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BPI and AIM join forces for Beeb's unwanted radio baby

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Two wings of the music business which rarely agree on much have come together to condemn the BBC's apparent desire to snuff out BBC 6Music.

In a letter to the BBC director general Mark Thompson, the BPI and indie association AIM say the closure of the station is bad for new music. 6Music plays four to five times the amount of new music other stations play, while half of the music programming is never played anywhere else, they point out.

That speaks volumes about the rest of radio, which has become conservative and formulaic, in one of the most diverse and open-minded music markets in the world.

It also says something about 6Music, which only reaches around 30,000 listeners at peak listening times.

The disappearance of the progressive small major label has left a gulf between the Big Four and indies, bringing with it new opportunities as well as a squeeze. Indie association AIM is celebrating the first UK independent number one album in 20 years (Vampire Weekend's Contra on the XL label). Former major label act Prodigy signed to former folk label Cooking Vinyl recently.

Meanwhile The Honorable Ed Vaizey has says he's become a convert to 6Music - since Friday. Last week he trusted the BBC to know what was best, he says.

The full text of the BPI/AIM letter is below. Comments and email are welcome. ®

Dear Mark,

We were surprised and alarmed to read the report in today’s Times suggesting that BBC Radio 6 Music and its Asian Music Network are to close as part of a costs review.   BBC Radio 6 has established itself as a vital platform providing exposure to a wide range of emerging British music talent.

The report published last week by the BBC Trust on 6 Music emphasised the unique role that the station has in supporting new artists and in nurturing UK talent.  According to research in that report, 91% of listeners say that 6 Music introduces them to music that is new to them, and 89% of listeners say that they hear music on the station that they do not hear elsewhere.  It finds that 6 Music plays four to five times more new songs than comparable commercial stations. We also understand that up to half of the music output of the channel comprises music that is not given radio exposure elsewhere, and much of this is from new or emerging British artists.  There is no other radio station which is remotely comparable in scale or depth for showcasing new music.

As a recent example, exposure for Florence & The Machine on 6 Music was the beginning of their UK success, culminating in them winning the Best Album award at the BRIT Awards this month. There are many examples of successful British artists whose early work was championed by Radio 6, who would not otherwise have attracted wider attention. It is therefore vital to the artistic and cultural diversity of this country that the role of Radio 6 as a taste-maker for the airwaves is preserved.

Although 6 Music’s audience share remains relatively modest, it is the fastest growing of the BBC digital radio channels and its on-demand usage online is high.  It clearly has significant potential for further growth.

The Asian Music Network also provides an important channel for exposure for Asian music in the UK, which does not gain exposure on many major commercial stations.

As the UK’s main public sector broadcaster, the BBC has a unique capability and responsibility to promote music that has yet to develop a significant commercial following. Closing 6 Music and the Asian Music Network would substantially reduce the opportunities for exposure for many new British artists and also for artists who do not fit into the commercial mainstream, but who still need to reach an audience.   If the press reports of the potential closure of these stations are correct, on behalf of the UK recorded music industry and in the interests of British music, we strongly urge you to reconsider this decision.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive, BPI

Tony Wadsworth, Chairman, BPI

Alison Wenham Chairman and Chief Executive, AIM

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