Proposed closure of BBC 6 Music, and why it could ruin us.
When the director general of the BBC announced the proposed closure of BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network, two UK based radio stations boasting cult followings and more programming freedom than found at any other BBC radio station, music fans from around the world were suddenly faced with the prospect of losing a very valuable resource.
To focus on one of the threatened stations, here’s a little background on 6 Music. Launched in 2002, 6 Music was a digital only station, and would prove to be an outlet for independent and alternative genres and areas of music. The much coveted Peel Sessions, a series of live music sessions recorded over 40 years for the Radio One show of the legendary John Peel, would be given another opportunity to be aired and explored. Not limiting itself to any one genre, 6 Music attracted a diverse audience in terms of age, cultural background and listening preferences, a fact perhaps overlooked by the compilers of the BBC Trust’s review proposing the closure of this cult station.
With a listener population of almost 700,000, BBC 6 Music is an extremely popular and highly regarded radio station. So now that a bit of background has been established, let’s look at the reasons why this closure could be so damaging to the music scene as we know it.
As everybody with even a slight interest in music will be aware, the industry is in trouble. In many ways, the introduction of digital music files has done great things for music - making it more readily available, easily transportable and quicker to circulate. It also has its drawbacks. Record companies are hemorrhaging money, and illegal downloading and file sharing are cutting any funding that smaller, up and coming bands would have hoped to be able to utilise.
As a result, record companies are less willing to invest in new music, meaning that independent and alternative artists are struggling more than ever before. One reliable source of income comes from royalties gathered from radio play. This is a great thing for Lady Gaga whose songs are broadcast every hour on the bigger radio stations, meaning that in the eyes of record companies, she is a more sure investment than a lesser known artist or group. As such, money that would (in previous years and musical climates) have been invested in the development of smaller, newer bands is now spent ensuring the continued success and promotion of these huge international artists. 6 Music has a different attitude. It actively searches for up and coming artists and responds to new bands by listening to and broadcasting their music, rather than tossing the demo tapes onto the ‘probably won’t make it onto A-list rotation, so why bother’ pile. These artists need the support of the radio for exposure and for income. Stations such as 6 Music play an incredibly important role in sustaining such music in a tumultuous time when these artists would otherwise disappear into silence.
One of the most encouraging things about 6 Music is the desire of the DJs to explore sounds. They are given the freedom to present their own interests, and so are truly excited by what they broadcast. They enjoy and indulge in the movements driving the music scene, as well as ensuring that their audience have a detailed historical knowledge of the paths these genres have taken. This is in stark (and refreshing) contrast to the attitudes of DJs on mainstream stations such as Radio One’s Chris Moyles, who uses his show as an outlet for his brash opinions, with no consideration of the quality or integrity of the music he broadcasts. 6 Music is important because it fights against this apathetic attitude, and takes a vested interest in encouraging the promotion of new music.
An unprecedented backlash to the proposed closure has stunned BBC bosses into reconsidering the areas in which they plan to reduce spending, and a fierce protesting campaign undertaken by the station’s fans has shown them to be incredibly dedicated and loyal. Such a display of opposition to these plans has demonstrated to these big bosses that they haven’t succeeded in completely numbing the musical senses of their listeners. 6 Music fans are pro-active, intelligent, loyal, and ready for a battle to save their station and everything it stands for.
So there we have it. The petitions have been handed to the review board, opinions have been aired and arguments articulated. The outcome of the campaign will be announced with the final review strategy plans, to be published in the summer.
If this station closes, smaller artists will lose their ability to be heard whilst record companies continue to spend millions on the image/publicity/reputation of their bigger pop stars. Can we let this happen? No. We’ll always have Lady Gagas and Miley Cyruses, pop stars will always be invested in, no matter how dire the funding situation becomes. But we can’t let this be at the expense of new, diverse, smaller groups. That’s why we need 6 Music. If the artists we hold so dear are to continue, and to make a living from what they do, we need radio stations which will highlight and expose them. Which is why us 6 Music fans will do everything in our power to make sure that our radio station doesn’t shut down, but becomes bigger, stronger and louder than ever before.