Playlisted to death & Peel vs the Playlist

A few days ago there was a flurry on twitter as BBC Radio 1 live twittered this week’s Playlist meeting. What was said was very revealing and I think revealed a lot about where I think Radio 1 has gone wrong, especially as there really isn’t the same 80’s style monoculture anymore – the feeling is that the station especially with it’s daytime programming where the playlist holds sway is still in an 80’s mindset.

First point is one of the tweets revealed they rejected a song because it didn’t have a video. Excuse me? This is RADIO. There are NO pictures…if a song is good, why should it matter that there is a video or marketing clout behind it? Unless – coming to point two – they are beholden as a public broadcaster to selling records and the big 4 record companies – another song was rejected because it was 5 weeks from release…why does release dates matter for a publicly funded corporation? It should be playing music that’s new and current (well not so new, they were talking about a Drake song from early 2009, and I’ve been told get companies to re-release singles so they can claim ‘exclusives’ hence some of the playlist being less than new).

The existence of a corporate record label marketing push shouldn’t have any bearing on a public radio station for young people – that’s what the commercial stations do. It’s very strange that the BBC apes the commercial sector, ignoring the very important fact that they aren’t the same and need to make themselves different as that’s the best way to stop attacks on the license fee, innovate not replicate – the latter might get short term audience but undermines the very special nature of the BBC.

This leads me to point 3 – why have a playlist at all? The repetition of Radio 1 of about 8-16 songs per hour is why I stopped listening to it…not because I hated pop music (although the existence of crap like Olly Murs and Taylor Swift belie a Cowellisation of pop music, then again it was ever thus and Radio 1 has always played crap with the good stuff – thing is they seem to be deferring to mostly safe choices…it was only in the last few years have drum and bass and dubstep – not the newest of genres both – made the A list, at least since the mid 90’s anyway for drum and bass) and ignoring a lot of the newer music for a false niche demographic like NME does.

Playlists are there to keep the sponsors – the station investors and advertisers happy. Advertisers like a bland consistent wall of sound with no shocks, a set of consistent brand values to market against…predicatability. The record companies love them too as they get their song drilled into people’s head every hour if they get on the list – but that very repetitive nature gets annoying and also fosters passive sheep nature in the audience…if the soft droning or thumping noise in the background muzak stays the same, then they can keep chewing the cud. It’s when that hypnostate is disrupted that problems happen – or not a problem, because again and again great art has come from the shock of the new.

So as an example from 1993 that shows this disruption in action, here I’ve tagged and reposted to a more reliable filesharing site the week in April 1993 when John Peel took over the Jakki Brambles Lunchtime Show. I was listening to Radio 1 but missed this (I did religiously listen to and partly tape the New Order to Order weekend trailed throughout as I remember) and found it recently over at the John Peel Wiki. It wasn’t tagged properly and had no artwork and was on the frankly awful sMegaupload so here it is on Mediafire as zip files for each day.

Great music, great talk but some very funny exchanges with the audience most liking the show but some of which want ‘REAL MUSIC’ as John points out – what is that? It does seem to be Simply fucking Red *puke* and some frosty handovers with Ooh Gary Davis which I suspect has some wonderful backstory I don’t know the details of. Classic, and in parts pure comedy and pointed discussion.

Listen and realise this is what Radio 1 daytime COULD be like – yup german/belgian techno, indie, rock, metal, boogie-woogie, soul, punk, jazz…it’s obvious John is playing a more pop-centred set than his usual show and has to play some of the playlist much to his chagrin and sometimes not-veiled disgust – but really I’d prefer something like this, it would lure me back to Radio 1 from 6Music (who have their own issues around playing far too many nu-golden oldies for my liking, but better). If you liked the Strummer World Service shows, you’ll love these – and from the news to the tracks (MIA is aping like Apache Indian nowadays) not much has changed.

Big thanks to John Peel Wiki and K for the files.

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