Thursday, July 08, 2004

RUBBISH ON THE RADIO SHOCK: David Ferguson, chairman of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, has shaken the Music Tank forum to its very core by suggesting that commercial radio is absolutely shit at supporting new music. He's expected to follow up by announcing that McDonalds is primarily concerned about selling as many burgers as it can and that Christina Aguielra is no better than she ought to be. His point is that British commercial radio has been consolidating and narrowing the range of songs on offer; which is all well and good but we don't recall having heard the BACS piping up as the radio Authority allowed station after station to be bought up and turned from vaguely alternative or dancey formats into yet another Top 40 variant (if they did, and they just didn't pipe up loud enough to hear, we apologise.)

Ferguson tells BBC News: "The programming on many commercial stations is so clearly designed just to persuade people not to switch it off or change channels, rather than present them with something new and interesting."

If you can just stop wondering when exactly Ferguson's organisation realised that "Commercial" meant, well, commercial, you might also want to spend a little time ruminating on how the man who heads up the Ivor Novello Awards people squares his complaints about Capital et al playing safe with his organisation's own behaviour. This year, the Novellos took a break from giving everything to Robbie Williams to present prizes to the cutting edge of Dido, Will Young and a twenty year old Tears For Fears song.

Of course, the radio stations are having none of this anyway: Matt Deegan, who is the Head Of Fucking Great Music at the GWR group (okay, he's really Group Corporate Development Executive - and we're sure the Hard Group Corporare Development Executive Cafe will be bidding for one of his in-trays when he retires) denies that his stations don't play unsigned stuff:

"We engage with unsigned music in a slightly different way."

Erm... okay, then. Tell us how you exactly engage with unsigned bands in a way different to, you know, playing it.

He said that while the GWR group had a common playlist for all its local FM stations, individual stations could programme their own music.
We do music research, speaking to 1,000 people a week about the kinds of music they like, and for popular music there is not much difference around the country," he said.
At the moment, what is coming out of research is that people are bored of new music.
We, and a lot of our competitors, seem now to be playing a lot more classic tracks.
As a rule, our stations do not play unsigned bands."

Someone should be checking that quote with BBC News Online - "People are bored of new music." Maybe their writer misheard? Perhaps he said "people are born in New Malden"? We know it's easy to stereotype people who have jobs in the carpeted areas of the music industries as out-of-touch doublespeakers, but even the BPI would have trouble keeping a straight face saying "Yeah, you actually find if you ask people that they say they'd rather keep their interest fresh by hearing songs they've heard thousands of times before rather than the familiarity of stuff they've not heard before." And surely Deegan deserves some sort of accolade for the astonishing u-turn there: "We engage with unsigned music in a different way... as a rule our stations do not play unsigned bands."

Hang about, though, he's about to do another 180 degree flip - having said that people are just fed up with new music, he announces that they play loads of the stuff on their digital station:

"We'd love to do that on FM radio and will be applying for licenses across the country."

So GWR are actively trying to obtain FM licences in order to play music they claim their research nobody wants to hear? We'd love to see one of their licence applications.

[A glance at The Core's playlist may make things clearer - they've got two tracks from Will Young, the - admittedly - debut single from Shaznay Lewis, D12, Avril Lavinge...]


Aaron said...

I used to work with that Matt Deegan - in my opinion, that's exactly the sort of thing he would say.

Simon said...

Also, I know the BBC post-Hutton is in a self-flagellation mode, but:

"Mr Ferguson said Radio 1 had to be "open to new music, especially British music."
A look at Radio 1's current playlist reveals that more than half of the songs are from US artists."

Well, currently features 11 out of 20 US acts, but their B and C lists have 4 out of 30. That's a total of 15 out of 50, 30% being somewhat short of 50% as far as I'm aware.

Anonymous said...


Just came across your article, obviously you're entitled to your opinion, and i'm not here to argue with you. What I would suggest is that if you want to find our what I actually said, you can read the transcript here: which puts the context in that the BBC took out.

Kind regards,

Matt @ GWR.

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