We always have fun speaking to bands, singers, songwriters and artists. Discovering new music is what we love to do and we will never miss the opportunity to ask few questions and direct your attention towards a good tune or an album that is worth listening to. From time to time, however we have a special guest at our blog and today’s entry will be dedicated to a man we all know but whom nobody interviewed yet (we know it is a shocker!)
It is with the biggest of pleasures, we are able to announce that Indieterria has interviewed the man who not only came up with the name for Worcestershire music scene but who has been tirelessly working behind the stages of biggest local radio programmes, festivals and concerts – Andrew Marston of BBC Hereford and Worcester and BBC Introducing! We sat down with Andrew to discuss the impact the BBC Introducing has on the UK musical map, the best songs he has ever received through the Introducing Uploader and his brand new exciting show.
Think globally, do locally – Andrew Marston Interview
Official press release: A BBC programme, dedicated to supporting up-and-coming musicians, is to launch a second show this weekend.
BBC Music Introducing in Hereford & Worcester, which broadcasts every Saturday from 8pm, is to double its airtime in its new timeslot on Sundays from 6pm. Since its launch in 2005, the team has been overwhelmed with the amount of musical talent coming out of Herefordshire & Worcestershire with more than 15,000 demos sent in, during the last decade, from the local area.
Presenter Andrew Marston says: “We have such an incredible music scene right here on our doorstep – and I looked down the pile of music that I’d earmarked for broadcast and realised, if I never received a song again, I still had enough to carry me through the next decade without repeating a single track!
“The picture, nationally, is also very similar – with 170,000 artists now registered and 500,000 songs submitted. It would take 3 years to listen to every song currently on the Uploader and the number of musicians registered now exceeds the number of people who went to Glastonbury last year.”
Originally broadcast as the Friday Session, the programme has gone on to discover acts such as Ellie Goulding, Becky Hill and Peace. John Peel’s former manager, Clive Selwood, said: “John would have loved the programme – it would have pleased him enormously.”
As well as the superb quality of music the programme showcases, there’s a weekly gig guide, local music news, interviews with movers and shakers, a Musicians’ Masterclass, a local history of great gigs and musical legends, coverage of our local festivals plus live sessions on the show every week.
The team has also been responsible, in recent years, for sending Leominster’s AKA George to Glastonbury, Hay-on-Wye’s Cherryshoes to T in the Park, Sœur to Reading + Leeds and flew Bromyard’s Remi Harris to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Other successes include Sam Isaac at Glastonbury and the BBC Electric Proms, Pencil Toes, Luke Leighfield, The Anomalies and Pegasus Bridge at BBC Maida Vale (and Radio 1’s Big Weekend), while securing the brother/sister duo Muchuu a support slot with Florence & The Machine and the Temper Trap alongside a spot on the BBC Radio 1 playlist. Other Radio 1 opportunities include Riscas and Lauren Wright, while FREnchfire, Georgina Upton, Kamos & Tripbuk and Scarlette Says ending up on the BBC 1Xtra playlist. Andrew also landed The Roving Crows a place on tour with Jamie Cullum, AKA George two spots on the Radio 1 playlist, as well as a place on stage at Glastonbury and Radio 2’s Live In Hyde Park.
Andrew continues, “Every month, we record our sessions at a variety of festivals – including Hay, Wychwood, Nozstock, Lakefest, Worcester Music Festival, SXSW, T In The Park, Montreal Jazz Festival, The Great Escape, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds.
“When artists upload their music for airplay, they often don’t realise they’re being considered for these incredible opportunities.
“With such a diverse range of music, the new show makes it really easy to plan – and sharpens the focus for our audience: ‘Is this more of a Saturday night track?’ or ‘is this more of a Sunday night track?’”
You can listen to the new show on Sunday from 6pm on 94.7FM in Hereford, 104FM in Worcester, 104.4FM in Redditch, 104.6FM in the Wyre Forest, 738AM across Worcestershire, 1584AM in Tenbury Wells, on DAB Digital Radio, Freeview channel 720 and online at bbc.co.uk/introhw. The programme will also be available via the BBC iPlayer Radio App for free download for 30 days.
You are very well known in the West Midlands, but in case somebody spent the last decade on the other side of the world, please introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria. Who is Andrew Marston and how did you get involved with BBC Hereford & Worcester?
Andrew Marston: Hi, I’m Andrew, a 36-year-old radio presenter from Hereford who’s now spent more than half a lifetime behind the record decks and well over a decade at the helm of BBC Music Introducing. In fact, I’ve always been surrounded by music having had keyboard and piano lessons since the age of 6 and have wanted to work in radio since discovering my first cassette recorder as a toddler. Somehow I’ve managed to combine both passions in a way that I’ve not played piano in public for 2 decades and haven’t played a cassette since I was at Hereford Sixth Form College!!
In fact, I was gigging regularly at Whitecross High School (mine – I didn’t just break in!), also touring the country with my brothers’ band – but I was being asked more and more to DJ between sets; something that ended in me landing my first residency at the Jailhouse Nightclub aged 14! Slowly, but surely, my gigging time was filled with playing CDs rather than keys – and I eventually tried to claw back some of what I’d “lost” by organising weekly band nights at the Imperial in Hereford. At the same time, I was presenting a non-music show (!!) on Hereford Hospital Radio, focussing very much on bringing news to life. I finished college on the Friday, had the worries of ‘what to do next’ for two days and went into the BBC’s Hereford office for work experience to be greeted with the words “how would you feel if we’re to train you up as a Broadcast Assistant?” I still haven’t had my training…
Outside of Dj’ing and music production, you are heavily involved in the BBC Music Introducing programme, looking for new talents. Tell us more about it.
Andrew Marston: I spent from 1999-2005 working behind-the-scenes at the BBC, including several stints on BBC Online. Back then, we were writing album reviews and gig features – very much like Vanadian Avenue and Slap Mag, but we kept saying to the boss “let’s stop talking about music – and let’s play it”. 12 months later, the boss came to us and said “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s stop talking about music – and let’s play it!” and the Friday Session was born. It made a lot of people very nervous thinking there wouldn’t be enough music to sustain a 2-hour programme every week and “is local radio the right place to be breaking new acts”. In fact, the bosses of Radio 1 came down to see how this was impacting on their audiences and some of the people in charge of local radio. I think they weren’t keen on the idea, before they arrived, but within 6 months the BBC Introducing brand was launched nationally!
In 2017 BBC Music Introducing celebrated 10 years since its conception. If you look at the official stats, nearly 130,000 bands submitted more than half a million songs. That’s nearly 3 years’ worth of music if one would like to listen to them all. How is BBC Introducing in Hereford & Worcester looking compared to other local shows? Do you know how many bands submitted their songs and how many played a live session for you?
Andrew Marston: Since we launched the uploader seven years ago, more than 10,000 songs have been uploaded from Herefordshire & Worcestershire alone. We’ve also just finished ripping all of the CDs sent into us 2005-2010 and that’s another 4,000. But – in those early days, tracks that didn’t get a spin after a couple of years were deleted from the uploader to save on server space – so I’m guessing that figure is much, much higher. In fact – I’m going to keep my eye on that! In terms of live sessions, we’ve now had more than 1,000 acts perform live on the show leading to countless opportunities. Last week, the whole Introducing family (that’s what we call it) got together at Broadcasting House in London before heading down to Maida Vale for our annual get-together. Everywhere in Britain is powering forwards, but it’s interesting to see how the poor folk in London are swamped by acts claiming to be from London when they’re not. Geographically, you have more chance of “making it” if you’re from a rural area than somewhere that’s overrun with musicians (who’ll also play for free. I lived in London for a couple of years and, despite playing 137 gigs in one year, struggled to find any paid opportunities in the capital as everyone would do it for nothing).
You were one of the first DJs to play Ellie Goulding, The Voice UK alumna Becky Hill, Peace and the alternative outfit This Wicked Tongue. Do you remember the artist or a band that made the biggest impression on you as part of the BBC Introducing?
Andrew Marston: Muchuu made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Sadly they’re no more, but their music was haunting, full of space and left you wanting more. Somehow it drew you in and I still go back and listen to those tracks when I want to reflect. They were one of the first acts to use the Uploader and I instantly passed it onto Huw Stephens at Radio 1, who claimed there was “something in the water” with so many artists going national from our neck of the woods. They’d go on to support Florence + The Machine and the Temper Trap at the BBC Introducing staff Christmas party (those were the days!) and turned down a slot at Glastonbury because they were going on holiday – I know, right??!
Worcester music scene is going through a real cultural renaissance at this moment. Many local acts receive fantastic reviews from the critics and you are credited with coining the name for it – “WorcesterWave”. Do you think Worcester is going to be the next musical hotspot after Manchester, Cardiff and London?
Andrew Marston: I think we actually have a greater music scene than all of those cities. Having lived in London, everybody that claims to be from there comes from somewhere else. Sadly, these big cities are so swamped with bands (from across the region) they’re embracing the “pay to play” culture, meaning you’ve either got to sell tickets for your show or actually pay the promoter for stage time. It’s a very sad state of affairs, especially when musicians have learned their craft since a young age having music lessons at £20 per hour. I also lived in Manchester for a while and everybody tours there, but Manchester bands rarely get the chance to play their own city because of the competitive nature. Every city has its own music scene – but often it’s cut-throat. The thing with Manchester is if you’re 15-years-old and you get bored, you go out. But if you’re 15 and living in Clifton-upon-Teme, you form a band. And when there’s nowhere to play, you organised your own gigs. This whole cottage industry, where everybody supports everybody else, is what’s getting this city noticed.
You have an eye to spot future stars. Many artists championed by you frequently receive national coverage. The list is very impressive: The Americas performed on Georgie Tonight, a prime-time show across the whole of BBC Local Radio, Soeur recorded live session at the legendary Maida Vale studios, Nuns of the Tundra reached second place in nationwide “Battle of the Bands” competition sponsored by Firestone, Tazmin Barnes’ EP “Powerful” debuted at number 11 at iTunes Pop charts, nth cave and Thousand Mountain were played by Steve Lamacq while Population:7 and Chavy Chase Stole My Wife were noticed by Tom Robinson. What qualities are the most important for future success? Song writing, catchy melodies or stage presence?
Andrew Marston: The song is always key. It doesn’t matter how good your biog is, who you’ve toured with, where you’ve played and how good you are at playing guitar, the 3-minute song is the thing that will get you everywhere. In fact, it’s your best advert. In commercial radio, a 30 second commercial could cost you £150. A 3-minute song is effectively £900 worth of airtime. If you were recording speech – you’d tell people to download your music, advertise your shows, sell some merch and ask them to friend you on Facebook. So make sure your demo isn’t a demo – it’s the polished product.
As a presenter, if you get too involved with a band, it definitely impacts your decision making. I’ve seen many bands who’ve blown me away, jumping all over the stage, but I’ve listened back on iPlayer and they’ve failed to jump out of the speakers. I will score every track based on the first listen – as that’s exactly how the audience will hear it. There’s no such thing as a “grower” unfortunately – that’s a phrase coined for bands that have had so much money invested in them, they’ve got no choice but to champion that track. First impressions count.
Rumour has it that there is a brand new Sunday radio show being prepared? Can you please tell us more?
Andrew Marston: Exactly that! We have so much music coming in that we want to play, 2 hours a week just isn’t enough. In fact, it’s a really simple thing to do – the gig guide still exists, we still want to cover the same number of festivals, enjoy live sessions – but the canvas is now twice as big. The thing we’re accused of, most of all, is using a too-bigger paint brush. At one end of the spectrum, there’s tonnes of classical musicians and folk artists in the Malvern Hills; at the other end of the spectrum, Kidderminster produces the heaviest of death/screamo metal and Bromsgrove unearths a lot of dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass. The balancing act is to aim to the programme at everyone – otherwise you risk broadcasting the X-Factor to only the people who queued up to be on the X-Factor! Being blunt, musicians provide the raw material for the show – it’s my job to then expose it to as wider audience as possible, so I have to be careful not to make the show sound like a fanzine. That job just got a little simpler; I can now ask “is this more Saturday night or more Sunday night”. So Saturdays will be a lot louder, a lot more raucous with a real edge. Whereas Sundays will be a lot more accessible, focussing a lot more on those acoustic/soulful/folk/jazz/blues/country styles with “candlelit” stripped-back studio sessions. I’m hoping there’ll be a fair bit of crossover, meaning audiences will feed between both programmes – but the idea is you’ll definitely have your favourite, all, of course, available for 30 days to download and listen via the BBC iPlayer Radio app!
What advice would you give to the kids who are just starting out and would like to send their music to BBC Music Introducing for consideration?
Andrew Marston: Here’s my top three…
- Always disappoint your audience!! Keep your music short. Your favourite song will never be long enough; loop play is the greatest compliment. If they hear it on the radio and want to hear more, they’ll have to go out and buy it! If you play a gig, don’t give them an encore. If they want more, they’ll have to come to another show! Take pictures of every gig – especially the audience having fun – and host them online afterwards. People will be disappointed they missed out and will come to your next show. If you’re on the door, don’t let every Tom, Dick and Harry in! An exclusive audience will grow punters; letting in those who don’t particularly care will distract your die-hards. Remember that time you couldn’t get into your favourite nightclub because your mate was wearing trainers? You didn’t particularly want to go in – but the moment the bouncer said no, you were desperate to be in there!
- Properly release your music. Set a release date. My best music I’ll save for a “rainy day”. I’m hoping it’ll never rain. But that means I might not play it for 5 years! Setting a release date ensures everyone is across your track on that particular date. Nobody likes to back the last horse in the race, so if everyone else is championing your music on that date – others will follow. Make big events even bigger. I remember booking Remi Harris for the Montreal Jazz Festival a couple of years ago and just as I was ending the phone-call, he said “oh – did you hear I have a new album?” If I didn’t know, nor would any of his potential audience. I told him to stop being a fool and to release it at the festival! Forevermore you can say “I launched my debut album at the biggest gig of my life”. The festival will be happy you saved such a special moment for their event – and, with any luck, will also do your promo for you! Whenever Remi rings up a venue, he can now say “and here’s a copy of my album I officially released at the Montreal Jazz Festival”.
- Write music you believe in. You’ll be amazed how many people I interview who write rock music who go out every Friday and Saturday night and listen to dance/RnB then wonder why nobody comes to their gigs. Take a look around and see what people are genuinely listening to. If you’re really into electronica, you’ll probably write better electronica than trying to form a band with people who don’t really share your passion. The most common reason bands split is because of “musical differences”. If you wouldn’t be happy to drive around town with your windows wound down and your track blaring out, you’re possibly not being true to yourself – and if you’re not 100% behind what you’re writing, what chance does anyone else have?
But most importantly – have fun! If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you’ve probably forgotten the reason you got into music in the first place. If you become the best at what you do, the money will somehow find its way to you. But just remember it’s not always this cartoon version of “write a song, get signed, achieve #1 then headline Wembley”. There’s money to made in writing theme tunes, being a session musician, writing for video games, weddings, playing the piano in hotel receptions, writing for other people and one of the most lucrative “revenue streams” is writing lift music! But that’s just page one of an ocean of opportunity. Remember, I learned piano and I now host a show on the BBC. So music can open all sorts of opportunities – just make sure you grab them with both hands and never let go!
Andrew Marston is very active on social media and you can find him on many different platforms:
Vanadian Avenue would like to thank you to Andrew and the crew of BBC Inroducing in Hereford and Worcester for their time, hard work and answering the questions.
Keep on doing the good job!
Please come back soon as Indieterria is meeting a really cool band next week and we will be back shortly with another interview for your enjoyment!
Bye for now,
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz