Welcome again to the Mumubl.com newsletter. A full week later than scheduled which is because I’ve rewritten my thoughts below a few times. I started writing about BBC 6 music and shortly after Spotify announced it was shuttering Heardle, the music app it bought less than a year ago. All tying in with the general furoré around things like Twitter and it put me in the thought of what say we should have in these services. Should there be anything more than voting with our feet (ears?) when we want to. There’s also a tangent about artists and the devaluing of the artist / fan relationship that comes from streaming which might be worth exploring further in the future.
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There was some fuss this week about 6 music as they announced a consolidation of two popular shows bringing Marc Riley and Gideon Coe’s shows together and thus drastically reducing their air time, some listeners were up in arms. In response a petition was launched demanding the shows be reinstated.
The BBC cannot be allowed to simply keep changing their radio DJs without consulting their listeners. Change purely for the sake of it isn’t always the right thing to do.
But can they though? Why do they have to consult with their listeners?
A similar fuss on Twitter kicked up around rumours of 6 music looking to reduce the average audience age by 5 – 10 years. Again is this justified? For me it seems reasonably usual for change like this to happen every so often. If you’ve been paying attention for long enough you’ll have seen several of these uproars involving many radio stations and publications shifting focus. Do we have a claim to demand that they don’t?
It also chimed with me that Spotify are shutting down the Heardle music game after less than a year of ownership. Claiming it was not a useful “tool for musical discovery” which makes you question what they thought they were buying in the first place. But is there any redress or responsibility to the users here as well? Should those in charge of those tools have more responsibility to the people who use it?
The capitalist narrative (or maybe consumerist is a better word) would be that users will simply leave and if there is demand or appetite for something people will create it elsewhere and they’ll go there – Heardle above for example probably won’t get a “save Heardle” campaign as there are plenty of other similar sites already which will satisfy those looking for a quick music quiz fix.
It also reminds me of artists, many people don’t like the directions groups take sometimes but they don’t owe us anything. They’re free to take whatever creative direction they want and we’re free to go and listen to something else. Why should radio, or 6 music in particular, be any different?
The other area that overlaps with all this is Twitter, the new Elon Musk version of Twitter is generally worse than the old version, ok it is worse. But it’s a company, they’re free to do what they want and we can all go and chat on Mastodon instead.
But amongst all this 6 music often feels different, the BBC and it’s public service remit are part of the reason. The other part may be the fact that listeners previous petition saved the station from a cull around a decade ago. Listeners have stayed loyal and seem to feel a certain ownership of the brand and feel their loyalty should be repaid.
Now may be a time to point out that I’m not really a 6 music listener, in fact I’m not really much of a radio listener anymore. I used to catch bits of radio 2 around pop master but haven’t really got on board with the new “10 to the top” and I’ll use BBC sounds to catch up with BBC introducing from Liverpool and Cumbria but that’s about it. My listening is mostly podcasts, where it is very much pick and choose what you want. But those that do listen always seem to be avid fans, they’re a loyal buch 6 music listeners. But are they owed any more of a say than they’d get elsewhere?
I think this attitude used to be something that existed around artists but appears to have died out, fans would claim artists had “sold out” and they’d decry huge changes in direction, Radiohead’s shift away from guitars being one that springs to mind. But there seems to be less fuss about that in the modern streaming age. I don’t know if streaming has anything to do with that, we don’t feel as much ownership over the music we invest in, because we don’t invest as much? If that is a working hypothesis is this why 6 music feels special to some? Precisely because they invested their time in trying to keep the station going when the BBC wanted to get rid of it? If so, are they entitled to that? Should the BBC consult with it’s listeners when making changes? I’m not so sure they should, I’m not so sure 6 music should be considered different in that way, but I’m very glad there are people out there who value things like 6 music enough to get upset about it.
So is 6 music special? It just might be in some respects.