Yesterday the Financial Times published an article by Robert Cookson interviewing Chris Price, the new Head of Music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. I must admit I'm not a reader of the FT but I found out about the article pretty quickly. Whether you make, promote, release or enjoy discovering new music, this article is the possibly most important thing you should read this year.
Chris Price replaced George Ergatoudis as Head of Music last month, arguably the most influential job in the UK music industry, and it looks like he set to make a big difference with regards the promotion and cultivation of new music.
Already, he's reshuffled the playlist cycle and, most importantly, introduced New Music Friday (get used to seeing the hashtag #newmusicfriday, or perhaps #nmf!)
"On Monday in Paris, I announced that, starting on April 8, every Friday on Radio 1 and 1Xtra will become New Music Friday. We’re doing this both to recognise the industry’s new global release day, as well as to satisfy what we think is our listeners’ growing impatience to hear new music in an onair / on-sale world."
But more groundbreaking are his statements in yesterdays article, as he addresses in no uncertain terms the biggest problem faced by emerging artists and their representatives: data-led music selection:
“You should be making decisions about music using your ears, rather than data served up by third-party sources,”
If you type into google "buy plays" or "buy likes" you will uncover a massive burgeoning industry, feeding on the desperation of new artists and bands to appear as if they've gone viral. Anyone involved in the creation of new music knows that "it can't be a hit without hits". As soon as your new track is uploaded to the web, you better get a decent amount of plays, likes, reposts and comments or your record (which may or may not be anything special) will likely be branded irrelevant.
“If music radio relies too heavily on data that’s been served up by global streaming services — which, by definition, tend to favour the music industry 1 per cent, the huge international superstars — there’s a very real danger that we end up with a globally homogenous culture"
Personally I am overwhelmed and hugely relieved that these statements are coming from the Head of Music at Radio 1. It is widely accepted that the Radio 1 playlist is the holy grail of music selection in the UK, and Radio 1 plays more than double the amount of unique songs compared to its commercial counterparts.
“If it was left to commercial radio to break new music, we’d be in all sorts of trouble”
Radio 1 and 1Xtra's specialist DJs are second to none; Annie Mac, Huw Stephens, Mistajam, Annie Nightingale, Diplo, Friction, Charlie Sloth, Toddla T, the list goes on and on. Actual proper DJs who live and breathe music and display real passion for what's new and good. Behind the scenes are the equally important programme producers (of which Chris Price was once one) searching out future hits and club bangers, without which you wouldn't be listening to the likes of Ella Eyre, Jess Glynn, Sigma, Stormzy et al.
The truth is, if It wasn't for Radio 1 finding new talent it would be left up to the X Factor, and God knows we don't want that!