Well, this blog puports to be international, but those of you who read regularly will notice that there is something of a bias toward the British music scene when I come to comment on what’s happening in the music world. It’s not that I have an aversion to the music scenes and supporting industry of other parts of the world, in fact, if I come across anything from anywhere that looks to be worthy of interest or comment I will focus on that. Especially if it’s an event or story that looks like it might be good news for the independent music sector. Man, if I could find some good news for the indie music sector anywhere in the world, you can bet I’ll report it. That’s really what we all want right now. Anyway, the reason why a lot of what I write about is UK-centric is quite simple. I leave a Twitter feed running when I’m here in BlancoMusic’s offices, so that I can keep track of any kind of buzz going on in the music world. The hours I tend to be at the computer screen tally with business hours in the UK, so therefore most of what I read is tweeted by UK-based sources.
So, that said, the big buzz at the moment is that the British Broadcasting Corporation have chosen to cease broadcasting their 6Music radio station. The BBC is government-funded, through licensepayers (if you own a TV in the UK, you are obliged to pay for a yearly license – it is supposed to free the corporation from commercial concerns in its programming and therefore offer a public-service remit that can concentrate on quality programming, niche interest groups, reporting unbiased by advertising revenues etc). 6Music costs £6million to run annually, and is, by a long shot, the cheapest of the BBC’s radio stations. It’s also one of the best. As long as your taste in new music is not overtly commercial or classical, you can be sure that the best chance you have to discover new acts, or hear the ones you already know, is, or was, on 6Music. The BBC is under no obligation to close the station, government are not forcing this initiative. This is simply the BBC deciding where their priorities lie. Instead of being bold and developing the market sector that is not currently served by commercial radio, they have chosen to chase the already over-served market that is ‘youth programming’. Despite demographics making it screamingly clear that ‘yoof’ is a commodity in the UK that is dwindling as fast as the birthrate, as well as market feedback showing that traditional radio broadcasting is about as attractive to the 16-25 year-old sector as a Mahler concert, the BBC are still desperate to think short-term and join the frenzy of markethounds chasing that sector. Gawd, I’d really hate to be 17 again, for many reasons, but in addition to the customary difficulties of being teenaged, there must now be the constant annoyance of being targeted for focus groups and market research. I wonder are kids buying fake IDs that say they’re 35 now, just to avoid the clipboards.
Speaking of teenagers, YouTube usage is one-third musical in content. That’s over the whole spread of demographics. When the use patterns are analysed, music videos become less popular the older the user. Now, it’s sad that such a huge interest in music can’t be harnessed a bit better to provide musicians with a revenue stream. It’s also sad that the idea of owning a recording of your favourite piece of music is becoming an alien concept. It is encouraging though, that music is still so important to the young adults who roam the Earth today. I do think that in the desperation to garner publicity and harness the attentions of the market, that musicans and labels (ourselves included), have squandered the one thing we should have held on to. Namely, desire. No longer is it the case that a fan longs for a piece of music – for the next time it gets played on the radio, the next time the band comes to town, or for the useless record shop in town to finally order the record. No-one needs to desire a piece of music any more, it’s on YouTube whenever you want to hear it. Throwing that desire away was a bit of a mistake.
Here, might as well join them: