Saturday, 1 November 2014

Why radio is important

I was listening to the radio the other day, and the presenter made an interesting comment about why radio is still important in a world where we have access to all the music, all the time.

The point is, a radio show is someone else choosing some music for you. A lot of it may be stuff you know and hear a lot, but, ideally, some of it will be new material or artists that you might not think of listening to unless they had been played to you. Kate Tempest is one recent example, who is a poet, but who performs some of her material to music (so, songs really). I love her material, but I would never have naturally come across it.

There is also music that you may know about, but have forgotten, or not heard in a long time. This is always special, and was the focus of the initial comment - they played Hocus Pocus by Focus, the full version. I - and most of the listeners - knew the song, but I had not heard it for ages. It was a great revelation to hear it again - and I don't know if I have ever heard the full version of it. That is why radio is important.

Of course, services like Pandora can also help select music for you, but this is an automated process. I did use it many years ago, and I think it was superb in what it did - it introduced me to the band Ozma, who do some fantastic material. Spotify, which I use at the moment, also has recommendations if you want to use that. But these services can tend to limit your music to "similar to what you already listen to". Great in its way, but I want "Stuff I might like, that is completely left-field".

It is through listening to the radio that I have found bands like Sunn O and Opeth, Alvvays and Kate Tempest. None of these really match what I would identify as what I listen to - they are different, enjoyable, and opening my experience of music even wider. It is also through listening to the radio that I realised how brilliant Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric" actually is, for example - music that I am aware of, but have not heard for a long time.

There is another reason that radio still rules. I am working from home at the moment. It can get very lonely and isolated at home. Having the radio on helps me to feel that I might not be completely alone, and being able to interact using twitter, for example, helps me feel that I am still connected to others. I have had a few tweets read out, and been on The Chain too, so I have engaged with the show. that is something that is not possible when just listening to music.

So, whatever happens in the world of music download and listening, I am convinced that music radio still has an important part to play. Long live 6 music!

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