The Outsight Report #11

Is BBC Radio ‘Under Threat’?

bbc_chart_bigWith the government’s planned reforms to the BBC’s licensing fee, and new competition from Apple Music’s radio service Beats 1, it seems that BBC Radio is under threat.

The Tories claim the proposed changes have arisen out of a concern that the public’s money could be better spent. Alongside changes to the licensing fee, the government has also decided to decriminalise its non-payment and no longer subsidise the fee for over 75’s, challenging the way the BBC spends its money from all angles. Although the reforms will most likely affect funding for television, the sector the BBC spends the most on, there will undoubtedly be changes to radio too.

Amidst fears that this shake up could lead to a ‘much diminished service’, many stars have leapt to the BBC’s defence – including Annie Nightingale, who, as Radio 1’s longest serving broadcaster, holds the world record for the longest ever running radio show to date.

annieWith her commitment to the industry having earned her an MBE, Annie, who has just released her special Masterpiece album on Ministry of Sound, charting her extensive musical journey, owes much of her career to the longstanding establishment. In a recent live web chat for The Guardian, she commented: “The battle is to keep the BBC going… to ensure the future of the BBC. People often ask me why such a small country as ours has such a worldwide influence in terms of how our music is perceived. Surely the fact that we have radio stations such as Radio 1, 1Xtra, 6Music, to nurture new music, has helped this process ever since the Beatles gave us worldwide recognition. Without stations nurturing and playing new music, that culture could disappear very quickly. That really worries me.”

Like Annie Nightingale, BBC Radio is timeless: known for its curation of great music, both by established artists and new musicians, it has informed, entertained and educated for over 90 years.

And yet it is no stranger to cuts –just earlier this year it was announced that BBC Radio 1 was to cut funding to late night programmes as well as coverage of major live events and festivals. While these changes may have a detrimental effect, fears of their impact seem ignorant of the BBC’s strengths: namely, their cultural credibility and relationships of trust – both between musicians and radio producers, and presenters and their listeners.

beatsThe powers of such relationships are what streaming services such as Groove Shark often lack. These fads tend to come and go – something that Apple Music seems more than aware of. Recently launching Beats 1 as a 24/7 radio broadcaster for the entire world, Apple appear to have created the perfect marketing device to encourage people to subscribe to the faceless streaming service incorporated into the company’s latest software update.

zaneHowever, it is a service still in its early days, with only 3 specialist radio presenters: one of whom was poached from Radio 1. In what seems like a fitting homage to his former home, Zane Lowe opened his first ever Beats 1 show with ‘City’ by Spring King, a band that was recently featured on BBC Introducing, thereby inadvertently championing the cultural impact of the BBC globally. Although Apple Music may have the money to attract star guest presenters, to what extent can they nurture new artists in the same way the BBC does?

This is only one aspect of BBC Radio’s culture that makes it so commercially attractive – and undoubtedly, it is the commercial viability of the BBC that has driven the government’s debate about its place in the broadcasting landscape. However, their lack of understanding on the way creative processes work is risking the loss of the culture that makes the BBC unique.

Although unwanted, these changes will push radio to evolve, and ‘force the BBC to do what they do even better’, as Head of Radio 2 Music Jeff Smith notes. To ensure it flourishes in times of uncertainty, the relationships between musicians, PRs, producers and presenters need to remain strong, in order to remind the world what the BBC is capable of.

Outpost x Roskilde

We had the pleasure of being invited to Roskilde Festival this summer, and – being one of the only established non-profit festivals – we just had to go and see how the Danes do it.

The comparative ease of travelling to Roskilde was the first thing to hit the Outposters – a one hour’s flight from Gatwick to Copenhagen followed by a thirty minute train ride to the town of Roskilde. Already excited about what to expect, we sat next to a gentleman sipping from a miniature liquor bottle (whilst holding another three unopened), which transpired to be the Danish version of Jaeger, weighing in at a solid 44%. He was also on his way to the festival – for the 27th year running. When asked what it was about Roskilde that makes it so special, he replied: “For me it’s like Christmas” – perhaps it was the fumes from the booze, but we were sold!

Upon arrival at the station we were greeted by an array of friendly Roskilders who helped us on our way to the site (only a fifteen minute walk): door to door, we are convinced it takes both less time and stress than the ever ominous Glasto journey.

Armed with our festi goodie bags (including a hip flask!) we set off to explore our adventure park for the next three days.

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Beautiful weather, stellar people and a musically diverse programme made for an undeniably alluring atmosphere. Although here to embrace the international feel of the festival, we couldn’t help but be drawn to Florence and the Machine on the main stage. A shoeless red haired raven with the ability to command a festival stage like no other, she even jumped into the crowd at times to encourage a spot of surfing. What a way to start our Roskilde experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other notable stars of our first evening were the indescribable Die Antwoord and a closing performance from Hot Chip – in our eyes, in a festival setting, they can do no wrong – before sleep deprivation set in and it was off to bed.

With the sun beating down, the tent the next morning fast became inhospitable, although having a shower and a supermarket so close gave us the best of both worlds. A shot or two of the Danes’ liquor and we were ready for round two, complete with a growing clan that included two Danish fashionistas, an Israeli blogger, a Norwegian DJ and a couple of Polish beauties.

First on the agenda was the Icelandic sound of Kippi Kannius – a mesmerising concept which even included an original Sugarcubes member – quickly followed by a visit to the enigmatic Gaslamp Killer. Team Outpost took no time in introducing the ‘Experience’ to our new friends, with a cacophony of jazz, violin, preaching and beats filling the tent and quickly our hearts.

On a high from GL and looking for our next fix, we stumbled upon Kate Tempest, and although the beats kept us there, ultimately we found the performance underwhelming and opted to finish our night with crowd pleasers Disclosure. A controversial ‘Main Stage’ placement, in spite of their undeniable international support, unfortunately their performance for us was a little lacklustre too.

All showered and fed we started our final day with some tried and trusted reggae beats from Barrington Levy, a perfect way to soothe our lethargic ears: with the rays beating down, we were certainly feeling the love. Nicki Minaj was up next – and, having always wondered what the fuss was about, we stayed. We saw. We loved. A lady who can rap, sing and dance – all in heels? We might just be converts.

Flying the British flag, we popped our heads in to see Paul McCartney and his signature guitar strumming, but while it ticked The Beatles box it wasn’t one for us – Linda and her veggie sausages are still the favourite McCartney.

A constant theme running through the festival was its focus on international music, especially African sounds. A five hour set from Africa Express was the buzz of Roskilde: who were going to be the special guests? What was going to happen? And boy, did we pick the right time to have a gander – catching Outpost favourite Fatoumata Diawara, followed by Kwabs. Filled with energy and smiles, the tent was difficult to leave, but Jamie XX was beckoning…

Making the pilgrimage to the Apollo stage (outside the main festival area and through the camping site), it was like discovering a whole new event. With techno head Dixon still in full flow, we settled into our new environment and waited in anticipation for the man of the hour – and he didn’t disappoint. The lights, the song choices, the atmosphere he created…we hugged our new friends and felt that classic festival bonding experience. The morning sun started to rise, the fireworks lit the skies and we headed back to our tents elated.

Thank you, Roskilde – you were beautiful.

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