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BBC 6 Music and its (alleged) secret plans

Updated: Nov 10


Those who know me, know that I've been a huge music fan all my life.

I've grown up exploring the little known vinyl in the library, taping John Peel sessions and enjoying all kinds of live music whenever possible.


When John Peel died, something in BBC radio died too. Radio 1 were playing mainstream chart, rap, dance and rave music during the day. Radio 2 played middle of the road, easy listening and soft rock. But few if any, played challenging, exciting and obscure music except in the evening when part-time music listeners were watching soap operas.

Now, I'm not saying that no one provided this diverse quality; Mark Lamarr for instance, had an amazing show called 'God's Jukebox' on Radio 2, playing music, live and recorded from all over the world, spanning almost 100 years and every genre. Sadly, this was a long time ago and Mark mysteriously disappeared under a cloud of poisonous smoke.


Roll on to 2002 and the BBC for some reason started a digital-only station for those missing this kind of music; 6 Music. Filled with DJs rich in knowledge and experience, many musicians themselves, this was a revelation. A rich cornucopia of music of all kinds, catering for those feeling lost in a clone-filled world. They weren't afraid of making you satisfyingly uncomfortable. If a song was 10 minutes long, they'd play it, without talking over it, right to the end, not fading out for the news or to talk about who was in the latest Strictly Come Dancing show. Just the thing for a muso of any age (although more likely those in their 30s and 40s).


2010, and 6 music was hugely popular among music enthusiasts and commonly hugely famous musicians who regularly took over the presenter slot. However, it was too niche, not populist enough and didn't fit in with the mainstream idea the BBC believed in. Plus the stuffed shirts in BBC management probably thought it was too full of deviants and reprobates (which is what all good music fans should be striving to be). The BBC threatened to close it. A huge public campaign later and magically they reversed the decision. This brought the station to the public eye. But again, like when John Peel died, something had changed.


There were obviously some underhand deals and decisions made to keep it open, because soon things became very unusual and not quite right.


The music started to change. In came more of the mainstream chart, rap, hip hop, dance and rave music. Out went the exciting, challenging music. Out went the experienced, knowledgeable veterans, and in came the young, diverse, slightly green DJs. With this came the talking over songs, in came the fading out of the guitar solos at the end of tracks. In came the inane streetwise banter, common to Radio 1. The complaints flooded in. These 30-50 year olds had been abandoned to Radio 2 which wasn't for real music fans. The BBC wanted a younger audience.


With all the cutbacks at the BBC these days It seems that the BBC still wants to cut back on radio stations. Turn on Radio 1 and Radio 6 during the day and tell me what the difference is? Apart from the presenters on Radio 1 mostly being louder, brasher and generally more annoying, I can't see a huge difference. Even 6 Music now seems to feel that their presenters need to be a bit more Radio 1 these days. Maybe it's the music snob in me, but one 6 Music presenter recently professed to not being familiar with Neil Young's 'Cinnamon Girl'. Come on!


So, is 6 Music is morphing into Radio 1? Are these two stations going to merge? They're almost there. Perhaps one will disappear and they'll become '1 Music' or something similar. It's pretty much there already.


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