We all have that friend who has to be the first to find out about the next best musician, sports star or actor. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be the one to uncover a new talented artist – and then bring it up again every single time their name is mentioned? It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, the likes of Radiohead, Oasis, and Adele – even Emeli Sande – were unsigned at one point in their careers.
In an age driven by social media and advertising, many artists have become synonymous with their labels – think Jay-Z and Roc Nation or Sean Combs and Bad Boy Records. Every talent, however, has their beginning, a start to their story, a foundation from which they are born. For many it takes months, years, if ever, before they get their big break, to be discovered by the likes of NME, BBC Introducing or SBTV – the Unsigned Music Awards (UMAs) provide a number of unsigned musicians with a new way to catch the attention of a record label.
This year heralds the very first Unsigned Music Awards show at the Troxy on 27th October 2016. We are delighted to get the chance to be there. Hosted by Laura Whitmore and Chris Stark (yes that bloke who did the interview with Mila Kunis), it promises to be an amazing night as unsigned musicians from across the country take to the stage, performing in the presence of some of the most revered members of the music industry.
In anticipation of the night, we’ve highlighted a couple of the nominated acts we are most excited to see perform.
Despite her age, twenty-year-old Jerry Williams is not a newcomer. Having already released three EPs, including the most recent Let’s Just Forget It, Jerry has already begun to get the attention of numerous industry professionals. Her style blends indie and folk, whilst her song lyrics are taken from everyday life. To give you a taste, ‘Cold Beer’ was written after Jerry had a cold beer placed on her lap during a night out in London. Jerry has also worked with the likes Jim Duguid (Paolo Nutini/Alex Clare) and Dan Carey (Nick Mulvey, Sia), as well as performed as a supporting act for the likes of Nathan Sykes and Take That at the British Summer Time Festival earlier this year. All of which leads us to predict that, whatever the outcome of the UMAs, a big 12 months lie ahead.
Jerry is nominated in the categories Best Produced/Engineered Record and Best Album/Record/EP for Let’s Just Forget It.
How do you get back into the game when you’ve been out of it for so long? You’d do well to ask AKS (pronounced Ay-Kay-Ess) who’s currently re-rising through the ranks after a four-year absence. Fans of his 2009 mixtape A Miracle in the Making, and 2011 EP The Bus Stop, have had to wait a while, wondering whether his latest joint, Train of Thought, would ever drop. It was worth it. His second EP explores the experiences of his hiatus, including marriage. Mostly, though, the record is a reflection of his relationship with the music industry. AKS states: “It’s not a case of what sounds good, but more about what sounds right.” Which fits with his philosophy of making music that’s for and about him and not just for commerciality.
AKS is nominated in the categories for Best Urban Act and Best Album/Record/EP for Train of Thought.
We also wanted to fill you in on a new category at the UMAs, the ‘Musicpreneur’ award. And, no, it doesn’t involve Richard Branson singing a medley of Elton’s greatest hits or Lord Sugar producing some “absolute bangers” in the studio with Snoop Dogg. (If only.)
The Musicpreneur award looks at skills beyond making music. As sad as it makes me to type this, it’s not just the music that matters these days. With the growth of social media, there has been a significant paradigm shift in the way many artists approach their work. It’s no longer enough to concentrate solely on making music; you have to think of yourself as a brand, to learn how market yourself digitally and consider the potential implication of every tweet, status update or selfie. Moreover, in the case of Dr Dre or Jay-Z – artists who are not just musicians but also their own personal managers – to understand and develop the business of your music. The UMAs themselves state that they look at an artist’s portfolio of assets, their overall online presence and how well they connect with fans.
Nominees for the Musicpreneur award include Room 94, The Daydream Club, Cadell and Anno Domini.