Saving 6Music is Actually Quite Important

I know there’s been a lot of chatter about this already, but I feel really strongly that we need to try and stop the closure of BBC 6Music if we can.  If you want to help, please sign both of the following petitions:

Petition FM
Go Petition

And if you’re a Facebooker, please join this group.

You can also fill in the following consultation form if you can make the time, which would also be a big help.

Equally importantly, please email srconsultation@bbc.co.uk and tell them why they should keep 6Music.

And finally, make sure you listen to the bloody station.  I can’t stress this enough.  It’s not enough to support something by moaning, and it’s not enough just to like the idea of something existing, if you want to support something you have to actually use their product, whatever that might be.  Otherwise we become these people.

So, why, in all honesty, should we do all this?  What’s the big deal, and are we just being snotty about losing 6Music because it generally played ‘our kind of music’ or is there some wider purpose beyond specific taste which the station served which should be preserved?

The answer, from me, is yes on both counts.  Firstly and most obviously, in terms of supporting the actual making of new music, across all genres, 6Music was without parallel.  By giving so much opportunity to small and emerging bands, and by using specialist DJs who could put those bands into a broader historical context, the station fulfilled a unique function in actually supporting the development of music in the UK.

In saying this am I being insulting to the BBC Introducing network, with Vic Galloway, Bethan Elfyn and Huw Stephens?  No, I don’t think so.  As good a job as they do, and as grateful as I am to the consistent support and friendship Vic has shown Song, by Toad, they simply don’t have enough time to represent the entire BBC contribution to new music.  With so little time to play stuff, the volume of submissions to time allowed ratio means that the music cannot all be reasonably listened to or played and the whole thing becomes a crap-shoot, which becomes a real barrier to good things rising to the top.  6Music has enough airtime that good stuff is likely to be picked up – it’s still far from perfect, but it’s alright.

The other point is that in ditching 6Music the Beeb would basically be abdicating any role in cultural and artistic development in the field of popular music.  They may think that fits with their charter, but I do not.  Basically, Radio One is what is already happening, and Radio Two is what was never happening.  These stations are entirely dominated by the finished article, but who is going to finish that article for them?  In the absence of 6Music there will be the shiny, professional mainstream at one end, and tiny DIY enterprises like this one at the other, and absolutely not a single bloody thing inbetween.

How the hell are you supposed to progress, to step up, to actually make that massive leap without the developmental step of 6Music, where you can start out with a couple of airplays on one show, maybe get a session on another, and hope to eventually make the step up to a Maida Vale Session and perhaps eventually some Radio1 airplay.  Take away 6Music and you have to go from the Song, by Toad podcast to Radio1 in a single leap, which is not only a ludicrous expectation, but also makes the process increasingly arbitrary, because bands develop at different rates.  Not everyone can teach themselves all the stuff required to do this without intermediary steps, and even fewer have the stamina to keep going all that way without the encouragement they provide.

So from a label or band’s perspective, this is basically a disaster.  This was the closest we had to a reasonably understandable route to establishing ourselves, and in its absence this is going to become extremely challenging.  If I wanted to be a cynical bugger about it I would look at the Toad Sessions and look at the podcasts and watch the BBC and everyone else (XFM, anyone?) abandoning this middle ground for the higher echleons of pimping finished products and I would be rubbing my hands with glee at just how much audience they are surrendering and how much artistic ground they have abandoned, ground which we can now make a concerted effort to occupy.

Ultimately, though, that just isn’t how I feel.  Getting the likes of Gideon Coe, Marc Riley and Stuart Maconie off the air is a massive loss to anyone who cares about music and, more specific to the BBC, to anyone who cares about supporting cultural development in the UK.  The BBC are paid a lot in the form of tax, and they have a public service responsibility, and as far as I am concerned cutting 6Music will represent a very significant failure to fulfil that role.

More: