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Music News

BBC Radio One is falling apart and it can only be a good thing.

BBC Radio One is falling apart and it can only be a good thing.

"It's not what our listeners want to hear. We are a contemporary music station."

Over the past couple of years, it has been an enjoyable ritual for assorted music fans to wake up every three months and read over the quarterly radio reports. Seeing Radio One’s audience wither and break away has brought us a lot of pleasure, and that’s because since the nineties, the UK’s most powerful music station has acted as kind of a evil overseer in the trend of our music industry becoming pop-centric and shallow.

Let’s backtrack for a second: the reason I started putting this article together is because I was lost on a Wikipedia hunt after watching the John Lewis Christmas advert. Feeling a little uneasy over Tom Odell’s cover, I began pondering the nuances of that oh-so tender 1996 Beatles ‘Real Love’ reunion. After digging, I found a statement published in ’96 prompted by the release of that very song. “It’s not what our listeners want to hear. We are a contemporary music station”. BBC Radio One  banned The Beatles from their playlist.

The station that had long been seen as Britain’s guardian of Pop music had banned the Beatles. They didn’t see the mop-top swinging boys of the sixties’ but rather three aging Liverpudlians whose damp piano track would cramp East 17, Peter Andre or Dodgy’s style.

This isn’t unusual behaviour for Radio One though. They annually prop up the diatribe of being a “contemporary music station” by viscerally making an example of people who have contributed to their success. The past 24 months alone have seen them declare Green Day and Muse as no longer fitting, snub Dizzee Rascal and sack their breakfast show host, Chris Moyles based not on the shortcomings of his bloated show but rather the average age of his audience. It’s like a bad parent annually setting fire to every single one of their child’s old toys on Christmas Eve to make room for the newest thing they can find in the Argos catalogue; not only are you thieving the kids of sentiment and depth, but also you’re irresponsibly endorsing disposable culture.

Whether it’s record labels under pressure to spot fickle trends and capture a spark, or songwriters knowing in their subconscious that (if they’re to make anywhere near enough to move out of their parents’ loft) they need to produce something with a “contemporary” sound. BBC Radio One’s cavalier and shallow advocacy of artists has informed the manner of our industry and has ultimately narrowed what we produce.

But what really made me smile about the downward trend in listeners for BBC Radio One is the comical contradiction between their obsession with being “contemporary” and their objectively outdated ethos. They are so scrupulous and protective about the sell-by-date of what is on the station, that it has blinded them to their biggest shortcoming: a profile of ugly, worthless gimmickry that’s as appealing to today’s youth as yoyos and Digimon.

They clearly don’t understand the options available to a music listener in 2014, and the impact that has had on the scope of listening habits. The kids aren’t huddled around their wireless doing the twist; in fact, they can stream whatever they want. And that’s why, as time goes on, only a station with more breadth can be reflective of today’s youth, and - as Radio One always make clear - without them on their side, they are nothing.


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