6Music was launched as a digital radio station in part to mitigate for the forthcoming analogue switch off. In 2015 – there will be no FM radio and digital stations like 6Music help people to adjust and migrate to new digital platforms such as DAB, online streaming, podcasting and listen again functionality. The growth and popularity of so-called ‘on demand’ TV services such as the BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 4′s 4OD are categorical proof of substantial appetite out there for delineated programming; programmes that aren’t necessarily tied to a fixed slot in the schedule. Meaning people get the programmes they want – when they want. Who here listens (rather, listened) to Adam & Joe? Who was up at 9AM on a Saturday morning glued to the radio til 12PM? Or did you listen again at your desk at work, or whilst titting around in the flat in the week? Folks, the future is already here.
Amongst all the tears and facebook groups and Bowie quotes and letters to the editor from Disgruntled in Dalston and protests and celebrity tweets and column inches dedicated to it and cries of ‘cultural vandalism’ a simple message has been lost along the way: When 6Music goes off air at the end of 2011 its programming is merely going to be divided up and seeded to other areas of the BBC. It’s fair then to assume that the more distinctive shows will survive the cull whilst those that serve only to fill up space in the live schedules will be axed. 6Music, at least the bits of it that do well at doing what 6Music is meant to do will endure, the rest, justifiably, can go. Chances are, you’ll still be able to get your Adam and Joe fix, your dose of Marc Riley, a blast of Jarvis or Stuart Maconie’s excellent Freak Zone – hell you’ll probably be able to get them all at the same time of the day you would have done whilst the station was broadcasting 24-7. You’ll just have to reach for your laptop as opposed to your sideboard bound DAB.
So what does this actually mean? Essentially it means the end of 24-7 6Music. And this means daytime 6Music too. I would imagine if you’re anything approaching a sincere music fan and work somewhere where you have to share a radio with other people, having 6Music 9 til 6 everyday is something of a godsend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a station you can flick on at anytime during the day and not want to instantly hack your ears off with the nearest blunt instrument. But is 6Music as distinctive as it ought to be? Does it break new artists like it claims to between these hours? Recent new releases from Gorillaz, Vampire Weekend, Delphic, Temper Trap, Doves and Darwin Deez were all playlisted at 6Music, NME Radio, Absolute, XFM and Radio 1. How distinctive is that? And with the exception of Radio 1 – all these other stations mix up cuts from the Cure, Dylan and De La Soul between new records from the likes of Friendly Fires and The Futureheads. OK, so there are some adverts. But really, so what? Aren’t you meant to be working anyway? You can’t absorb every single minute. And in terms of breaking new acts, yes 6Music has the odd intriguing non-playlist spot play or live session on. But as the ‘Save 6Music’ Facebook campaign points out: “Even if you’ve never heard 6Music you’ll have felt it’s (sic) influence…..Breaking bands like Florence and The Machine and Mumford and Sons” Er, well whoop de fucking woo! Where would British Music be without these titans? Mass protest outside Broadcasting House NOW!
And as for the DJs, well would you really miss them? Really? To these ears, Lauren Laverne is a simpering sub media studies gabbler whose desperate attempts to crow bar high brow references into her mumsy mid morning banter are nauseatingly transparent. Nemone is virtually the same person only more gratingly chummy. She might have been snowboarding / raving / to a festival at some point you know (wink wink) and by God is she going to allude to it. Furthermore no self respecting radio station should ever employ a host whose name sounds like something you’d need your GP to blowtorch off your bum crack. As for Lammo. Dude, wake up and smell the dry roasted peanuts. This is not the Good Mixer and it’s not 1996. Good day/Bad day? STILL GOING? It’s like the Indie ‘Our Tune’. Bland bland bland. And at the weekend? Liz Kershaw? Clare McDonnell? What do these shows actually DO beyond playing the same old mix of old and new indie disco records with the odd Peel session thrown in the keep the musos quiet? And don’t get me started on George Fucking Lamb, the man who really killed 6Music. Dave Pearce’s Dance Anthem’s? DAVE PEARCE’S DANCE ANTHEMS?!?!?!?! You’re having a fucking laugh!!!!
This is the problem. 6Music is good. But it’s not good enough. It’s distinctive but it’s not distinctive enough. Imagine the time, money and resources that could be freed up by scrapping all of this pointless clutter, the daytime indie-fluff and night shift gumpf. What could the BBC do with the cash saved by scrapping costly live transmissions DAB bandwidth? Might it be able to to probe further, to break more new music? Radio 1 already hosts some fantastic, prismatic specialist shows that pick up more ‘listen again’ listeners than they do live listeners. Rob Da Bank and Mary-Annne Hobbes, Annie Nightingale all broadcast at silly’o'clock but have listeners raving round their desks and living rooms the whole week through. 6Music in a delineated form could do the same maybe hosting shows that played, you know, house and techno, or dubstep, or garage, or real leftfield indie, or experimental electronica, or global pop, or forward thinking hip hop, or nu soul, or nu disco?
Leave the tedious archive stuff to Radio 2 and 3. Leave the all day indie disco to the commercial stations. Scrap all the shows that do nothing and say nothing and put the cash back into promoting delineated programmes that will speak to minorities and musical tribes that need greater representation. Programmes that will reach desperate ears looking for new sounds to identify with. Shows that will grow new scenes, new talent and tread untrodden paths. For a station that purports to uphold the legacy of John Peel, 6Music actually does very little of this. Is anyone out there quivering under the bedsheets secretly listening to Gideon Coe Desperately waiting for something to transport them out of their tiny provincial town and into a new musical universe? Somehow I doubt it. In the words of one 6Music repeat offender, “Rip it up and start again.”