The Very Best of British Unsigned
Broadcasting on over 80 FM stations in 15 different countries, Best of British Unsigned is a radio show that plays 100% unsigned British music, providing a platform for artists to have their music heard across the world. The station was formed by Matt Graveling and Talia Slack both of whom work for the BBC, in January 2012.
A free podcast of the radio show can be listened to at the station’s website, where bands and artists can also submit their songs. I got to speak to Matt and Talia about the station, unsigned bands, and any advice they may have for young people looking for a career in broadcasting.
So you started BoB outside of your day jobs. Why? Just to promote unsigned bands?
Talia: Yeah, Matt pitched the idea to me in the pub and I thought it was a good idea. What I really needed in my life was more radio, because I don’t do enough of it during the day…
Matt: We kind of wanted to do a little more than was being provided for unsigned artists. We felt like the unsigned artists that were being championed had already been slightly hand-picked by various organisations and platforms that were liaising with labels and things like that.
So you felt that they were kind of unsigned in name only, and it was only a matter of time?
Matt: Yeah, I mean, I don’t doubt that they were unsigned, but it was like some people were taking all these plaudits for discovering the next big thing, when really they were already halfway there. We kind of consider ourselves a level playing field, any one can submit music. That’s why we got started.
How much work goes into BoB Unsigned?
Matt: It definitely takes a lot of time. I mean, not really to listen to the music and make the show, but when you’ve got something as special to us as BoB is, you don’t want it to just be a weekly show, you want to get it out there, you want to do extra stuff. We’ve been to national unsigned music competitions, we’ve been backstage at festivals, we’ve been to the offices of Google, I’ve got a meeting with MTV next week. And it’s things like, and people are starting to notice us; we’re number one for unsigned music in the UK if you Google us our website that we’ve set up with not a penny invested from anyone is beating stuff like BBC Introducing. And we’re proud of that.
So it’s a passion project that you’ve put a lot of work in?
Matt: Yeah, I’d say that. We couldn’t do it if we weren’t in love with radio, and me and Talia get on all right.
Talia: Only sometimes…
To begin with, you contacted the bands for BoB. Is that still the case, or do you find that more bands send in music for you these days?
Talia: Well the brilliant thing is, we’re at the stage now where we can just get by. When I like at the inbox we have so many submissions, we don’t have to tout for them any more.
So these days, they come to you?
Talia: Yeah, absolutely. We could keep going for years. We listen to everything send in, but we reject anything that doesn’t make the grade.
When it comes to choosing who goes on the show, is it a case of just picking your personal favourites, or do you want to get a decent mix of genres?
Matt: We probably try and fit a different variety of music in each week. Talia and I obviously have the main say really on the music which goes in. Our taste does differ, which helps out with the variety on the show. Every tenth show we kind of do a Best Of show, where we feature the best music from the last nine weeks, and in that show we tend to take on more consideration from how much response a track has got, whether it’s from fans, radio stations or people on social media.
Talia: As producer, it’s me who maintains the relationships with the programme controls for the stations, and they do tell us what stuff they like, and what they don’t like. It’s mostly stuff they like, i’m please to say. But they will get in contact with us and say “We like this, we want more of this”.
So out of the bands who have sent stuff in for you, which bands are your personal favourites?
Talia: Matt’s is Mike Wyatt.
Matt: Talia’s guilty pleasure is Straight Jacket Legends.
Talia: I love Straight Jacket Legends! Their song, Sofia, wasn’t just my favourite unsigned song of the year, it was my favourite song.
Of all the bands who sending music to you, do you get many young artists?
Talia: We get a good spread, but I would say they are mostly young. Lots of bands who are doing that First E.P, that stage. But we do get a good mix, and lots of more established bands too.
Okay. Both of you are pretty successful in your careers, do you have any advice for young people looking to pursue a career in presenting or producing?
Talia: Well what I’ll always say, and I’m not trying to build up my part, is that a presenter is only as good as his producer.
Matt: To be a producer, my advice would be: Try and be creative. And as presenter my advice would be… I’m not going to say Be Yourself, because that sounds like a really bad answer, but I’ll say, don’t fake it. Don’t try and sound how you think you’re meant to sound, people can tell when you’re faking it.