The Industry

Huw Stephens’ top tips for unsigned artists

1st October 2018

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BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing DJ Huw Stephens is a staunch supporter of new music and independent artistry. His work in radio, television and the music press over the past twenty years has seen him champion the likes of  Lorde, Haim, The 1975, Disclosure, Slaves, and Bastille, offering them their first taste of widespread exposure before the mainstream media had caught on. 

With such a vast amount of industry experience, the music-mad Welshman is incredibly well informed in what’s required to break new artists. So, at BIMM Bristol’s graduation ceremony 2018, we stole a few brief moments with the man himself to hear his tops tips for new artists.

Be passionate.

It’s tough getting noticed. But if you have ideas, creativity and a vision, stick to it. At least until there really are no other options. If you look at a band like Idles from Bristol, who just scored a top 5 album with their second record, they’ve been doing it for years, y’know? Success doesn’t come overnight. And I think that’s true in everything you do in the music industry. If you have a passion, if you put yourself out there in situations where you can meet people, I think that’s important.

Support others.

Getting involved in communities is important as well. Because, if you support your local community, they will support you back – whether you’re a sound engineer, a manager, an artist, or whatever, really. People want to work with creative, talented, dedicated people.

Do I need a manager or booking agents early on?

If you’re really good. Managers and booking agents will come and find you. But, before you worry about all those things that bigger artists have, concentrate on the art of what you’re doing. Concentrate on songwriting, on gigging, on stimulating a fan base, and the rest of those sorts of things will come looking for you.

You can go looking for it yourself, of course. And that’s a good positive thing to do, if anything just to try and understand that part of the industry. That’s a good thing to do. But I’d say, figure out who you are as an artist first before worrying about that side of things.

Advantages of BIMM.

People who’ve been at BIMM have an obvious advantage, because they have an understanding of the industry already, which is of a very huge advantage compared to somebody who might just be making music without too much direction.

Find your strengths.

Find out where your strengths are. You might be a songwriter, but you might end up wanting to write for other people, you might decide you want to be a manager rather than an artist, you might find your strengths are elsewhere in areas like promoting gigs rather than playing them, and vice versa.

Finally, keep your options open!

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James Watts

Social Media Assistant, Professional Bassist and Music Journalist. Career highlights include performing at some of the UK's premier music festivals, recording in Abbey Road and interviewing Debbie Harry.