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Why, With a Few Tweaks and Additions, the Glorious BBC Radio 6 Music Could Become a World-Beating Station
THERE are no real negatives here…
but, as BBC Radio 6 Music is my favourite radio station out there and one that continues to give me inspiration, I feel like it could hit unbeatable heights. RAJAR figures released recently suggest that more listeners than ever are heading the way of BBC Radio 6 Music! Like a political swing, I am not sure where the votes have come from and which parties are losing out – who cares really when you have lots of new ears listening in?! I guess a few people would have been fresh to radio: a bit bored and unmoved by other BBC stations and, in the arms of 6, here is a much more complex, voluptuous and attractive option. I feel like there has been a move (of people) from BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 1 and, given the music is more diverse and strong on BBC Radio 6 Music, there has been this swell in figures. I think there are some ways BBC Radio 6 Music can go from where it is now to an even bigger monster but, just today, I have heard news of some welcomed developments. I was a little against the idea of guest presenters joining the station – whether they would have the same authority and music depth as the D.J.s who currently work there – but, over time, I have realised that they (the guests) add a sense of variation and spark. It has been announced by the BBC that a couple of new voices will be joining the station on a temporary basis:
“Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman will be joining BBC Radio 6 Music for a run of Sunday afternoon shows.
They will be hosting their own shows, covering Guy Garvey’s 2-4pm slot whilst he is on an extended break working on his next album. Cillian Murphy has been presenting the show since March, with his final programme on 2 June.
IN THIS PHOTO: Comedian and actor Rob Delaney will soon be joining BBC Radio 6 Music to present his own Sunday show/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Rob Delaney says: “I’m thrilled to be presenting on BBC Radio 6 Music. Whether you listen to music while you make dinner, widgets or perhaps even love, I hope you’ll do so to my powerful rhythms.”
Cillian Murphy says: “Thanks so much to everyone at 6 Music, all the listeners, and especially Guy Garvey, for giving me the chance to play some music on the best radio station in the world. I had a splendid time. Looking forward to tuning in to the brilliant Rob Delaney.”
Paul Rodgers, Head of 6 Music, says: "Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman are both fantastic talents so I’m delighted they will be joining 6 Music, where they can bring their love of music to our Sunday afternoons. I’d like to thank Cillian Murphy, who has done a great job sitting in for Guy Garvey since since March - listeners have loved tuning in to him."
Rob Delaney will be on air from 9 June - 7 July, with Martin Freeman presenting from 14 July - 4 August. The shows will also be available on BBC Sounds.
6 Music regularly welcomes guest presenters such as Neneh Cherry, Courtney Barnett, First Aid Kit, Patti Smith, Spike Lee, Russell Crowe, Roisin Murphy, Norman Jay, Sam Mendes, Skinny Pelembe, Michael Kiwanuka and Daman Albarn. And the Wise Women at Christmas – where each year, three women present shows featuring their own music choices and pick highlights from the 6 Music archive - have included Sharon Horgan, Jodie Whittaker, St Vincent, Alison Goldfrapp and Laura Marling”.
IMAGE CREDIT: fendri
I do love the idea of musicians and actors joining the BBC Radio 6 Music family and I think, outside of the Sunday slot, there are not a lot of opportunities. I am not suggesting a load of new shows be opened up but think about some of the previous talent that has added something remarkable to the station – including Laura Marling and Damon Albarn. Given the fact there are some shows looking a little tired on the station, I feel like adding new voices is a great way to bring BBC Radio 6 Music to new audiences. The fact these high-profile actors/personalities have masses of fans ensures BBC Radio 6 Music is taken to heart by a new audience and reaches around the world. So long as there is not a huge dependence on celebrities regarding shows, I feel like even more people will come to the station and stay put. It is a shame the likes of Cillian Murphy and Rob Delaney cannot stay put because, together with the more conventional presenters on the station, it would make this rich and rewarding cocktail. I am not sure what BBC Radio 6 Music has planned regarding its Sunday shows – and whether there is more room for guest D.J.s – but there are many more names I, and many others, would like to see coming to the station. There is something else interesting that came from the BBC Press Office regarding BBC Radio 6 Music.
IN THIS PHOTO: Don Letts (a.k.a. ‘The Rebel Dread’)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It is great that the army of listeners behind BBC Radio 6 Music keeps growing and bringing in new recruits:
“Now with a reach of 2.52m listeners (Rajar Q1, 2019), 6 Music is the largest digital-only music station in the UK. It celebrates the alternative spirit of music and culture, bringing together the cutting-edge music of today and the iconic and ground-breaking sounds of the past 50 years. 6 Music’s presenting line up are Amy Lamé, Cerys Matthews, Chris Hawkins, Craig Charles, Don Letts, Gideon Coe, Gilles Peterson, Guy Garvey, Huey Morgan, Iggy Pop, Lauren Laverne, Liz Kershaw, Marc Riley, Mark Radcliffe, Mary Anne Hobbs, Matt Everitt, Nemone, Shaun Keaveny, Steve Lamacq, Stuart Maconie, Tom Ravenscroft and Tom Robinson”.
There are so many reasons why BBC Radio 6 Music continues to flourish. Everyone who works at the station is passionate about what they do; there is a loyalty and commitment that is good to see – how many D.J.s have left over the past decade? Nobody wants to go anywhere and I do think things are very bright for the station. The music is brilliant and it offers a diversity the likes of BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 1 does not. It would be nice to see a bit more risk from some shows but, on the whole, there is a huge range. I am not a fan of the playlists in general because, when it comes to certain songs, they are rinsed to death.
I used to, genuinely, love Little Simz’s 101 FM but, inexplicably, it was played far too much and it made me sour on the song – other tracks get the same attention and it can be grating and unnecessary. I think there is a chance for BBC Radio 6 Music to include more underground artists. D.J.s like Mary Anne Hobbs are always looking to promote upcoming acts but I still think there is still too much reliance on those artists higher up the chain. There are so many underground artists that would benefit from a bit of a nod from BBC Radio 6 Music and, whilst the station does have a show series dedicated to the best new music, it could go further still. I think the balance between old-new is pretty good but, yeah, maybe a little bit of extra space in the schedule for the best brand-new material could well give BBC Radio 6 Music an additional boost and level.
IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 6 Music's 'signing wall' from Glastonbury 2010/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC
We have some great Internet radio stations that do a sterling job in this respect but there are terrific artists who would benefit from the kudos of a BBC Radio 6 Music thumbs-up. I am full of love regarding BBC Radio 6 Music’s tastes and how many artists I have discovered through them. That is the best part of the station: the incredible sounds we hear every day makes us all happier and more enriched. The record listening figures show BBC Radio 6 Music is heading in the right direction and keen to conquer all. I would like to see Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie back on weekdays because, as we can hear from their weekend show, they are fantastic and I do think they could make a huge impact on afternoons – maybe taking the 4 p.m. slot.
IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne poses with Jarvis Cocker/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music
I have no sway when it comes to the line-up but I know people want Radcliffe and Maconie back during the week and it would bring even more people in. Lauren Laverne’s appointment as breakfast show host has not only brought in awards (at least a couple) but she has attracted record listeners. I do hope she gets a pay rise and there are opportunities for her to expand on the station. She is someone who, one feels, has a lot of great ideas for shows/segments and, given the fact she is presenting BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, she has a lot of pull right now. Whereas one can hear a lot of documentaries and specialist shows on BBC Radio 4, is there a gap in the BBC Radio 6 Music schedule? One of the downsides regarding a station where there are regular programmes and strict guidelines is the fact that there is a relative lack of spontaneity. I think it was Radcliffe and Maconie, when they did weekdays, who used to do a Classic Album of the Day segment. I am not sure whether that has moved to another timeslot but there are music bookmarks not quite as prominent as they should be. Whereas more upcoming artists would add richness to BBC Radio 6 Music’s playlist, I feel like classic albums are not given the time they deserve. Hip-Hop classics such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication have/are celebrating big anniversaries this year – the former turned thirty earlier in the year whilst the latter is twenty-five on 31st May.
Weekender Huey Morgan has marked both albums but it is a shame that both albums have been confined to the weekend. Having a classic album featured during the week would mean more songs could be played and it would give various BBC Radio 6 audiences to experience them. There are other albums that get mentioned on the BBC Radio 6 Music feed and get some interaction. I feel all the major albums celebrating big anniversaries warrant more oxygen and exposure. It means people who remember the albums first time around get that blast of nostalgia but, more importantly, new listeners and younger people can experience them for the first time. In fact, there are huge albums that warrant their own show/segment because they do not get a load of airplay normally – sort of doing a Classic Albums segment would be great. There are a lot of ideas/sides of music that would benefit from a BBC Radio 6 Music spin – The Sony Walkman is forty on 1st July; there are themes and discussion topics that are normally covered on BBC Radio 4 but seem better for BBC Radio 6 Music. From the golden age of Hip-Hop to women in music, I think there is an opportunity for the station to mix the best of BBC Radio 4 and bring it to their door. I am sure there are other great features/documentaries that would be perfect in the hands of the great presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music.
IN THIS PHOTO: The excellent and always-reliable Jon Hilcock is a regular on BBC Radio 6 Music but one wonders when he will get his own slot/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The station does have some great features/bespoke shows but they are predominantly on the weekends. How about a Desert Island Discs-like interview show where a musician talks exclusively about their musical tastes and we get a much closer look? It would sort of be like Gemma Cairney’s Leisure Society but deeper and broader. On the subject of presenters, there are those on the station that deserve their own slot. Jon Hilcock is an excellent presenters but, for the most part, covers for others. Tom Ravenscroft is a brilliant curator and fan of new music – like his father, the late John Peel – and it seems a shame he is not more prominent and permanent. In terms of the weekend, there is that chance for people like Rob Delaney and Martin Freeman to become permanent; new features to come in and these documentary-type shows to bring even more diversity to the station.
IN THIS PHOTO: We Are Family: Shaun Keaveny, Steve Lamacq; Mary Anne Hobbs and Lauren Lavern/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music
There are very few women on the station and, largely, they are on weekends – Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs are two of BBC Radio 6 Music’s finest presenters and prove why there should be more women on the station. How about a permanent show for Georgie Rogers? She is someone who has a clear passion and talent and could bring her flair and hunger to BBC Radio 6 Music. It would be great to see more women brought in to the station and, aside from a few line-up shifts – RadMac back to weekdays; more time on air for Craig Charles and given presenters like Lauren Laverne more say/time – there is not a lot one can add. These are little hints and suggestions because, in reality, getting that ‘perfect blend’ is pretty subject and can be incredibly tricky. It is not just the on-air talent that makes BBC Radio 6 Music so essential: the hugely important and hard-working producers and staff that make sure everything runs smoothly are the heroes that do not really get the credit they deserve. Massive respect to all of them!
IN THIS PHOTO: Should room be made for Craig Charles to bring his patented Funk and Soul blends to daytime weekdays?/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Every huge music fan – myself included – dreams of presenting their own show on BBC Radio 6 Music because it has that tight-knit feel and one can play (largely) whatever music they want. I wonder how much autonomy presenters get regarding the music played and whether the likes of Shaun Keaveny (weekday afternoons) and Chris Hawkins (the man who takes good care of early mornings) are able to suggest songs to play. I know producers and the station have the biggest say regarding music played but you always get the sense that, if big names such as Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs were given more of a split regarding the sounds featured, their shows would be even stronger; providing them with their own features/shows outside of their regular slots (both would put together great documentaries and ideas) would also strengthen BBC Radio 6 Music. The station is digital-only and, whilst this is a great thing, I wonder how many listeners from the U.S. and Australia listen in. I know time differences are a bugger but there is BBC Sounds and I feel like there are territories and regions that are missing BBC Radio 6 Music. The social media feed of the station does a great job getting the good word around the world but there is this opportunity to really hit the international market.
I think BBC Radio 6 Music has the potential to be more popular and well-known than BBC Radio 2 around the world. Because BBC Radio 6 Music is digital, it has that flexibility: one does not need an F.M. radio and there is this chance to seize and really get the BBC Radio 6 Music brand around the world. I will finish on all the positives and good vibes of BBC Radio 6 Music but, aside from the need for more women at the station, is it time for some younger blood to come into some of the shows that are going through the motions; maybe filling in on some of the later shifts? The Guardian’s Laura Snapes, when assessing the line-up change announcements last year, noted how there are few ‘younger’ presenters and, in terms of diversity, other stations are ahead:
“…The average age of its 22 DJs is 52. Only one is under 40 – Tom Ravenscroft, at 38. For all its praiseworthy emphasis on new music (apparently a key doubling-down of the reshuffle), 6 Music struggles to introduce new presenters because it relies on stable brands – largely pegged to the very white history of British indie culture – rather than minting new stars.
There’s no shortage of potential 6 Music DJs: Jon Hillcock has been filling in on the station for years with one of the most inclusive and inquisitive new music shows going, yet has never progressed to a regular slot. A DJ like 1Xtra’s omnivorous Jamz Supernova would fit well, as would NTS’s Bullion, and they could do more with Huw Stephens than Radio 1 make of him. I’m surprised they’ve not poached the fairly new but eminently adept Matt Wilkinson from Beats 1, nor opened up their cohort of musicians to younger performers: off the top of my head, Lily Allen, Dev Hynes, MIA, Metronomy’s Joe Mount and Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan would all create.
Clearly 6 Music’s remit is one the commercial sector can’t fill: Capital isn’t poaching their talent, nor the lad-centric Radio X, nor TV. Though that speaks as much to the problem as the positives. Like Radio 2, 6 Music is a cultural endpoint with no clear next step for the majority of its older presenters. It trades in comfort and familiarity, new versions of old sounds, rather than pursuing a genuine cultural “alternative spirit”. The “alternative” it celebrates is the mainstream – look no further than David Cameron’s festival selfies for proof. In essence, 6 is the old Radio 1 evening slot writ large for people who, due to jobs and kids, can no longer listen to the radio between 7pm and midnight. Sloughing off older presenters would force listeners of a certain age to reckon with their identity – and mortality – and the fact that what was once their youthful alternative now simply … isn’t”.
I do think that giving a few late-evening/night slots to new presenters – not interfering with the regular line-up – would allow more balance in terms of age – and, hopefully, gender and race. I think the fact there are these long-lasting presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music gives it that stability and keeps the audiences locked in. A few little touches and changes would not rock the boat but it would allow some diversity and flexibility; some great features/documentaries would add new listeners and ensuring more women come to the station would give BBC Radio 6 Music an edge over a lot of the other BBC stations; being less reliant on playlists and giving more space to underground artists and classic albums would also be a good step - so many huge albums and great moments in music are given a fleeting glance on social media on brief mention on the air.
It seems that, with huge figures coming in and presenters such as RadMac and Lauren Laverne hitting new heights, BBC Radio 6 Music hardly needs my recommendations! Clearly, it is doing something right and there are a number of reasons behind the success. The music is fantastic and a lot more eclectic than most of the radio brands out there – many reliant on the charts or narrow demographics. If the line-up on BBC Radio 6 Music is not exactly diverse regarding age, gender and race, that does allow for a certain experience to come through. The fact these presenters have worked in radio for years/decades has provided them with that Midas touch that other stations lack – one cannot say BBC Radio 6 Music lacks coolness and credibility. From Liz Kershaw to Tom Robinson through to Steve Lamacq, Chris Hawkins; Cerys Matthews, Gideon Coe and Marc Riley…all these people make the magic bubble and the wheels turn. I love all of them and, really, hope they stay where they are for many years to come. It would be good to see a few of the bigger artists have their back catalogues opened up more – there are songs from the likes of The Beatles and David Bowie that have never/rarely been played - but it would be unfair to criticise the range of music played on the station. There is room for new shows/regular features but, again, that is beyond my powers and those listening. I am sure the BBC Radio 6 Music faithful have ideas regarding making the station even stronger and, as they are the ones helping make it the must-listen-to brand, maybe they could make BBC Radio 6 Music even stronger.
IN THIS PHOTO: Cerys Matthews’ Sunday show is one of the most eclectic on BBC Radio 6 Music/PHOTO CREDIT: Rick Pushinsky
To me – and millions out there – BBC Radio 6 Music is a safe haven and hub that provides warmth, great music and reliable voices we have followed for years. Each presenter has their own tone and style and that means everyone can find something to enjoy. With daily music news – Matt Everitt delivers the music news on Shaun Keaveny’s show (but is there room for a music news presenter on breakfast or later in the day?) – we get informed as well as enlightened and, ever year, there is the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival. The station is definitely growing and the listeners have chances to join in and be part of the shows – from Laverne’s People’s Playlist to RadMac’s The Chain, the doors are always open! If the station gave a few more props to some of the big music events/anniversaries and tweaked here and there, I think it would be an unbeatable and unstoppable radio machine. I know for a fact the station is encouraging D.J.s to get into the business and become more ambitious; artists are being buoyed by having their music played and people who were feeling uninspired by other radio stations, finally, have this salvation and new home. Big RAJAR figures and new records means that BBC Radio 6 Music is throwing out this rare and special scent the people need in their lives. It seems strange that this is the same station that was threatened with closure a few years ago –let’s hope the BBC have learned from that mistake and dare not go near that well ever again! Long may the reign and rule of BBC Radio 6 Music continue because, for so many out there, they make lives…
SO much brighter.