Keeping It Pure
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Should Radio Turn Into a Medium for Actors, Comedians and Non-Musical Personalities?
MAYBE it is me being an elitist or a case of sour grapes...
IN THIS PHOTO: Peaky Blinders actor Cillian Murphy is presenting a show of his favourite songs on BBC Radio 6 Music today/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
but I am hearing a lot of non-D.J. personalities coming onto the radio. It has been happening for many years but now, more and more, there are programmes dedicated to actors, comedians and celebrities. It is great these types of celebrities can be part of shows and be interviewed for radio but I wonder whether too many are being given their own shows. From Peter Crouch making it onto Radio X to Cillian Murphy, Russell Crowe; Martin Freeman and Diane Morgan getting their own slots of BBC Radio 6 Music; I wonder what value is being brought in. Maybe it is the cache these personalities have but I have never been interested in what an actor has to say about music. Maybe there are one or two in the world whose opinions I would like to see stretch to a show but there are so many one-offs and series where famous figures get to ‘entertain’ the public with their music choices. I love BBC Radio 6 Music immensely but I can think of few less interesting and relatable shows on radio than Russell Crowe growling about his favourite songs or Martin Freedom chatting about Jazz. It is not like we have endless musicians acting so I wonder why we need hear so many actors/comedians/etc. being given their own show and telling the world about their music. Perhaps the only exceptions where I want to hear famous people have their own radio stations is the biggest and most famous around.
IN THIS PHOTO: Actor Miranda Richardson (one of the few non-musical celebrities I would like to see present her own radio show)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I am actually a fan of Miranda Richardson and feel she has cool music taste but I would not go as far to hear a show where she runs down her tastes and passions. Stations like BBC Radio 6 Music have a show dedicated to those in the acting community and the link between acting and music. I think it is a good series and it is kept aside from the other shows on the station. Having guest presenters and other shows where we see celebrities taking the spotlight puts me off. This might sound like a personal gripe but how many of us look at an actor or comedian do their thing and are itching for them to explain what music is important to them?! It is this odd association and one that is entering the radio waves more. It is not only one-off shows where we see needless celebrity and fame being allowed even more exposure than normal. Big broadcasters such as BBC Radio 2 have celebrities and T.V. personalities and regular D.J.s and, before they got the gig, they had no real experience or music qualifications. Look at radio stations where the D.J.s are comedians and are brought in because they are entertaining and funny. There is a world of wonderful D.J.s, journalists and musicians out there who struggle to get their voice heard and, annoyingly, they are being overtaken by those whose musical credentials are almost zero.
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I have nothing against people like Martin Freeman and Cillian Murphy as people and I know they love their music. The same goes for D.J.s who have come from a field outside of music and are getting big gigs without much passage and experience. If they are interesting and popular then not many can argue against their booking. The thing is there are people like me who have been working for years and know full well a better, richer and more varied show can be put together – compared to the actors who are booked to do shows on the basis of their fame and rather uninteresting bond to music. I have listened to so many shows where non-music-related personalities talk about music and play their favourite songs and it is never as interesting as when you get musicians and D.J.s doing the same. I watch T.V. shows and films to watch that person do what they are trained to do and rarely am I wondering what their favourite music is. Music and television/film have a natural link but it is the directors and producers who get to choose the music. I have seen directors talk about music on the radio and I guess that makes sense to a degree. If they are responsible for soundtracks and scores then it is reasonable they get to talk about it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Actor Martin Freeman has presented a couple of radio programmes this year (including one about Jazz)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
They can do that through an interview or part of a special series; it is these one-off shows that annoy me and actors being promoted to full-time D.J.s. So many journalists and D.J.s are starting out or having to go through every rung on the ladder to even get half a chance. Many do not make it and get where they want and it is harder and harder to get exposure. There are countless musicians I would like to see talk about their music tastes and upbringing but so many stations are recruiting actors, comedians and celebrities to do the D.J. thing. Even If they sound natural and engaging on the microphone then what makes them more qualified than someone who has been in industry for years?! It comes down to cache and, to me, an unfair advantage that is taking spotlight from those who have worked hard. It would take me ages to name all the musicians I’d rather hear have their own show and there are newcomers and rising names in the media who are passionate and would do a great show. Maybe there needs to be some sort of celebrity or reputation before someone is approached but so many bookings are done because the name is well-known and popular – rather than their musical association and knowledge of the industry. One of my biggest dreams is to have a regular show or one-off that allows me to talk about the best classic and new music and explore other angles – doing regular slots and a documentary-style approach to things.
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It will take a while to get to that stage but the fast-tracking of famous actors and personalities does make me angry. I guess radio, as with T.V., needs to be a broad church and not be rigid but it is hearing all these celebrities getting regular slots and these shows that irks. Everyone who is passionate about music wants a D.J. to talk about the music and know their beans; to be able to capture the heart but have that deep and authentic knowledge of the records. So often, one tunes into a station and there is a reality T.V. personality, comic or actor who is spending more time talking about themselves or trying to be ‘funny’ – rather than getting out the music and actual doing what they should be. Maybe there have been exceptions but I have never heard any celebrity/non-D.J. do a show or present a one-off programme and be captivated by it. I listen to radio because I know the men and women on there have worked their way through the ranks and been in the industry for years. They are where they should be and are not using the platform for vanity of exposure. Across every big station seems to be someone who is there from another field – either acting or comedy – and what qualifies them to be on radio?! I understand people can change fields and move between industries but so many of these examples relate to one-offs...giving them their own show as they move between projects.
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I am aware actors, celebrities and the like can have great taste in music and it can be interesting hearing what they say. My objection comes with this ability they have to get cherry gigs on big stations without having worked in music before. Why should a big actor get a show easier than someone who has been toiling in music for years and could do a better job?! It comes down to that fame and lure and, in most cases, is rather misjudged. If we are to except actors crossing into radio then at least make the booking interesting! If we are going to have a comedian or reality T.V. star becoming a D.J. then make sure they can talk about music with authority and understanding. I get tired of famous people being made D.J.s where they have little love of music and are there to further their career. The rather stilted and pointless cross-pollination attempts where actors talk about their musical tastes baffle me. It all comes down to that issue of why we truly care about their tastes and what relevance it has to us? I watch T.V. and films to see actors act: I listen to radio to hear D.J.s do what they do best. I do not need or want to see the worlds collide and have these rather pointless shows – the sentiment is shared by many others. It means people like me, who have dedicated years to promoting music, have to watch as these famous names get a platform without giving anything to the music industry themselves. There entire radio shows, such as Desert Islands Discs, I am happy to hear celebrities discuss music but I do not really want to hear them presenting shows on my favourite station or being regular bookings. I think there is an important connection between music and other forms of art (especially film) and I hope that bond continues for decades. Radio is a fantastic forum and I think we should be scouting for the finest D.J.s coming through and those who are best suited for future roles. When it comes to actors, comedians and the likes getting shows and talking about their ‘musical journey’ then I would rather this be left to the imagination. There are so many more deserving people who would kill for the chance and I think, for that reason alone, we need to keep...
IN THIS PHOTO: T.V. personality Rylan Clarke-Neal will launch his BBC Radio 2 afternoon show from next year/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images