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Don’t Blame Radio 1: How An Obsession With Stats Is Damaging The UK Music Business

This article first appeared on Drowned in Sound on May 30th 2014

BBCRADIO1A recent article for The Guardian went behind the scenes at Radio 1’s playlisting meeting, chatting with those on the current selection board and generally revealing how decisions on what’s goes on there are made. Unsurprisingly, social media stats get referenced a fair bit, with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other public data being considered when discussing whether or not an artist should win a spot on the station’s playlist. Whilst exceptions are made (Clean Bandit are referenced as an example, where online stats remain low but R1 has still opted for support), by the end of the article the writer concludes that “it all feels so soulless”, lamenting the days when Peel could play what he wanted and took risks.

(I think the first myth to debunk here is that Peel ever represented the output of Radio 1. Whilst Peel was blowing my mind with weird combinations of Napalm Death, The Fall and even a band called Mousefart, the primary output of The Nation’s Favourite was still “characters” like Dave Lee Travis and Simon Bates. Whatever state Radio 1 is in now, I think we should remember that once upon a time the daytime output included a man who built a career on a sound effect that went “Quack quack oops!”. But I digress…)

For those of us working in the music industry, Radio 1’s obsession with public stats has long been a bone of contention. The main reason is because at different times it felt like that focus on the public stats was myopic. There’s also been whispers that labels were buying “fans”, views, likes or whatever other metric was rife, with marketing departments simply putting down £100 for 100k views so their plugger could then rock up to the R1 producers and excitedly squeal “just LOOK at those numbers!”.

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