BBC 6 Music

The Savile scandal is making these dark days for BBC, but an enduring bright spot at the Corporation is 6 Music

The digital radio station has just reported record audience figures.  It now attracts an incredible 1.62m listeners each week - up nearly 400,000 on last year. 

This is down to the amazing breadth of new and less new (some say old) music - anything from Everything Everything to Dusty Springfield - the station’s clever, funny and knowledgable presenters dish up on a daily basis. 

6 Music played a big hand in turning the UK on to Lana Del Rey’s breakthrough single Video Games.  But, at the same time as tipping new bands its presenters also manage to keep teen rockers busy investigating the back catalogues of artists like Paul Weller and Lou Reed with regular spins of early Jam and Velvet Underground tracks.  And the station is all over the Stones’ latest reinvention and reappraisal - still the greatest rock and roll band? - with heavy spins for Doom and Gloom.

These DJs - and they include Lauren Laverne, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Elbow’s Guy Garvey - have managed to make intelligent, irreverent and always entertaining programmes that appeal to a wide ranging and loyal audience.  Just listen in to Steve Lamacq’s early evening show when 20-somethings will often select tracks cut before they were born for the DJ’s Good Day/Bad Day feature.

BBC Audio & Music director Tim Davie was understandably pleased with the figures.  He said, “I’m thrilled that, despite there being so much competition for people’s time and attention, three of our digital stations (alongside 6 Music, Radio 4 Extra and Asian Network also posted gains)  have hit record highs.”

But, 6 Music very nearly didn’t make it.  In March 2010 former BBC director general Mark Thompson threatened to shut the station after a strategy review had apparently revealed  6 Music delivered "relatively few unique listeners to BBC radio".

Thankfully, a Save 6 Music campaign led by those loyal listeners and committed DJs - Cocker led the charge from the front - showed this BBC decision to be as wise as letting Jimmy Savile into Broadcasting House.  They forced a sensational u-turn. 

Now with a Sony Award for UK Station of the Year (presented in May) alongside the record listening figures, the station’s 10th anniversary this year has become more than a celebration of a decade in business.  It is 6 Music’s defining year.

Earlier this month 6 Music controller Bob Shennan acknowledged the BBC had learned a lesson from the dark days of 2010 and now understands 6 Music’s place.  “It has a role in new music, but it also has a role in connecting new music with old music of an alternative spirit,” he explained.
Smashing through the 1.5m barrier has shown 6 Music is in good shape, giving its growing audience a place to discover the best songs now and from 10, 20 even 40 years ago.  The only winner here is music and the people who make it and listen to it. 

Shennan now believes 6 Music can achieve 2m listeners.  With Jarvis, Guy, Lammo, Laverne et al at the controls, he won’t have very long to wait. 

Latest Tweets

  • Blumlein was well known to climb the Alexandra Palace broadcast tower, phone his wife and ask her opinion of the TV signal as he tinkered 2 hours 50 min ago
  • RT @AlanBlumlein: He truly was an amazing man and I'm so happy to be involved in his heritage and ongoing story. 2 hours 55 min ago
  • "His influence has stayed with me and his colleges" - Simon Blumlein 2 hours 56 min ago
  • Aged just seven, Blumlein fixed the home doorbell, and invoiced his father as Alan Dower Blumlein - electrical engineer 3 hours 44 sec ago
  • Blumlein's first stereo recording took place 28 years before @thebeatles mono recording of Love Me Do 3 hours 3 min ago
  • "Blumlein's work is still hugely important to the artists that record at @AbbeyRoad to this day" - Isabel Garvey 3 hours 7 min ago
  • The Blumlein plaque at @AbbeyRoad sits alongside other legendary @IEEEorg plaques around London, including one for Benjamin Franklin 3 hours 10 min ago
  • Very privileged to see some of the Blumlein invented equipment that changed the world. 3 hours 50 min ago
  • Here's the worlds first ever stereo film recording, "Trains at Hayes station", created by Blumlein 4 hours 15 min ago
  • Made it to @AbbeyRoad for the celebration of the life of Alan Blumlein, an audio pioneer that changed how we enjoy music forever 4 hours 18 min ago