Amplify 17: What I Learned About Labels, Radio Play, and Jamie Cullum’s Love Life

Amplify '17"Call me pretty before you kiss me..." Simon Pursehouse of Sentric Music Publishing was talking about the importance of aspiring new artists creating a strong first impression in reaching out to music industry professionals. Celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a new music business event, the biggest of its kind ever in the UK, BBC Introducing's Amplify 17 certainly created an excellent first impression, with a slickly run event full of sessions that were not only insightful but often highly entertaining.

My day kicked off with Jamie Cullum in the Journey Theatre, live in conversation with Huw Stephens, talking about his journey to becoming a bestselling songwriter, interspersed with anecdotes - recording a song in Clint Eastwood's front room, playing at the White House for Barack Obama, etc. - and live piano performances. Jamie was refreshingly frank about his reasons for getting into music (picking up girls) and his lack of confidence at earlier stages of his career (even with a top 10 album under his belt). One of his best pieces of advice came from one audience member's question - "I struggle with the words, can you help?". Firstly, he told us, keep a journal and write everything down all the time ("brain diarrhea"), and secondly, read as widely as you can.

One of the highlights of Amplify 17 came in the form of a four-strong panel discussion on how to run a label. While it was more tilted towards the A&R side of management and how they filter through submissions, there were some useful insights into starting a label and some of the more common challenges. Simon Williams, the founder of Fierce Panda, was particularly amusing and informative; for example, telling the audience how he once received an email submission a few minutes into a football match he was watching, and after some back and forth with the band, they had signed a deal by halftime. I can only imagine the game itself was as enthralling as England's recent World Cup qualifiers...

 

Annie Mac and her assistant producer Jacob Rickard provided a captivating final session in the sleek surroundings of the Journey Theatre. Talking through how they select music for their Radio 1 playlist, they described some of the enhancers and barriers to getting radio play as an up and coming artist and spoke about the importance of radio pluggers. While there are many, including a few at the event itself, who would advise new musicians or labels against sinking large amounts of dollar into speculative radio (or online press) campaigns, it was insightful to see how prominent a part of their week these pluggers form. During the lengthy Q&A session, Annie dealt gracefully with the inevitable plague of EPs, handwritten letters, and selfies that descended upon them as the talk drew to a close.

With numerous stands exhibiting instruments and other musical equipment, as well as songwriting and music business courses, there was much on offer throughout the day. While more could perhaps be done to enhance the networking potential of the day - name tags perhaps and more space around sessions to meet people - Amplify was nevertheless an inspiring experience with much to take away.

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