FEATURE: Vibe Dial: Why BBC Radio 6 Music Is the Go-To Station for 2020



Vibe Dial



Why BBC Radio 6 Music Is the Go-To Station for 2020


MAYBE I pledged a hiatus of…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny presents on BBC Radio 6 Music, weekdays from 1-4 p.m./PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

BBC Radio 6 Music-related features for 2019 but, as they have been doing such sterling work and Christmas is approaching, I thought it only right to throw some love their way one final time this year. There is a point to my latest feature regarding the station. Not only do they turn eighteen next year; BBC Radio 6 Music goes from strength to strength and is seeing its listenership climb and expand. I am just about to write a piece that concerns music today and asks whether emotional motivation is less on joy and light and more to do with experimentation and the personal – and whether that is a goods thing and whether, at a time when various genres are softening, we need to encourage change. There is a lot of great music out there, for sure, and I do think BBC Radio 6 Music has this terrific balance. I have already written about the various presenters and show but, as I listen to Chris Hawkins, Lauren Laverne, Shaun Keaveny and Steve Lamacq on weekdays – Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on the wakened breakfast shows – I will nod to them again. The station promotes such loyalty that there are broadcasters who have been there since the start – including Craig Charles, Stuart Maconie and Chris Hawkins – who are still there today. I think the station has such a committed and passionate gaggle of listeners (probably the wrong term, but hey!) is a combination of brilliant music and engaging broadcasters. Of course, there are songs on the playlist that I do not like – the less positive and generic tracks never resonate -, but most of what is played is fantastic.

I have argued stations are too rigid regarding the music played and the demographic they aim for. I understand stations cannot be too broad and they need to consider their market. I do think there is a rigidity and predictability with so many stations. Whilst BBC Radio 6 Music can sometimes come across as a bit too cool for school regarding its music – which doesn’t always mean the songs are great or interesting – they continue to widen their scope and throw in so many great surprises. I actually heard the Sweet’s track, The Ballroom Blitz a little while back. One might expect that sort of track to be played on BBC Radio 2, but BBC Radio 6 Music toss in great songs like that. As much as anything, mixing in older tracks that might be deemed ‘uncool’ by some actually opens minds and gets a big reaction. In the past, BBC Radio 6 Music has been accused of just playing Indie tracks and Rock, but now it seems like this sanctuary and church that welcomes in all music, so long as it makes us feel. I would like to hear a bit more classic Pop and some of the jams one might hear on BBC Radio 2, but I appreciate (BBC Radio 6 Music) there are limitations and guidelines. I want to break down the rest of this feature into three categories: the championing of new artists and an eclectic mix; the range of voices on the station and how there is the potential for some of its newer faces to come through; the way listeners are brought in.



I have probably covered aspects in other features, but I wanted to reaffirm them and explore some new sides. Not only does BBC Radio 6 Music bring us the classics and older songs that do not get a lot of air-time, but they are committed to uncovering great new artists. Most of the big broadcasters play music from underground acts and newcomers; there is a passion and dedication you get from BBC Radio 6 Music in this respect that outshines the rest. Their Recommends shows is focused on great new sounds; unearthing some true treasures for us. Other stations can be a bit dogged when it comes to their ‘sound’ and ethos: BBC Radio 6 Music has very few boundaries and is very variegated regarding playlists. This applies to new artists. So many upcoming artists have expressed their admiration of BBC Radio 6 Music because it helps give them a platform and impetus. In the past year, I have discovered She Drew the Gun, Floating Points and Girl Ray through the station – that is just the tip of a very large iceberg! It can be hard finding great new music, because there are so many websites, playlists and options around. Most genres are covered when it comes to new music. Apart from sounds/aspects covered by other stations – you will not hear much mainstream Pop played –, nearly everything else is up for grabs. In regards established artists and songs, one is spoiled for choice.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Mary Anne Hobbs keeps listeners locked between 10:30-1 p.m. during the week/PHOTO CREDIT: Dorothée Brand

From Craig Charles spinning the best Soul and Funk; Marc Riley and Steve Lamacq digging through their crates and Cerys Matthews taking us around the globe, BBC Radio 6 Music is one of the most eclectic stations one can find. I think truly great radio stations should give us something familiar, but also provide music that is under the radar and fresh. I often find myself overwhelmed with new music and you sort of try and take in as much as possible. A station could easily rest on its laurels and play it a bit safe regarding its new artists and classics; BBC Radio 6 Music is always pushing forward and expanding its horizons. Maybe, with certain artists, the same songs are played (Kate Bush springs to mind), but I am always finding these great older tracks that I had forgotten about. Not only am I and so many others being constantly educated and supplied with great new music, but there is that great feeling that a station is speaking for you. It is hard to please everyone when it comes to a station and musical tastes. I can find a lot of other stations lack boldness; they are a bit too genre-specific and, whilst BBC Radio 6 Music could stretch even further, it appeals and speaks to those who love their classic sounds and those who want the coolest sounds of the moment.



I think 2020 is a year when a fresh wave of people will be choosing radio rather than streaming services when it comes to their musical fix. BBC Radio 6 Music is growing in popularity and reputation because of the mix of experience and variation. Some might say that the fact the station has the same broadcasters and does not change its line-up means there is little room for evolution and progress. There are broadcasters on the station who warrant their own, more regular slot - such as Jon Hilcock; Tom Ravenscroft needs more airtime, and it would be great to see more women on the schedule (Georgie Rogers and Siobhán McAndrew are fantastic music news presenters who warrant their own slots; Matt Everitt’s The First Time with… is exceptional), but each presenter is wide-ranging with their shows and they have built up a great foundation. I guess the station could bring in new blood next year but, with so many popular hosts already, it might be tricky deciphering who needs to be moved. I do, as said, listen to Chris Hawkins early; Lauren Laverne and Shaun Keaveny. I also tune in to Mary Anne Hobbs in the morning and catch Steve Lamacq and RadMac (Radcliffe and Maconie). Each presenter is deeply dedicated to what they do, and you can tell the music and involving the listeners is paramount – a lot of stations seem to be more about gimmicks, celebrity and lack that real focus. Even though most of the presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music are over forty, that is not to say the station is catering to an older demographic. In fact, most of the D.J.s have worked at other stations and brings years’ experience to the plate. 

In terms of 2020, I do think we will see more and more listeners come in; BBC Radio 6 Music will keep rising in terms of RAJAR figures, and I believe it will be become the BBC’s premier station in years to come. I have a lot of respect for BBC Radio 1, 2 and 4 (I don’t really listen to BBC Radio 3 and 5). One of the biggest selling points of BBC Radio 6 Music is how crucial the listener is to the music played and how the station moves. I think too many stations use listeners for needless competitions and ideas that have very little to do with music. From Lauren Laverne’s Social Recall to Steve Lamacq’s The National Anthem all the way to requests across the station, it is a chance for the listeners to inform the flow and be involved. There are so many great features and regular slots; it means there is that direct relationship between the listener and broadcasters. Because of that, in a way, listeners get to connect with other listeners; there is a great sense of warmth and fun that emanates from the radio. BBC Radio 6 Music is digital-only now, and I wonder whether it will be an FM station – it seems to work fine as a digital station. I would encourage everyone to make BBC Radio 6 Music part of their daily rotation. It is perfect on BBC Sounds, on the commute and sounds great at home. The station is always improving and spreading its wings regarding the type of music played – I always love it when they play something a little bit ‘BBC Radio 2’ and showing that they be great and cool in many ways. Of course, the real test and explanation comes from BBC Radio 6 Music itself. In that respect, check out the station on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Most importantly, tune your dial to BBC Radio 6 Music and make it your main radio fixture… 


 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne hosts the weekday breakfast show from 7:30-10:30/PHOTO CREDIT: Independent Talent/Getty Images

FOR 2020.