Tom Robinson – Another Reason to Save BBC 6 Music

Ah y’know how we love Fan Involvement, well courtesy of a request from the rather fantastic Chris Gregory, we’ve got another radio play. “Stuck Like Glue” was featured on BBC6 Music‘s Tom Robinson Introducing. With better results than pluggers we’ve paid thousands to, we’re thinking of sorting out a commission system for Chris.            ;)

You can listen to the whole show here (we’re about 3 minutes in, so not far to go, or listen to an archive of it below.

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Critically though, this is yet another reason why we need to do all we can to save BBC6 Music. There’s been much hubbub in the news and online about the BBC’s plans to cost-cut including the culling of BBC 6 Music, BBC Asian Network, BBC Blast and Switch. While I am keen that wastefulness at the Beeb is minimised, as an independent bunch of musicians, it’s alarming that one of the remaining bastions of new music could be facing the chop.

“6 Music keeps the spirit of broadcasters like John Peel alive and for new artists to lose this station would be a great shame.” – David Bowie

The message however seems a bit confused. The BBC Trust recently suggested that to reduce costs it should “leave more room for commercial stations”, and that the BBC had “got too big”. The solution to this surely can’t be no axe the niche stations and leave the great hulking Radio1’s and 2’s as they are. It’s R1 and R2 that are taking up the most room, it’s R1 and R2 who commercial radio seek to emulate. If that’s the case, then to remove one of the niche stations is surely no solutions. Conversely, it’s been argued that as only a small proportion of the population know about 6Music that it’s not economically viable to keep it going. For me, if that’s the case then you could argue that to switch 6 Music to FM could be the way forward; moving R2 or 1 to DAB and streaming. This leaves loads more room for commercial stations and brings a very popular station to the forefront.

From an independent artist’s point of view though, 6 Music represents radio that you can approach, radio that you can be on. To regularly get on Radio 1 or 2, you need a plugger. This costs money – essentially, the two big stations are saying that unless you have thousands of pounds, your music isn’t worthy of national radio. Commercial radio follows the big two – they’re chasing listeners and play what’s popular, that’s how they can charge more for their ads. So unless the big two ditch the “pluggers/majors only” approach, the loss of BBC6 music is a huge blow for the independents. Also, it panders to the Old/Big music models that, as evidenced by the closing of Olympic Studios (also here) and EMI’s enourmous published losses, is failing.

Radio may not remain the be-all of a musician’s career these days, and unlike even 10 years ago where radio play alone could propel a bedroom artists to stardom, these days, it’s less of a barometer of success. We can become sustainable and profitable without the trappings and costs of a major radio campaign. Also, radio’s more fragmented now, it’s spread across more stations, and more media – digital, FM, internet-streaming (and commonly in the states, Satellite Radio). More critically however for new or smaller artists, it gives us a target – something to aim for, and can energise a band and it’s fan-base to get a radio-play or ten. It does lead to new opportunities for artists to get a Radio 2 or Radio 1 play, and it gives us something to shout about and talk about.

May we urge you to pick up your pen, laptop, iPad, Blackberry and write, type, mash at the screen/keyboard (delete as applicable) and campaign to save new music bastions such as Tom Robinson and keep open opportunities for independent music in radio; opportunities that are driven by music enthusiasts for music makers, by DJs for new music. There is a stereotype that exists about mainstream radio that it’s not driven by music enthusiasts and DJ’s but by pluggers and producers that are about what’s cool right now, BBC6 Music seems somehow to one side of that. We need to win the battle now, so for ideas of how to help… see Kate Butler‘s seven eight (and increasing) Point Guide to saving BBC6 Music here.

UPDATE – If you want to see just how theBBC spends its money – here’s the Information Is Beautiful BBC-o-gram.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

March 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I tuned into BBC 6Music about 3 months ago and am hooked.. signed all the petitions, emailed lots, texted in plenty…. and it’s wrong what is happening, but the way you’ve constructed this piece is great in putting many of my thoughts into practice and educating me on some new points.
Good job, I hope they save the station so I can call in and request some Hope & Social!!

Tom Robinson
March 3, 2010 at 12:18 am

Thanks so much for your kind words and especially your support for 6 Music. “Stuck Like Glue” is in our current podcast this week, and I’ll be playing it again on Sunday morning’s show (7th March 2010) just before 1.30am. For future reference you should NEVER need a plugger – and neither should anybody else – to get your music heard and considered for my 6 Music Introducing show. As a sometime recording artist myself, it’s been vital from day one that the sole access to our show is via our public web page at … Pluggers, record companies, managers, musicians and listeners all have to recommend stuff through there. We listen to every suggestion, and if we like it we play it. End of story. And we’ve always liked Hope & Social very much indeed – you only had to ask!!

Ben Denison
March 3, 2010 at 10:22 am

Really poignant and interesting read H&S, thanks.

This page is a living example of what the BBC can, and in my opinion should, do so well. This is why 6 music and the Asian network should be saved. Where else would you get a direct link between independent artists (or minority groups) and one of the biggest and most prestigious media organisations in the world.

It might sound slushy, but long live stations like 6 music, and people like Tom Robinson.

Its really encouraging for all independent artists to hear genuine comments like Toms above. We are in an age when it is possible and affordable for people to make art of many types, the bbc should concentrate on employing people who appreciate and share that work. Enriching our culture. That’s public service to me.

March 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Thanks to you all for your lovely comments on this post, and to you Tom for taking the time to come and say hi over here.

Here’s to a healthy sized petition to support BBC 6 Music!

Steve Lawson
March 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I love that Tom describes himself as a ‘sometime recording artist’ – surely that’s like Tony Benn saying ‘as someone who dips their toe into politics on occasion…’ :)

the introducing show on 6Music is just one of many many initiatives that the station is responsible that won’t ever be emulated successfully by commercial radio. They can’t. Because for introducing to work, it has to value exposure for quality over hype for cash. It’s vital, brilliant and a great way of integrating radio and the web. Long may it continue…