Selector at 20 - A Q&A with Selector's Programme Manager Katie Weatherall

Tell us a little about Selector and what you do 

Selector Radio shares the best new UK music with the world online and through radio partners in 34 countries. We make two weekly shows: There is the UK show which is hosted by the amazing Jamz Supernova, and in some countries by a local DJ in the local language; the other is the DJ mix ‘Selector After Dark’ exploring the many genres and sounds of UK club culture. We spotlight music from around the world through partners and projects and invite Selector hosts from our global network to showcase their local music scenes, and we feature projects from British Council’s wider music programme on the show.

As Selector Programme Manager, my role is a bit like the executive producer: I oversee the content but don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty of putting the show together. The tracklist is selected by our host Jamz Supernova with the help of our production company Folded Wing. I’m in touch with our radio partners around the world through our overseas offices and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to get Selector into more countries and on more platforms. 

 

What is your favourite Selector memory so far? 

Even though I have been in the role for two years, I still feel like a relative newbie in the context of the show’s 20-year history, especially given that, for much of that time, we have had to work quite differently due to the pandemic. As a result, we’ve been making the show from home and not in the studio, and we haven’t been able to travel for Selector events. 

What I’ve always found exciting is when Jamz was able to travel to a new country, she could bring what she had discovered there back into the show. After a trip to a festival, Afro Nation Ghana, over the Christmas break in 2019, Jamz made a whole ‘special’ around her time, interviewing artists she had met out there and put together a playlist exploring the musical links between Ghana and the UK.  

At the time we had been looking for new ways to incorporate more international content in the show and reflect the richness of our global network. I was delighted when Jamz went for it and created such amazing content when she was supposed to be on her Christmas break. That’s exactly what cultural relations is all about.

 

Can you tell us about the measures you’ve taken to make Selector more sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible? 

The pandemic has been useful for reflecting on our impact on the planet and climate change, and the music sector has made great strides in this area over the last few years.  

Even though the music industry is not considered one of the main contributors of carbon emissions (compared to e.g. agriculture, deforestation, fossil fuels, industrial processes), it is inevitable that certain parts of music production such as recording, distribution, merchandise and music festivals have potential to become greener and help reduce global carbon emissions. Touring and audience travel in particular have been raised as a concern by green activists. There are several studies of the UK and global music industry's impact on climate change, for instance: Julie's Bicycle Green Music Guide and their report on UK Music Industry Greenhouse Gas Emissions, as well as Clean Scene's Last Night a DJ Took A Flight report.

We’ll be exploring sustainability in the music industry in an upcoming Selector show and, with this in mind, we’ve made efforts to 'green' our production practices for our Selector Sessions, making each recording as environmentally friendly as possible in line with industry advice. We took on board useful tips from ClimateEQ’s carbon literacy training programme for the music industry, Julie’s Bicycle and Music Declares Emergency whose websites are full of useful resources for further reading. 

We set out to see what we could learn and what we might be able to change going forward. Committing to a zero-carbon show would be impossible to execute, so therefore we looked at all the elements of the production of the Selector Sessions and considered ways in which we could make each more 'green'. 

The recording studio itself is by far the biggest consideration. In our case we are using an environmentally-friendly studio: Premises Studio is the first solar-powered professional recording studio in Europe and all their equipment – including instruments, recording and filming equipment – use green energy.  

We recognise that travel has a significant carbon footprint and looked at ways to reduce the impact: We asked the artists to use public transport – Mali Hayes took the train from Manchester to London and Louis VI who is London-based cycled to the studio.  

We briefed the artists ahead of filming to consider the environment in their planning for the day. We recommended bringing reusable bottles for water and hot drinks cups and suggested eating vegetarian or vegan food and opting for sustainable clothing and makeup choices.  

For the sessions themselves, we specifically chose artists whose work has a connection to climate change. Louis VI is one of Earth Issue Magazine’s nominated change-makers of 2021. A musician, rapper and film composer, Louis is part of a group called People of Colour Creatives (POCC) and states in an interview that his aim 'is to get young people of colour involved in the natural world and climate activism'. Louis VI was invited to perform at this year’s climate conference COP26, showing his latest climate action film and taking part in a POC Experts & Climate Activists panel.  

Mali Hayes is a Manchester-based singer-songwriter. She is a vocal advocate for more sustainability in the music industry. Her session track Save Ourselves asks the listener to question their everyday habits and become more cautious about the environment as every single action, even a small one, means a change that will pay off in the long run. 

Our 'green' session recordings were a success, we are hoping to continue with making all our upcoming sessions as green as possible and following best practice. It’s something that isn’t as hard as we first thought, but it does take some extra thought and effort. 

 

What excites you about the UK music scene at the moment? 

Now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased, I’m excited to see what new opportunities that brings for Selector. Artists release less music when they can’t tour, but with the world opening up again, we’re already seeing an increase of amazing artist releases coming from the UK, especially as some will have had more time to develop their sound during this time.  

Brand new musicians who started to make a name for themselves while in lockdown, are heading out to perform to packed out venues for their first-ever shows. Like Downtown Kayoto who's first-ever live performance was playing at Reading festival to a huge crowd of fans.  

Although the pandemic has been devastating to a lot of musicians' careers, some bands have been able to thrive. Leeds-based Yard Act for instance. The band say it was because they were only just starting out as the pandemic hit, so they didn’t have any plans to be cancelled, and could just plan for the future, keep writing, and build their platform online. Now out of the pandemic, they’ve built a loyal fanbase, have played many shows across the UK and were recently signed to major label Island Records.  

Another exciting effect has been the sudden explosion of Rave music. Not being able to get to a dance floor, musicians have been recreating the club atmosphere in their bedrooms which has led to producers such as India Jordan, Ewan McVicar, Anz becoming huge names in the industry producing a whole wave of new sounds for the post-pandemic world.