Quality Drama. Royal Opera House. Radio4. The Times. Latitude festival. Factory Records. Radiohead. Tate Modern. Edinburgh Festival. These are some of the things that make Britain Great. There is more, of course. Much more.
There’s also Eastenders, Billy Elliot The Musical, daytime radio, Hugh Grant, Hello magazine and N-Dubz. All are also done well here. And very popular they are too.
You might be feeling the S word here circling high in your mind. Snobbery? Probably.
There’s higher culture and lower culture, art and entertainment. I like both, me. I pick and choose. It depends on your mood, doesn’t it?
Same with music radio. One the one hand there’s avant garde, envelope-busting, challenging music and on the other hand there’s most daytime radio. I haven’t got time for either really. The avant garde is necessarily a bit unlistenable/difficult and daytime commercial radio is aural wallpaper for those who are less considerably picky and like a nice constant drum beat to row too.
I would be sad to see either of them disappear though.
So I am a bit of a snob. Sue me. Music is that important to me. It is not wallpaper but nor is it an assault course. I run a record label. I seek out new music every day. Most of it appals me. Really, though. The pearls that you come across more than make it worthwhile.
I do it because I care. I love it. Couldn’t live without it.
And I don’t usually buy or like the mass marketed tat that emanates from the major labels. Colourful, cross-platform media-literate eye-candy entities do not make great records any more than they write good books, as a rule. Nor do I usually buy or like irritatingly glitchy, avant-garde atom-splitting racket records.
You can tell where this is going, I am sure.
Pop music is not a minority interest clearly. Hence Radio1’s pre-eminence. But neither is good pop music. Better pop music. Let’s use “pop” here as the blanket term your grandma uses. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zep, Ramones, Bowie, Duran Duran, Public Enemy, Nirvana, REM, Gorillaz, Muse, Animal Collective, LCD Soundsystem. All part of pop music’s rich canon.
And just as important as classical jazz and opera.
6 Music is the only station that you can listen to in the daytime (and the evening) that doesn’t treat you like a moron and play the same 15 records over and over. It actively, enthusiastically and discerningly supports interesting new music and educates the listener about the enormous cultural history of great pop music from the sixties to the present.
There is only one way this arises. It is only from employing people who are both passionate and knowledgeable.
That is unique. And that is worth preserving.
It also provides one of the most important ways of hearing so very many independent record companies’ acts; and thus is vital to their livelihood. And not just the indies, it champions the good, nascent major label signings. And it is taken very seriously by the music industry. It supports Britain’s music industry in no small way and that support is reciprocated. It is not seen as a junior partner. All acts, big and small pass through its doors. All acts of note, that is. All acts of quality.
Quality is not a word I am totally comfortable with because it is so subjective. And so very very misused and misconstrued.
That said, I do like a debate; so let me say it. 6 Music plays music of quality. And distinction.
And it is this appreciation and support of things of quality that gives Britain its unassailable reputation worldwide. The medium that so much of that quality comes through is the BBC. If the BBC just pursues ratings then it need only have one radio channel. It doesn’t though. It pursues quality and finds a balance between that quality and popularity.
What I’d like to see is the promotion of 6 Music to a broadcast FM station. The digital switchover, promised to happen some years back, is clearly fraught with huge difficulties. Anyone whose TV Set Top Box loses channels whenever it starts raining, knows that this is the elephant in the room of broadcasting.
I don’t think 6 Music should be given a chance. It doesn’t need it. It has proved itself. Cherish it and support it and give it full FM status. Be proud of it, Mr Thompson.
I urge you all to make some noise about this.
It is important.
David Laurie | Something In Construction Records