The weekend is here, and we come once more to my famously dangerous Weekend Blogs, in which I take advantage of a slightly reduced readership to express some mildly controversial opinions. Today I’d like to express a mildly controversial opinion on the scrapping of 6Music, a subject which has animated me and many of my contemporaries over the past couple of weeks. And by ‘animated’ I mean we’ve been pretty scathing about it on Twitter, signed a petition, and some of us even wrote to the BBC or The Times. Which, in this depoliticised age, is the equivalent of a previous generation setting fire to something or marching on Parliament.
Now it should go without saying that I’m opposed to closing 6Music, like almost everyone I know who’s ever listened to it, but - crucially – unlike the Director-General. The reasons have been well covered by other people: it’s the BBC’s best, most interesting music radio station, representing cutting-edge music where the likes of Radio 1 suck up to the Saturdays; it’s not right to close a station because it offers unacceptable competition to commerical channels, as has been absurdly claimed; its entire budget is the same as the BBC pisses away on people to write Jonathan Ross’s monologues, or wax Graham Norton’s face. And so on. And more worryingly still it’s a slippery slope: if the BBC sets this precedent, what other assets will it sell off or throw away once the Tories come to power? As I say, I’m in agreement with all these arguments and I would strongly recommend adding your voice to the dissent, writing to the BBC Trust, pretending you also care about the Asian Network, whatever it takes to at least make sure this isn’t done lightly.
It does seem to me that the whole idea of ‘music radio’ is something of an anachronism in a world where we can all download any song in the known Universe, in a matter of seconds, for about 70p (and I’m aware that certain individuals also do it for free, but I can’t sanction that on this blog or we’ll slide into anarchy). 6Music was better than most because of people like Adam and Joe, Jon Richardson, and recently even the great Jarvis Cocker. But when I hear people saying ‘how am I going to hear good music now?’, I have this urge to go and buy them an MP3 player.
Nobody in this day and age needs to rely on radio for new music. You can go online and find out what’s good. You can download it in less time than it takes to go for a wee. Then you can set up your music player to play it, and everything else you like, forever. No adverts. No ‘you’re listening to…’ No chatter about current affairs. No news and sport every hour. Just music, the way it was meant to be listened to, for as long as you want.
Yes, I know people listen to things like 6Music for more than just the music; they like the badinage. But you can buy DVDs and CDs if you want to listen to comedians. You can get podcasts. You can watch the telly, even. There are more ways than ever, these days, of listening to funny people talking. What the world needs more of is people, quite frankly, shutting the fuck up and putting a record on. That’s something which even the best radio has struggled to provide consistently. But it’s something we can do all, in the comfort of our own homes, without producers’ playlists, without commercial interests playing a part in what we hear.
The evolution of music into digital forms has alarmed many traditionalists – and I’m pretty much a traditionalist myself – but all it really means is more power to the individual. Each of us is his or her own radio station now: that’s what the MP3 generation has inherited. And of course it has its pitfalls. If you choose unwisely you might be a bad radio station, like Heart. But get it right, and you can have 24-hour-7-days-a-week music that you, yourself, individually, want to listen to. And that’s even better than 6Music. If it makes you feel better, you can always say ‘you’re listening to Mark’s iPod’ between each track. Works wonders for me.
I’ve just read back through this and I realise it sounds a bit snooty saying ‘I have this urge to buy them an MP3 player’, because even shitty ones cost a bit of money, and not everyone has any money. So to pilot this blog back towards ‘fun’ than ‘preaching’, I’m going to buy one person an MP3 player. Just a cheap one, like an iPod Touch or something. To win it, you have to convince me you’re in the greatest need of it – i.e. you won’t be able to listen to decent music any more. The only catch is you might have to come to one of my shows to collect it, but you’d still be well in profit.
You have a week to leave the most deserving comment. Hehe. This is fun. I’d better hope no-one’s reading, with it being the weekend.