Jen Long is a programmer and broadcaster with BBC1 in the UK. UTR caught up with her while in New Zealand as a keynote speaker for Going Global, the conference that intends to give New Zealand bands insight into how to make it overseas. She let us in on what her role involves, how she discovers new music and what kind of music is appropriate for an English audience at the moment.
For those who donít know why youíre here for Going Global, tell us a little bit about your role at the BBC.
I work for Radio 1 on a show called BBC Introducing. BBC Introducing supports unsigned undiscovered and under the radar artists and I also work on that show putting it together and we work in BBC Wales coming up with ideas for television shows for BBC3 and BBC4 and I also work on documentaries at Radio 1.
What is your history in the music industry and how you got your role at the BBC?
I went to university and studied journalism and I did a lot of work experience in radio; I knew I wanted to work in radio. I worked at XFM and was DJ-ing and I made a podcast and someone at Radio 1 heard the Podcast and invited me up there. Itís just kind of like you do so much work experience and youíre around so much that if an opportunity comes up you get offered it. I was working in rehearsal rooms and I was tour managing bands around Europe and I got a call from my current boss at Radio 1 and he was like ďwhen are you back, when are you back?Ē I said Friday and he asked if I wanted to come and do some freelance on the show Ė behind-the-scenes, putting it together Ė and so I did some freelance, then I was permanent, now I present it.
Your job ultimately involves finding new and exciting artists. How do you go about that?
Ah, in lots of ways really. There are so many ways you can discover new bands these days. We have this thing called the 'BBC Uploader' where new artists can upload their music and it comes directly into an inbox and I get quite a lot through that, but some of the quality is questionable. Blogs are a great way of finding new artists; there are lot that I trust and read. Then thereís just casual word of mouth, just chatting to your mates. Theyíre like ďI saw this wicked band play last nightĒ and youíre like ďOh yeahĒ and go check Ďem out. Going to gigs, watching people play, talking to as many people as possible.
And youíre going to be talking at Going Global. What are some of the topics youíre going to be discussing?
I can tell you Iíve got the thing in my bag! Iím going to be talking on a panel really soon about ĎBrave New Worlds of Promotioní so I think thatís about how they can promote themselves. Then later on Iím going to be talking about ĎRadio Gaga v Hype Machinesí. I havenít had a brief on that one but I guess itís kind of like how a lot of people say radioís dead because a lot of people can just make their own radio stations on the internet, but I donít really know, Iím just presuming, but Iím sure itíll be interesting.
Following on from that, do you think radioís dead, or do you think itís a traditional format that may survive?
Nah man I think radioís as strong as it ever was. Itís exciting right, youíre on the radio, youíre loving it! People trust you, people get in touch, itís entertainment, itís interactive, thereís so much music out there and itís so hard to find that you can lead the way and people discover music through your show and people can be entertained at the same time. So no, radioís not dead itís just evolving and getting better.
Going Global is about getting bands to recognize what they need to do to be successful overseas. What are your recommendations for New Zealand bands if they were going to the UK to get their music on radio or to get noticed more generally?
Radio play is something where the sound needs to be right for the UK audience and obviously I donít know everything thatís going down here but I feel like there is New Zealand stuff over in the UK that is appropriate and that perhaps some New Zealand bands wouldnít travel as well. If a bandís going to go all the way to the UK donít just go for a week. They should go, have a base there and itís easy to access Europe from there as well. There are various ways of getting played too. You can pick out some DJís from the different radio stations who you think might be into your music based on what they play, you can pay to get a radio plugger if you really wanted but I feel like if youíre going to go over there go over for at least six months.
You mentioned before 'appropriateness' for an English audience. Whatís happening on English radio at the moment? Whatís appropriate?
I think stuff like the Naked and Famous have done really well on British radio. Theyíve got that great pop sound that feels like itís coming from a genuine place which is really important and I feel that combination works really well on daytime radio; something that is accessible but still feels genuine. If youíre talking later specialist shows it could be anything.
- Courtney Sanders