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How the BBC helps up-and-coming British musical talent to be heard

1st April 2015

Twenty seven artists discovered by a BBC talent scheme have gone on to sign major record deals in the past 12 months. This is just one of the contributions the BBC makes to the UK’s creative economy according to a new independent report which reveals the Corporation’s support for UK industry for the first time.

The report shows how the BBC takes risks on new artists and provides exposure to songs that aren’t often played on commercial radio for months, and promotes new artists by playing their songs on some of the UK’s most popular shows.

The report found that:

  • The BBC’s 17 different talent schemes help to discover and champion new talent. BBC Introducing discovered 27 artists that have subsequently signed to major or significant indie record labels in the past 12 months.
  • The BBC takes risks on new artists, proving exposure for the songs of new and emerging artists before release. The first time that songs of selected new artists were heard on the radio was often on the BBC. For example, George Ezra’s first single Did You Hear The Rain? was played 73 days before comparable commercial stations and Sam Smith’s La La La was played 25 days sooner.
  • BBC Radio promotes new artists and musicians by playing their songs on shows with the biggest audiences: for songs of a sample of new music artists, a higher proportion of BBC radio plays are in daytime slots than is the case for comparable commercial stations.
  • The BBC promotes new British music talent across its TV, radio and online services, helping to drive record sales and build profile. For example, London Grammar’s song Hey Now was added to the In New Music We Trust playlist on BBC Radio 1 in March 2013, and sales for this song rose 140 per cent the following week. The naming of Sam Smith as’BBC Sound of 2014 in early January led to a spike in his album sales – rising from 1,000th on Amazon to sixth in the following 24 hours.

The report looked at the careers of Clean Bandit, Ed Sheeran, George Ezra, London Grammar, Royal Blood and Sam Smith in detail, demonstrating how the BBC played a key role in bringing them to a wider audience.

The benefits of this support extend beyond just the artists themselves. BBC support reduces the risk for record labels in investing in new artists and could make them more likely to sign particular new artists than otherwise might have been the case. The UK is one of only three new exporters of music globally, and the sector generated £3.8bn of gross value added in 2013, creating £2.2bn of exports and 110,000 jobs. (Source UK Music, 2014)

The report also found that:

  • Of the BBC’s £3.7 billion investment of licence-fee income in the UK, £2.2 billion is invested in the UK creative industries. The remaining £1.5 billion is invested outside of the creative industries in the UK, largely in the digital and high-tech industries on activities which support content creation and content distribution.
  • Of the BBC investments, around £450 million is invested in small and micro creative businesses.
  • BBC iPlayer facilitated the VoD market in a number of ways: it helped to create an audience and shape new business models (eg catch up TV); it prompted the development of a new rights framework which supports and incentivises content providers; and it helped develop the software skills needed to shape and develop VoD platforms. The UK has by far the largest on-demand video market in Europe.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, says: “This report shows how the BBC can act as a catalyst for the creative industries in Britain. From BBC iPlayer to pop music, we are doing our best to give British talent the exposure it deserves. By helping underpin these industries with guaranteed investment we can make a big difference to one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy and help build the UK into a world leader in the creative industries.”

Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Music, says: “I’m proud of the BBC’s record in supporting new British music and with last year’s launch of BBC Music, we are wholly committed to helping new artists across every genre of music, from pop and folk to jazz and classical. We are passionate about bringing exciting new sounds and burgeoning artists to the public coupled with helping listeners and viewers discover new music, as well as supporting the British music industry. It was a pleasure to give a band nurtured by BBC Introducing, Catfish and the Bottlemen, their television performance debut to four million viewers at the inaugural BBC Music Awards in December and we hope to give more bands similar exposure in the future.”

The report is published here.

Read more on the BBC website