I’ve been a musician forever. It seems…
Everyone loves music and everyone has their own little things that ring their bells. Accepted. There is, however, a difference between a normal person and a music lover. A normal person is fed whatever they hear on the radio at work, probably on Radio 2. They have fond memories of when they were young and got a little bit into raving or Indie clubs but otherwise they just waft along and like most stuff, and dislike other stuff.
The music lover is different. Firstly, the correct music is a matter of life and death. It’s mood management. It’s happy pills. It’s everything. Secondly, the thing they like is much more nuanced than just genres or artists, it’s types of rhythms or styles of production. Subject matter of lyrics or the presence or absence of certain instruments. It’s really deep.
As a consequence the music lover will have music in their collection that spans genre wildly. They will certainly have some music that normal people will despise. They will have an eclectic mix, and it has to be that way.
At home this is not a problem, when visiting friends… well, you choose your friends carefully! Especially ones that you visit. But we all have to work and if you’re restricted to a radio at work you’re in real trouble.
Except DAB is here, and there are extra channels with a more focussed playlist. Surely there is some harbour amongst all these extra stations? God knows there is nothing on FM for the music lover, unless you go Radio 3 of course. I can dig it, but I’m a rocker so that’ll only work for a short while. No problem they cry, there are a plethora of RAWK stations on there too! Well, yes but if I want to hear some Rock Music, ‘Smoke On The Water’ is never fucking it! And besides, as stated above I may only want to listen to a slice of Rock amongst many other things, not a whole day of ‘The Most Obvious Rock Songs Ever Made’.
Nope. The only choice for a true music lover within the full FM and DAB radio systems is BBC Radio 6 Music.
So right that they fought to save it and they succeeded. This must be the place, right? Staffed with either respectable DJs or Musicians, a very open brief it terms of genre and song choice, no advertising, very little news and sport. Just great music, all day.
Well, sort of.
I tried to explain the problem to a producer friend of mine and could only sum it up this way. You have a BBC radio station staffed by the elite of candidates for media jobs.Rightly so, maybe, but this builds in an inherent limitation. Those staffers choose a lot of the content even though all the DJs bring their own tastes to the table, there is a clunking playlist. It changes a lot but it has become horribly predictable because those staffers are all music lovers from University life. They all have a similar set of artists that they approve of. In this class-sensitive country they very often make the classic error of assuming that everyone else went to Uni and to the student union for socials and therefore has the same back catalogue of ‘classics’.
Can you tell? I didn’t.
I have lots of friends who did, and from my era they all liked Pop Will Eat Itself, Wonder Stuff, Blur, Ride, Teenage Fanclub etc etc. Indie kids were always middle class when I was young. I was from a working class town, even the rich weren’t middle class. None of us liked all that stuff, because it was made by uni kids, and uni kids loved it. We liked indie music too, but it was the stuff made by people like us.
What I’m saying is that there was always more than one type of musical purist, but 6 Music is unaware of this. They’re all Uni based indie kids with good taste in music, playing music made by people like them and they assume everyone listening is also the same. The working class has no voice in it beyond whichever Grime artist they’ve chosen to like this month.
So, each day I have it on my radio at work. I like some of it but more often than not I find myself hissing at the thing, usually because they’re playing that Labi Siffre song that Eminem sampled AGAIN, or because they constantly play the music of their guest Artist/DJs, or because they’re just being too obvious. Too safe. Too Patronising. Too narrow a choice. Too much mainstream music from their youths.
For a true music lover, which I most certainly am, I just shouldn’t be so dissatisfied by it. But I am.