Jaguar of BBC Radio 1 touches down in Dublin for Rockshore’s Après Sea event in Portmarnock on Sunday with Rudimental and Dave Treacy. We speak with the London-based DJ, broadcaster, and tastemaker about her love of radio, the necessity of promoting emerging artists, community development, industry equity, her return to Ireland, and more.

Jaguar Bingham’s résumé in radio, DJing, community work, campaigning, and tastemaking is among the most distinguished in the UK. The award-winning BBC broadcaster is the face and voice of the next generation of dance music, introducing a plethora of new and undiscovered artists to her vast & devoted audience. Jaguar is committed to creating a healthy and diverse ecosystem for new talent to work in, regularly challenging the industry to strive for a more adaptable and just environment that reflects the current principles that it requires to thrive.

Jaguar was first introduced to dance music at bunker parties in her homeland of Alderney, a small island in the Channel Islands. Jaguar’s introduction, like many others, was motivated by the boredom and restlessness that comes with living in a small town. It was in the Channel Islands “at the age of 14, where I’d sneak out and go to bunker parties, which are like raves we would do in World War Two German bunkers.”

Jaguar left the Channel Islands in 2013 to attend university in Leeds, where she first tried her hand at radio, a spur-of-the-moment choice to join Leeds Student Radio that would forever impact her life. “I did an English Literature degree, but I feel like I came away with a radio degree. I definitely have no regrets.”

It was in Leeds that she began to shape her voice, develop her presenting style, and refine her musical taste, which to this day has remained broad, open-minded, and firmly underground. This was a period of self-discovery, with long hours spent on the hallowed dancefloors of SubClub, the late Wire in Leeds, Canal Mills, and others. Jaguar’s weekly student programme, ‘Dangerous Jag,’ was a platform for experimentation and discovering new music, and that mentality hasn’t changed much with her current, BBC Introducing on Radio 1 Dance show.

“I love live radio. It’s such an important and special medium. Even giving people a shout-out, and knowing that people are listening is a very special thing. It’s always been something I’ve done and wanted to do.”

During this time Jaguar also became a resident at Brixton community-based radio station, Reprezent Radio. “That was one of my favourite times in my life. It was two hours every two weeks, I’d always do it live, and I’d always have a few friends with me, probably drinking a few tinnies. It was such an exciting time.”

Jaguar was diving headfirst into any dance music opportunity that presented itself, while simultaneously balancing her English degree, Reprezent show, college radio programme, and learning to DJ. Jaguar’s multifaceted approach to music and life has been one of her most important characteristics, as she is continually willing to learn and grow without fear of being thrown into the deep end. During this time, she applied for an internship at BBC Radio One and One Extra, expecting to be turned down but wanting to try nonetheless.

“I remember going for the interview, just being at the BBC, and seeing the live lounge for the first time, as well as the massive studios. I was just blown away. I was like, “Oh, this is radio.” And then I managed to get that internship. So I spent two months in the summer of 2014 working at Radio 1 and 1 Extra”

At 19, Jaguar began working alongside some of her heroes, rubbing shoulders with Annie Mac and assisting with the production of her programme and the early breakfast show. Often starting shifts in the middle of the night while also working on the 1 Extra Music crew. Jaguar was doing everything and anything, intensely driven to soak in all the information she could while attempting to imprint her identity on an already authoritative broadcasting institution.

“By opening the door it encouraged me to run through it at full speed and take every opportunity I could.”

From then on Jaguar became a part of the furniture at the BBC, working across various sectors. “I started working with BBC Introducing a year later. I worked my way up production, covering various assistant roles, working across Introducing in Sheffield and working with the Introducing Central team for about five years as an assistant, from making cue cards to interviewing artists at Glastonbury to doing the admin.”

“My role evolved as I told them that I loved electronic music and wanted to do more with dance music. I essentially became the dance editor. I listened to every dance track. I would send them to Pete Tong, Annie Mac, Danny Howard, and Monki. Then, in 2020, were getting so much dance music that Radio One said, “Oh, maybe we should do a show.” And I was in line to present Introducing Dance and I’ve been doing it for four years this month, which is pretty cool.”

The digital music renaissance has put pressure on radio, as listeners flock to streaming services and social media to discover new music. Algorithms have largely replaced tastemakers, placing individuals in a bizarre chokehold in which computers dictate our tastes. Previously, the radio and record stores were the only places to find new music, and DJs and broadcasters exposed listeners to new and avant-garde sounds.

Jaguar remains a passionate believer in the power of radio and tastemaking, infusing her programme with new sounds and breathing new life into BBC Introducing in an effortlessly personal way. “Obviously, I am biased. But I believe that having a tastemaker and a curator you trust to select the music is so important that it will never lose value.”

“I don’t think it’s ever going to die. I think the audience is shifting, and the way we consume is very different. But radio is always going to hold an important part and I still see that with my radio show. I have an important job, probably one of the most important jobs. I sift through 500 to 600 tracks a week on the Introducing Uploader. You have to have an ear that develops over time. I don’t think an algorithm can do that and that’s from 10 years of curating music on the radio.”

Jaguar’s dedication to highlighting rising talent has resulted in the discovery of a slew of now-coveted dance music artists. Her trust and allegiance to bringing exposure to lesser-known performers has helped catapult several artists to the next level of their careers. While Jaguar does not gloat or claim credit for the growth of these artists as a consequence of her backing, she does understand the BBC’s influence in the dance music industry, particularly BBC Introducing, and how this can be utilised to boost the careers of newer artists.

“I met Prospa when I was at uni in Leeds, and I told them about BBC introducing, so they uploaded. We held our first live music stage at Creamfields, where we booked Prospa for one of their first gigs and then connected them with Annie Mac on Radio One. Barry Can’t Swim is another one; I played him a lot before anyone heard of him on Radio One, and then he sent some stuff to Annie Mac, who started playing it and then signed to Ninja Tune. ELKKA was someone I strongly supported on my radio show early on. The same goes for Ewan McVicar, Obskür, Emily Nash, TSHA, Eliza Rose and Hannah Laing – I was playing her music a lot, and now she’s in the top ten and her name is everywhere.”

“It’s not like I’m doing it just to be able to say, “Oh, I played Hannah Laing first.” I’m doing it because I love it, and that’s the whole point of Introducing. I think it’s in my DNA. It means a lot to me to be able to give smaller artists this opportunity.”

Jaguar is at the forefront of community engagement and support. Although she is best known for her work with the BBC, a well-established institution, her voice extends far beyond its airwaves. She promotes the power of collaboration and what is possible by creating scenes in one’s own neighbourhood, hoping to use her voice to bring people together to carve out their own communities.

“Use your local radio stations, they provide a hub for growth and the confidence to build connections. We need more community-based areas and cultural hubs as the world becomes increasingly strange, particularly in this cost-of-living crisis and post-pandemic situations.”

The concept of community is central to Jaguar’s work, whether it’s her BBC Introducing show, which provides a clear path for new artists to be discovered, her label and platform, UTOPIA, which serves as a voice for new ideas and artists, or her DJ sets, which capture her desire for the new, daring, and unheard.

“Community is an important word regarding my work. My show was built with a community around it. I think the kind of culture we’ve got around the show, which is mainly based around new artists is really special. And then what I do with my label, club night and podcast, UTOPIA, is a community platform, because it’s about bringing people together, it’s about representing an inclusive space on the dance floor with diverse sounds, styles, types of DJs and music lovers. I’ve also got a WhatsApp group, where the UTOPIA community is thriving full of creatives.”

Although paths to community may appear hazy and out of reach, Jaguar is militant in her belief that something can be created from nothing, and that this is where the best scenes and communities emerge.

“I think there is so much you can do now, whether it’s starting a WhatsApp group with your friends and people who share your interests, or starting a podcast and building something around it; there are so many tools available, and it’s all free. Don’t underestimate your own power.”

Jaguar strongly encourages producers to self-release, and many of the artists she supports on BBC Introducing have done so. The proliferation of internet connections has made it easier and more difficult than ever to get discovered, but it has also rendered the concept of labels somewhat obsolete, as they were formerly the only means to get your music heard, but this is now far from the case.

“I advise a lot of artists that they don’t need a label. You can self-release and achieve great success. Unless you sign your music to a label, and they’re going to give you something that you can’t do, like a budget for a music video, or genuine support and connections that you don’t have. But if you do have those and you’re willing to put in the work, and you have a good eye for marketing or you’re out there grafting, I think you can build a lot on your own.”

Jaguar’s platform UTOPIA celebrates a little over a year as a fully-fledged label and its objective, like Jaguar’s BBC Introducing show, is to showcase and promote new artists. The label has highlighted musicians such as Van Damn, Flava D & Paige Eliza, GHSTGHSTGHST, DRIIA, and others. Jaguar has successfully placed their relatively new artists’ music in the right hands, propelling their careers in the right direction.

“I’m obsessed with my artists, they’re genuinely my favourite artists in the world and it’s such a pleasure to work with them. I think unless you’re going to work with someone who’s as passionate as I am to put out your music, no one else is gonna be as passionate as you are. I take my job very, very seriously. I’m very, very empathetic with artists.”

The Jaguar Foundation may be one of her most important endeavours as she addresses gender imbalances in the business, going beyond raising awareness by collaborating with Sony to develop the first-of-its-kind study on documenting gender disparity in the music industry.

“The top line of it was that there is a lack of representation of women and non-binary people in dance music. It’s a systemic thing, we live in a patriarchy and there’s no denying that. There are multiple barriers, such as the gender pay gap, women being mothers and having to leave their careers, and whether they enter or not later on. A lot of women are being discouraged from pursuing a career in music and men are the gatekeepers. Ultimately, you can’t be what you can’t see”

“We discovered that only 5% of dance music in the charts was created by women and non-binary artists. Then, within radio, less than 1% of the top 200 tracks played were created entirely by women and non-binary artists. Only 24% of streaming places and streaming playlists were created by women and non-binary people.”

The first report is a stark and honest look at an unjust scene, that has barred so many people from entering and ostracised those who attempted to open the door. It has forced those in power to reflect on what has transpired and what should happen next. It serves as the industry’s starting point for learning.

“A lot of things came up, such as being subjected to the male gaze, feeling unsafe in the workplace or behind the decks, experiencing sexual assault while working, and navigating the club and booth safely.”

“One common theme is that people frequently refer to the music industry as a boys club. That phrase crops up so much.”

The Jaguar Foundation’s results serve as a baseline for the sector to grow and improve in terms of equity. It offered a voice to those who felt voiceless or alienated, reached out to the margins of society, and shed attention on the disparities that have plagued the scene for far too long.

“I’d love to update the statistics, as they were from 2022. So far, I’ve noticed some really positive changes. You know, just last summer, we had Peggy Gou, Jazzy, Raye, and Charlotte Plank all in the top ten of the UK charts, which was cool.”

In addition to statistics, Jaguar has advocated certain hands-on procedures to help carve out a more diverse and fair club and festival environment, one of which is rider requests, which artists may utilise to say that if they are going to play, the lineup must be balanced and fair.

“I have this clause in my contract. That simply means that whenever I am booked, there should be an effort to make the lineup as diverse as possible by including at least one other woman, transgender person, person of colour, or LGBT+ person.”

She goes on to say that it needs to start from the top. This situation cannot be resolved immediately, and while the industry is taking measures to make the environment more fair and open, true change will not occur unless people with actual weight and influence begin to show support and fight for those without a voice.

“I really just implore anyone with a bit of weight and power, which is mostly men, to include this in their contract. I believe it will make a difference because all we can do is put in more effort, work a little harder, and perform better. This is not me having a go. I never attack anyone. I never say, “This is your fault, or you are doing this incorrectly.” We are all responsible for global issues, whether they directly affect you or not. Often, the people who aren’t directly affected have the most power to change things.”

Jaguar’s success story thus far offers optimism for the future generation of dance music. Her influence in the business is undeniable, and her success can be attributed to her complete transparency about how she works, what she believes in, and who she supports. Her voice reflects the current sound and mentality of UK dance culture.

“I’m very passionate about the representation of people who don’t feel represented in the mainstream or in the world, music reflects the world and the world is by no means perfect. So one of my things is I want to help make the world a better place in that sense.”

I asked her to give some advice to those looking to break into the industry, “Be aware that it takes time to hone your sound and become truly good at what you do. If you’re making music, be as creative as possible while still having fun with it. Do not be afraid to experiment. If you’re releasing music, you should have a year’s worth of music planned out so that you can be consistent. If you can release a track every six weeks, or if you have four tracks, make sure you have a strategy for each moment. Know what you’re going to do for marketing and visuals; it doesn’t have to be an elaborate music video. You can do it for free.”

“Do not be afraid to reach out to people. If you have a radio show that you like and want to work in radio, contact the host and see if you can shadow them. The internet has connected everything so that we are all constantly online. Use that to your advantage. Upload your music to BBC Introducing. Have fun with it.”

Jaguar returns to Ireland for her first appearance since 2019. The BBC resident joins Rudimental and Dave Treacy for Rockshore’s Après Sea event in Portmarnock on Sunday.

“I love an Irish crowd. You guys are so fun and so passionate. The crowds really know their stuff too. The Irish know how to have fun. I’m planning a special set for this weekend, so expect a melting pot of genres, but I want to make it extra special with some nice sunny chugging baselines.”

You can purchase tickets here.

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