FEATURE: Blueberries for Breakfast: Why Record Listener Figures at BBC Radio 6 Music Shows There Is an Appetite for the Personal Touch




Blueberries for Breakfast

PHOTO CREDIT: @brookelark/Unsplash 

Why Record Listener Figures at BBC Radio 6 Music Shows There Is an Appetite for the Personal Touch


ONE can forgive me treading over old ground...

because, for one thing, there is great news regarding my favourite radio station. In fact, stations across the BBC have benefited from the publication of the RAJAR figures – collating trends and listener figures from the first quarter of this year. I have penned articles regarding various BBC Radio 6 Music presenters and talent but, as there is a bubbling sense of pride in the camp, I thought it would be good to add my say. It seems that there is a great hunger for the breakfast shows of some seriously great BBC Radio 6 Music talent: Lauren Laverne (weekdays) and RadMac (Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, weekends) have 1.28 million listeners and 761,000 respectively. Before I reveal why I am excited BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show hosts are finding new fans, here is an article from the BBC that lays out the facts:

Rajar data shows schedule changes on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music have been really well received by audiences, with Zoe Ball hosting the most listened to breakfast show in the UK (9.05m weekly listeners) and a record for Lauren Laverne’s new breakfast show on 6 Music with 1.28m listeners (up 197,000 since last quarter and 161,000 on last year).

·         Latest Rajar data shows a great start for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show with a steady audience of over 9m tuning in to the UK’s most listened to breakfast show

·         A record 1.28m listeners to Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show on 6 Music, and a record for Radcliffe and Maconie's weekend breakfast show with a weekly reach of 761,000



·         Continuing the good news for our female breakfast hosts, there has been a record 441,000 (10+) listeners to The 1Xtra Breakfast Show With Dotty

·         The latest quarterly figures also show an increase in listeners for Radio 4 to over 11m, BBC Radio 3 to over 2m and BBC Radio 5 live to 5.4m, all up compared to previous quarter and last year

·         The proportion of BBC radio listening on digital platforms has increased to its highest share: 53.9% from 50% in the same quarter last year

Radcliffe and Maconie's weekend breakfast show had a record 761,000 listeners, up 95,000 on quarter and 107,000 on year. Both stations have seen increases overall since last quarter: Radio 2 has 15.36m weekly listeners and 6 Music has 2.52m.

James Purnell, Director of BBC Radio and Education, says: “The refreshed line up on Radio 2 and 6 Music breakfast shows has proved hugely popular with audiences and it’s brilliant to see some record listener numbers too. It’s been an incredible team effort with our talented presenters and their production teams hitting the ground running and bringing joy to millions of listeners in the morning. It shows yet again the importance of BBC radio in the daily lives of the 34 million people who tune in each week.

"This quarter we’ve also seen the highest proportion of people listening to radio on digital platforms, including online and on apps, as well as increased numbers in the UK listening to podcasts each week, and I’m delighted listeners are discovering our much loved content however suits them.”

All BBC radio’s weekly reach over the period was 34.44m (33.97m last quarter and 35.01m last year) and a share of 51.4% (50.9% last quarter and 51.9% last year)”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music  

I think it is great that there seems to be this rise in listeners across the board. I am a fan of D.J.s like Zoe Ball - and I feel they do terrific work. I am a huge fan of BBC Radio 6 Music and do all I can to promote it to people and spread the word. To be fair, I do not need to do much to get the station to new lands! The sheer passion, talent and commitment from the presents, producers and everyone at the station makes it a must-listen. Mary Anne Hobbs – who presents mid-mornings during the week – and Chris Hawkins (who has the early shift during the week and the weekends; the man never stops!) have seen a rise in listeners and they are providing something genuinely wonderful. What is the reason behind a rise in figures that, I hope, means pay rises might be in order! I love D.J.s like Hobbs and Hawkins and, in fact, everyone at BBC Radio 6 Music has a dedicated following and, throughout 2019, will keep their listeners and bring in new ones. It is the warmth and passion for music, old and new, that means we – the serious music lovers – are make sure BBC Radio 6 Music follows us through the day. It would be unfair of me to just say that the breakfast show hosts are putting the station on the map: everyone who we hear at BBC Radio 6 Music makes the station such a brilliant and unique proposition!

Big congratulations to all on the station that have experienced a boost in listener figures but, again, I nod to Lauren Laverne and RadMac. These presenters have the unenviable and difficult task of not only making themselves appear awake and focused at that early hour but ensure we are all taken care of. It is near-impossible finding the enthusiasm to get to work and being energised. During the weeks, at 07:30, we can tune in to Laverne and her team and know that we are in safe hands! I have been looking at some tweets she posted after the news broke and there is one thing that stands out: the fact radio seems to be in very rude health a century after it arrived in the world. One would think the days of streaming and the Internet means we are either too distracted or impatient to embrace radio and embrace curiosity. I think, as BBC Radio 6 Music is a digital station, it means that it appeals to those on the go and listening from their phones. There are also those who have digital radios and love to listen from the comfort of their homes. It would be amazing to think just how big and popular the station could be if it was not digital-only! I have been following Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show since the start (this January) and she has taken to the new role with aplomb and natural grace. Not only does she give us a great kick and smile to brighten the day but she plays fantastic music and has tremendous features.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne/PHOTO CREDIT: Music for Dementia 2020

She is one of the best D.J.s on radio and seems to get stronger by the week! Not only is she helming Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 but she is also the Ambassador for Music for Dementia 2020 but she was recently named Broadcaster of the Year at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. She and her team also won an award and it seems like this a huge purple patch for Laverne. Only just in her forties, it is scary to think how much she can do on radio and what she can accomplish! Not only does she have a young family but she also gives talks and, well, is this motivational force that never seems to tire! I love her breakfast show during the week and am not surprised the listener figures are strong and rising. With terrific features – including House Music and Cloudbusting; Social Recall and The Maths of Life with Dr. Hannah Peel – there is this personal and eclectic show that beautifully laces these features around the best music you’ll hear. Laverne is dedicated to supporting rising artists and you just know that, away from work, she lives and breathes music. Long may her reign continue and, as I say, there seems to be limits where she can go and what she can do!

 IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Radcliffe (left) and Stuart Maconie (right) with Joy Division’s Stephen Morris/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

The other breakfast show hosts, RadMac moved from their loved and popular afternoon slot this year and I was among the hordes of people who were confused why they had been moved. They were a bit miffed when they were moved but, in fact, they have taken to weekend breakfasts instantly and they are the perfect way to get us rising and pumping. Their natural chemistry and incredible humour means that new listeners are tuning in at the weekends and turning on to radio. I do love T.V. but I think radio provides something you cannot get from T.V. – a more personal touch and a connection that seems pure and physical. Like Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie have a great passion for all sorts of music and they are brilliant at starting our days with a bang! We all love the weekend and it is a massive testament to the powers of RadMac that they have pulled such an audience! RadMac have seen most of their afternoon supporters follow them to breakfast and, in the process, struck the ears of new discoverers. Again, like Laverne, there are great features – The (long-running) Chain and Sampled Underfoot are excellent and a reason to tune into their weekend show. The Chain means listeners can talk with RadMac and offer a song suggestion. I suggest you tune into the show to get a full sense of what they are about and why you should tune in! There were fears that the duo would split given their move or there was tension among them. In fact, they have never sounded stronger and the listeners can feel that.

Lauren Laverne, as I say, has crafted these great features and she seems like a fish in water at breakfast. She has a great team behind her but the verve and excitement she puts out every morning in infectious. Maybe RadMac are a little lower in terms of energy but their witty and knowledgeable style of presenting definitely sticks in the mind. I think BBC Radio 6 Music has found a perfect blend and has terrific breakfast shows. We all have a great reason to love radio and, with every passing week, more and more people are either abandoning their phones to listen or are making it a regular part of their lives. This is all exciting and, whilst all the other BBC shows that have seen their ratings rise should be congratulated, it is BBC Radio 6 Music that goes from strength-to-strength and is shaping up to be this alternative icon. It was only a few years ago the station was faced with closure and, since then, they have grown bigger and more secure. Let’s hope that the station is secure and they continue to improve. There are some great women I could think of that would be great at the station; some occasional hosts that should be moved full-time and show ideas that would give BBC Radio 6 Music ground in new lands and territories. Right now, they do not need my advice – or ever – and I am delighted the RAJAR figures that have just come out prove there is an appetite for radio.


From the brilliant Shaun Keaveny and Gilles Peterson to the aforementioned Chris Hawkins and Mary Anne Hobbs, there is a wealth of talent at BBC Radio 6 Music that is proving to be irresistible to those who love great music – who might be bored of the commercial options and know just what BBC Radio 6 Music can provide. That breakfast zest and nourishment that we get, during the week, from Lauren Laverne and RadMac (at the weekends) is essential and shows no signs of leaving us. I think both shows – and all other shows on the station – will improve and expand through the year…and there is this new army that are discovering radio and its power. So long after its invention, we still love the radio and, I don’t know, I think there is something strangely addictive and comforting. It is hard to put into words but who cares really! Huge kudos to all those who have felt the benefit of the new RAJAR figures and, if we have learned anything from the announcement, it is that radio is in no danger of declining. If you have not listened to Lauren Laverne and RadMac’s breakfast shows – and all the other great shows on the station – they get involved because I know you’ll love it! There is something about radio that gets into the blood and makes us feel better. We might never speak to or meet these wonderful D.J.s but they feel like friends; part of the furniture and family that we could not do without. As some pretty bold and impressive listener figures prove, great radio is…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

DEFINITELY on the rise.