Back Page: Dance To The Radio

Who needs radio stations, asks Derek Robertson.

The latest storm in a teacup to reach my ears concerns radio – specifically the comings and goings at the nation’s top station, BBC Radio 1. With 38-year-old Chris Moyles replaced by 28-year-old Nick Grimshaw on the flagship Breakfast Show, along with a much-vaunted change in emphasis, there was much gnashing of teeth in the Twittersphere about demographics, charters, metric stats and listener profiles, with more than one article popping up bemoaning the state of our once glorious airwaves – a collective “Who needs radio stations?” Or even, these days, an actual radio.
 
With the (seemingly inexorable) rise of various streaming and on-demand services – c’mon, we all use them – that’s a valid question. The “curate-it-yourself” approach has some obvious advantages; no ads, no boring waffle, and a 100% success rate. It’s a never-ending smorgasbord of all killer, no filler, hand picked to tickle your fancy – something that can’t even be guaranteed by hitting shuffle or Genius on iTunes. What’s not to like? Well, you may not realise it, but those locked into YouTube playlists and last.fm are missing out on radio’s key raison d’être – discovery.
 
You see, radio might be very, very bad when it comes to endless plays of JLS or Carly Rae Jepsen, but it’s very, very good when it comes to unearthing hidden gems and exposing an audience to delights they weren’t even aware of. Personally, I have Mark & Lard (just Google them) to thank for my lifelong obsession with Grandaddy, while DIY’s own output introduced me to Copy Haho, Tom Vek, and many, many others. And if you doubt how important a role this is, just try to imagine what the UK music scene would be like if John Peel, titan of independent music and trailblazer extraordinaire, hadn’t championed the weird, the wonderful, and the downright bizarre… nope, me neither.
 
Even the bits between the music can be funny and inspiring, whether the zany irreverence that was Chris Evans’ stint in the breakfast chair to Terry Wogan’s sweet, soothing dulcet tones. Radio performs a vital role and shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly – it’s the perfect vehicle to allow raw talent of all kinds to develop, find its feet and its niche. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we can’t be complacent – recall those wry reports noting that if the same number of people who protested about BBC 6 Music’s proposed closure actually listened, the decision to scrap it would never have been taken. The airwaves are ours, to be preserved, cherished, and passed on to future generations taking their first tentative steps on a voyage of discovery. So, quit bitching and turn on, tune in, and zone out.

Taken from the November 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.