The Day The Music Was Saved: A Tribute To BBC6 Music

Music / February 20, 2015
by admin

Don McClean suggested in ‘American Pie’ that the day the music died was when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper’s plane went down on a snowy Iowa morning in February 1959.

Obviously there’s no argument as to the tragedy of the three young bucks’ passing, nor of their immortal influence on rock and roll, but for music fans of a certain vintage, the phrase also rang true on the 2nd March 2010.

On that day, Mark Thompson (then BBC Director General), confirmed rumours that DAB station BBC 6Music was being pulled from the air. He blamed the fact that it was delivering “relatively few unique listeners to BBC Radio”. An immediate rabble grew online, with the Save 6 Music Facebook group accruing over 80,000 members. Famous names leapt to the station’s defence, with the likes of David Bowie, Mark Ronson and Emily Eavis all speaking out against Thompson’s shortsighted proposition.

Then on July 5th of that year, under duress of the online stampede and perhaps buoyed by the fact that the station’s listeners reportedly doubled in the weeks following the campaign, the BBC reneged on their decision. 

Loyalty to the station has continued to grow. Last week it was revealed that 6 Music reached an average of 2.1 million listeners a week in the final quarter of 2014. It was the first time that a digital station had reached the 2 million number and marks a landmark moment for DAB radio.


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This weekend the station also presents its second 6 Music festival, taking place in Tyneside. It’s got an impeccably curated line-up with the likes of Mogwai and The Fall joining Father John Misty and Kate Tempest. 

A quick peruse of the artists playing is all you need to understand the appeal of the station, and why its lofty place within the radio lexicon is now uncontested: its ethos of featuring classic, thought-provoking acts, alongside a new music commitment, ensures it is now the only place to go for the avider-than-average muso who wants to have all their musical boxes ticked. 

With playlists a mile away from the meat and potatoes Britpop nostalgia of XFM and Absolute Radio, and shows curated by the DJs rather than focus groups a la Radio 1, each show retains a distinct soundtrack and identity: dictated by the men and women behind the mic.

And therein lies 6 Music’s second major selling point: the DJs. The station has hit upon a winning formula of Anti-Blackburn broadcasting stalwarts – Steve Lamacq, Radcliffe and Maconie, Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley – alongside a revolving line-up of legends pulled from the frontline, like Guy Garvey and Huey Morgan. 

They’ve also had the likes of Jarvis Cocker – whose Sunday Service was arguably the benchmark for the station’s star vehicles – and Iggy Pop in for long term stints. Recently Salford Bard John Cooper Clarke has been in, dispersing his poetic interludes with songs from the likes of The Only Ones, Howlin’ Wolf and The Fall (you will note that everyone at the station adores The Fall – a little bequeathal from John Peel, whose spirit lives on in every word or note the station broadcasts, not to mention his son Tom Ravenscroft’s show).

With more music than ever being released, and people ever more greedy for a filter between them and the hype machine, 6 Music is truly a hero of the modern game. Long may they continue.

Image credit: Action Press / REX

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  1. I read in Brilliant Orange by David Winner, that he started wearing 14 because he was injured once and therefore didn’t start a game, then afterwards the number stuck…?

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