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BBC Introducing: Amplify ‘17 – Event Report

BBC Introducing held its first ever Amplify event on 6th – 8th October 2017 at the ExCel Centre in London – with over 100 masterclasses and 250 speakers. BASCA was delighted to host two packed-out panels alongside the Music Publishers Association, titled ‘How to Write a Hit Song’.

The first panel featured BBC’s Tom Robinson, songwriter Carla Marie Williams, Tom Gray of Gomez and Universal Music Publishing’s Mark Gale. The second was moderated by BBC and Virgin Radio’s Georgie Rogers and featured Katie Melua, Victoria Horn, Becky Hill, and AMLOR Music Publishing’s Blair McDonald.

Tom Robinson

Songwriter and broadcaster Tom is a BBC Radio 6 Music mainstay and has written with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Elton john and Manu Katché.

“Merely writing good songs isn’t enough, because there are so many of them out there… I think you’re looking for something completely exceptional… but it doesn’t have to be dressed up with great production”

“In today’s industry, your copyright is the crown jewels – you will make money gigging and selling CDs at gigs, but in terms of a long-term career, the only area where you’re still getting paid proper royalties for proper work done is as a writer”

[Discussing radio] “There are only 60 minutes in an hour – and in each hour, you can get away with maybe 12 5-minute tracks… but I can help 30 artists if they send 2-minute songs. Of course, there’s long form music… but if you’re looking for radio play, I’d say, if you can get it under 3 minutes, the greater your chances will be”


Mark Gale

Mark is Universal Music Publishing’s Director of UK & International A&R. His signings include The xx, Chvrches, Wretch 32, and songwriter Janée “Jin Jin” Bennett.

“Follow your gut – there are always going to be a lot of people with opinions, and if you, in your heart of hearts, believe that this song you’ve written should be the single, then it’s your record”

“If you’ve got a recording, that recording will be dated; if you’ve written lyrics on your phone and emailed it to yourself, that’s dated – so if there is someone infringing your copyright, you’ve got a digital record of it”

“It’s about conveying emotion, and if it makes you feel something, then production can be secondary”

“Some of you that want to be artists. You’re not really looking for a hit, you’re looking for the best presentation of your art and you want to find your fans – which is a completely distinct way of approaching your work, as opposed to someone who is trying to write a commercial hit, which is all about the hit rate.”

Carla Marie Williams

Carla has written for artists such as Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Naughty Boy. She’s also the founder of Girls I Rate, a movement to help, empower and support women in the music industry.

“Sometimes, it’s not about collaboration, it’s just about the deal – I don’t think anyone should be deceived by that when they come into songwriting. You’ve just got to get thick-skinned and say ‘I know I’m going to take a hit here, but it’s going to get me to the next level of where I need to go’”

“Songwriting is a job, regardless, even though it’s fun, it’s a job – you can only perform your job if you’re emotionally driven to do so”

“I personally believe that writers should get a chunk of the masters… because I believe that a song is not just 50%, a song is 100% – and without the lyrics and melody, there’s no song”

“I would say the best way to get heard is to get a music lawyer – they’ll get you to meet everyone you need to know – because most music lawyers are like A&R at the minute, they actually want to connect. They make money off discovering new talent, so it’s in their interest to get you to as many people as possible”


Tom Gray

Tom sings and plays guitar and keyboard with the band Gomez, whose debut Platinum album won a Mercury Music Prize in 1998. They’ve since gone on to release seven acclaimed studio albums and headline Glastonbury.

“A lot of people will end up going down a rabbit hole, trying to figure out the newest way… to make their music sound brilliant – and that may distract them from the important stuff, which is writing a great song and getting it down”

“Anyone who’s interested in exploring music is going to end up making happy accidents in the studio”

“The journey of a song isn’t from it released to it being played on radio… you have to get it passed a whole lot of other people first. The publishers are usually the good guys, they’ve got your back.”

“If you think it’s like 50/50 between master and writing, that’s fairyland. The master is where all the money is… so fighting for the bit of master, if you were involved in production, is the best advice I think I can give you”

“There are so many different lives of a song now – you can be that kid who wrote that song that gets 10 million streams, or you can be an unknown who has somehow hit on some emotion, and happens to get it to the right synchronisation person, and suddenly there’s £50,000 in your bank”





Katie Melua

One of Britain’s most successful artists, Katie has sold more than 11 million albums, 1 million concert tickets and received 56 platinum awards. Her seventh album, ‘In Winter’, was released in October 2016.

“I just try to write every day… sometimes I find I probably get one great song a year”

“I’m personally really interested in the craft of songwriting, and the education of getting better as a writer, and that’s just discipline – sitting down every day, working at it, trying to figure out what the mechanics are – and at the same time, the final thing sounding like it’s the most natural, sincere bit of art that I’ve heard”

“Become acquainted with the greatest in the field you’re working in… I think you’ve got to know where the standard is”

“Dylan said, ‘Study 100 songs and you’ll become a song writer’”

“For me, the song isn’t just the record, and the chords and the lyrics, the song is complete when the listener is listening to it – it’s a whole cycle.”

“Whenever I’ve gotten stuck trying to finish a song, technique and the more structural and scientific elements help me every time”


Blair McDonald

Former major label A&R man Blair established his own publishing company in 2003, which became Nettwerk One Music. Blair is now Managing Director of his new venture, AMLOR Music Publishing.

“Being a songwriter is a business and to make that business successful for you, you have to edit your own material, only release things that you truly believe are special”

“Why limit yourself to anything? Just go in and see what happens – it’s a creative process”

“You have to be able to hold your song up against a quality – and believe that your song is as good as anything else out there. If it’s not, truth is, you should probably just throw it away and start another one”

“It’s much better to deliver 2 outstanding songs than 200 mediocre songs”

“Everyone approaches royalty splits in their own way – I’ve seen lots of conflict and lots of arguments… in 99% cases, I will always say split the song equally”

“You’ve always got to do something that you truly believe in, something you feel proud of when you play it to somebody”

“You’ve got to do your own thing to get things started – send your music to publishers, producer managers and songwriter managers… teach yourself about the whole game of songwriting and reach out to people.”


Victoria Horn

Victoria has penned over 20 singles and at least 10 dance chart numbers 1s. Her Grammy and ASCAP Award-winning Dirty Vegas hit ‘Days Go By’ spent 16 non-consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Dance chart.

“Being an artist writer and a song writer… they’re very different machines. I don’t have the luxury, in some ways, to be so personal about the songs because I’m merely like a shadow of the artist in the room”

“When you’re in the room with people that have more experience than you – be like a sponge, absorb everything”

“I think you’ve got to be realistic about your songs – more times than I care to mention, I’ve said ‘let’s pull it – we have to start again’ to get a better cut”

“If you are co-writing, listen to your co-writers – it’s not about who shouts the loudest… and you have to be brave sometimes, have your own voice. You also have to listen to each other”

[On taking a small share for a song with a big name artist] “The reality is, the minute that song is released, you are going to be the go-to person, even though you might lose on that song. Don’t be scared to play the game and make some tactical business moves.”

“Sitting in the room with someone you respect becomes like a game of tennis, bouncing ideas back and forth, and then the standard goes right up”


Becky Hill

After appearing on The Voice UK Becky became the first contestant to score a number 1 – ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’ with Oliver Heldens. She signed a worldwide deal with Polydor in August 2017.

“I’m now at the point in my life where I don’t know what a hit is, I don’t purposely write hits, I write music – it isn’t your job to write a hit, a label makes hits”

“When I start coming up with melodies, I like to have a concept in place – I like to tell stories in my songs from start to finish”

“I’ve worked with some really successful people, and the amount of people who say ‘you don’t s*** a golden egg everyday’… and when I heard that phrase, my life become so much better!”

“Leave your ego at the door”

“As soon as you start thinking about another artist or chasing trends, that’s when your music falters – if you really believe in it, that energy will radiate through and other people will take notice”

“Sitting in the room with someone you respect becomes like a game of tennis, bouncing ideas back and forth, and then the standard goes right up”


Article first featured in The Works [2017]


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