Reactions to the BBC Radio 6 Music Reshuffle (APR 2023)
This post is not an attack on 6 Music because it is clear that schedules and personnel do sometimes have to change as a result of the pressure that the BBC is always under to deliver the numbers and demographic for ‘the people’. However, it should be imperative that the financial and development opportunities, which shows like Marc Riley’s and Gideon Coe’s, provide to so many bands, in order to grow within the DIY scene, are understood and taken into account. The passion for and support of new artists, which includes opportunities for live sessions, have an automatic and positive knock-on effect on record, ticket and merch sales within the DIY community that is an absolute lifeline for a lot of acts. As we all know, the price of touring and manufacturing has sky-rocketed over the past few years within an industry that is barely supported by a government which demonstrates little interest in the creative arts. The income generated by these radio shows helps bands like those I manage to fund their tours and release strategies.
As a music fan, I have listened to BBC Radio 6 Music since its inception and have always used it as a source of new music which has led directly to my support of new bands one way or the other. I was a bit of a latecomer to Marc Riley’s shows (2014?) but since I first tuned in, it has been my go-to radio show. Over the years, I have never missed a minute of Marc’s shows whether I’m tuning in live or listening on catch-up.
I sell a lot of merch for my bands on the road and all conversations lead back to Marc Riley one way or the other. There is genuine love and respect for this man which needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. Without Marc’s show, I would never have discovered; The Lovely Eggs, Warmduscher, Pip Blom, Personal Trainer, Wand, The Oh Sees, Beak, and many others who I have supported financially with record, merch, and ticket sales. On a more personal note, I would never have gone back into management without being obsessed by Wesley Gonzalez’s music that I heard on Marc’s show. Music from Marc Riley’s show led to me working with The Bug Club too. In addition to this, it was Marc who inspired and helped me to release the Daniel Johnston ‘Love Lives Forever (BBC Sessions 2003-11)’ album on my own label which took two years to put together.
The new restructure of weekday evenings at Radio 6 commencing in June is a red flag to a lot of bands and artists who rely on this support and who are therefore genuinely concerned that their opportunities for national radio exposure will be reduced. The skillful mix of old and new, well-known and obscure that Marc Riley plays is above all a great listen and the current listening figures support this. As previously stated, this is not an attack on BBC Music but I and many others do wish that Lorna Clarke and her colleagues could recognise how these specialist shows nurture genuine talent from around the world and give these artists a leg-up onto the first steps of the ladder within an industry that is difficult enough to make ends meet in the current climate.
Here are some quotes from some of the artists we work and associate ourselves with to express their gratitude for the support they receive from 6 Music and the evening shows in particular:
Wesley Gonzalez, Artist
“I was 16 when I first went up to the old BBC building in Manchester Piccadilly with my old band Let’s Wrestle to do our first session with Marc Riley. I was an absolute Fall obsessive listening to Slates and Hex Enduction Hour on repeat, completely enamoured with the sound of the Riley-era Fall. We were an extremely loud, precocious and drunk bunch of teenagers and didn’t want to let on what fanboys we were, so we amped that up to the extreme. Whereas most of the establishment saw us as snotty teenagers, Marc took us incredibly seriously and really saw me as a viable songwriter. Marc supported the band no matter what and always had us back in for sessions and we formed a friendship. He would just call me up to check I was doing okay, letting me know how supported I was and sometimes just to chat about records.
When I left my former band and went on as a solo performer whilst having support from other shows on 6music no one has come close to the championing I received from Marc Riley. At almost every gig I play, I talk to multiple people telling me how they heard me first through Marc and how much his show means to them. Without Marc Riley countless of my favourite bands of the past 2 decades just wouldn’t have been played on nationwide British radio; Field Music, Part Chimp, Richard Dawson, Weyes Blood, Warmduscher, Sauna Youth, Mozart Estate, and countless others.
6music certainly has some shows I’m never going to tune into that seem passe to me and their decision to go after one of the best radio shows this country has going for it, shows how misguided the station is becoming. If they want to seem more up to date stop putting Paul Weller records on the playlist, he’s Radio 2 fodder.
Lastly, Michelle and everyone I’ve ever encountered working alongside Marc is absolutely wonderful, and in a music industry that can be rather cold and unwelcoming these days, their enthusiasm and passion for the work they do and their sweet nature is a constant joy to come back to.”
Holiday Ghosts, Band
“Gideon Coe was the first to get our songs on the radio and has continued to support us over the last few years which we’ve really valued as a DIY band. We’ve had so many people at shows tell us they’ve heard of us through his or Marc Riley’s shows, both of whom have really helped us get a foot in the door.”
BC Camplight, Artist
This may be biting the @BBC6Music hand that feeds me but I’m so saddened by this. MARC RILEY is not a ‘curator’. He is an irreplaceable communicator, entertainer, and musical stalwart who makes many of us look forward to 7pm. We love you @marcrileydj. At a loss…
Billy Childish, Chatham, Kent
“Marc and Gideon’s shows are both shining examples of what public service radio should be – not bound by playlists but led by genuine enthusiasts. The bureaucrats at the BBC once again prove that they are thundering dunderheads!”
Ian Damaged, Damaged Goods Records, Leytonstone, London
“As someone who grew up listening to John Peel, Kid Jenson, Janice Long, Mark Goodier on the BBC I’m really disappointed to hear the Marc Riley and Gideon Coe shows are being axed and combined into one, two-hour show from 10-12, the evenings will just not be the same, we won’t get to hear the wide range of music that make these shows on BBC 6music special – Let’s face it, this is what 6music was set up for!“
Ray Collins, Country Mile Records, Newport, South Wales
“The importance of these two DJs to small labels like ours cannot be understated. It reminds me of the time the BBC moved John Peel from his established 10pm slot on Radio 1 which decimated new music on the station and affected John’s health. I realise his son Tom Ravenscroft will benefit from this move but “two wrongs don’t make a right” as they say. Both Gid and Marc have been huge supporters of our output over the years including a live session by Jon Langford’s Men of Gwent which helped boost our sales to levels we had not experienced before. I dread to think how up-and-coming bands will be able to be heard with the proposed changes and fear it could be the nail in the coffin for many small independent labels such as ours. I will watch how this plays out with trepidation and concern for many of the people I admire in the music industry today.”
Stewart Parsons, Creative Director – Loud In Libraries CIC
“My live libraries programme ‘Get It Loud In Libraries’ has walked hand in hand with 6Music most of its life. A raft of the best new and emerging acts was woven deep in the seam of what GILIL does ( showcases great library gigs in towns less associated with quality live music, creating new audiences for libraries and bands alike) from the beating heart of the radio station and its many fabulous presenters.
In many ways Marc Riley is synonymous with GILIL as we would often put his featured bands on between the books right after their live sessions – there felt a great sense to it. Delivering great culture for those who know. I do hope this decision to marginalise Marc is reversed. Post pandemic, in a cost of living crisis,when grassroots venues and emerging new artists need to club together more than ever, this by 6 just seems short sighted and foolhardy.”
Darren and Heather Grayer, Nomansland, New Forest
“Just wanted to add my perspective as a listener to the ridiculous and unnecessary schedule changes affecting Marc Riley and Gid Coe. Since the age of 12, I have been buying and listening to music on a daily basis.
In recent years 6music has played a huge part in keeping my interests fuelled and no one has played a bigger part than Marc Riley. The man costs me a fortune ( in a good way) in records and gigs, nearly every band my wife and I go and see have appeared on his show.
We never miss a single episode of his show (unless we’re at one of those gigs) and it never fails to brighten up our day.
It feels like being part of a family that includes all listeners and bands and I try to participate in the show as much as possible. I finally managed to speak to Marc nearly a year ago after winning the ‘who’s on my t-shirt’ competition.
I really don’t understand how the management can justify cutting Marc’s hours and effectively ending his show as it currently exists when you consider he recently added another 50k listeners to it.
I understand sometimes things can get stale and need a freshen up but nothing could be further from that in the case of Marc’s show. His enthusiasm and knowledge have never waned after many years of presenting. The same obviously applies to Gid.
As I see it I pay the wages of people like Samantha Moy by paying my license fee so it would be decent of her to at least provide an explanation for the decisions of the management. At the moment they appear accountable to no one.
It also seems as though those in charge have never been in the position of everyday listeners like myself. Only then would they start to understand how much of an impact badly made decisions can make.
I really don’t understand why Deb Grant and Tom Ravenscroft couldn’t have stepped into Mary Ann Hobbs and Steve Lamaq’s shoes respectively, it would have made far more sense than to desecrate the shows of two of the station’s most popular DJs.”
Brian Campbell , Formby, England
“Marc and Gideon are both national treasures. My band have done sessions for both of these and they were pivotal in our career and also many new and existing bands and also to keep the BBC relevant and fresh. The grassroots music industry needs the likes of these two especially now with the state it is in and the BBC will be a worse place without their essential content.”
George & Janice, Damnably, London
“Janice and I are run Damnably – a label/mgmt/promoter in London. We are BPI, PRF/MCPS/AIP members-we boycott AIM because it’s sponsored by Spotify. We are one of a handful of labels in the UK with a 30’s asian woman boss and a roster of mostly all women, or women fronted and 60% asian/south east asian.
Our acts make Punk, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Art Rock, Post Punk music and include the biggest Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian indie/punk acts who have played Coachella, Primavera, Fuji Rock, Roskilde, SXSW and done sessions/TV for BBC, KEXP, CNN, NHK, KEXP and all major press media outlets. In short we work with some of the best and most exciting acts around and we are passionate about music and radio.
Marc Riley and Gideon Coe have supported the acts, given them airplay on the BBC and sessions which are respected around the world as the gold standard. With their producers, they do listen to a lot of music and for Indie labels that’s so important because the daytime shows are often full of play-listed tracks which often are tracks pluggers are pushing. Even when we pay pluggers £500-1800 we still get the same few plays but Domino, Rough Trade, Universal, Island etc will get play-listed and get their acts hyped and on festivals but the BBC should be a place any great band should get airplay, not just those with large pr funds.
I also think chasing a younger audience is a disservice to the 6Music audience you have and totally arbitrary-why 30-year-olds? it’s meaningless.
Peel had the youngest listener base on Radio 1 because he was gifted at sifting through thousands of releases to pick out gems that were not played elsewhere and his radio manner was based on a huge musical knowledge and passion which is what Marc and Gideon offer in spades.
If you have quality, original and exciting broadcasting, listeners of all ages will follow. The BBC clearly missed the boat on Podcasts and fails to grasp their success is because they offer more than bland pop or the same tracks mainstream radio or the bbc offer.
I listened to Peel from age 8 and would never listen to daytime radio which was horrendous in the 80’s as it is now. All the UK record labels of a certain age did the same-the UK and greater world of music was shaped by that DJ who supported unknown acts from tiny labels and new emerging genres.
On TV the BBC cherish David Attenborough whose audience are not the same age as him, his audience spans all ages and he is regarded as one of the best ever broadcasters in the world and that’s what you also have with Marc and Gideon. The BBC are the envy of all the radio stations around the world.
Indie labels and DIY artists need Marc and Gideon to search out the best Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Punk, Post Punk, Experimental, hardcore, folk music and play such a wealth of great music on the allocated hours they have or the BBC isn’t serving the massive network of small indie labels and DIY artists who are a much larger business entity than the few majors and large indies that dominate the BBC playlists.
We (Damnably) are a small label but the combined followers on socials/DSP’s of our 30 odd acts is over a million and those people want to hear Otoboke Beaver (JP) Say Sue Me (KR), Drinking Boys and Girls Choir(KR), Wussy (USA), Shonen Knife(JP), Hiperson(CH), Grrrl Gang (IDN), Hazy Sour Cherry(JP), o’summer vacation(JP), Leggy(USA), David Boring (HK) Bananach(IDN), etc on BBC Radio.
Many of them are young, many are women from massive unrepresented or underrepresented scenes around the world.
Listeners want to hear women, LGBTQ+ and people of colour represented on the BBC and on your live festivals.
They want and deserve diversity and representation and people who know what they are talking about and are the best in their field in the world. They want more than just bland pop from major labels/large indies pushed via pluggers to producers who are told to play more pop or already hyped acts. They don’t want to hear more Idles or Wet Leg or Phoebe Bridgers/Boygenius or the latest all white male act a major is pushing like Yard Act. Boygenius are on Interscope/Universal, do they really need 6Music coverage? that’s probably the most powerful major label in terms of plugging/pr.
Adding shows from Idles, Wet Leg, Phoebe Bridgers etc is pointless-they are already getting too much radio because their labels have the biggest plugging spend. BBC 6Music or at least some of it needs to play the outsider music, the records no one else is playing-the BBC should serve listeners and not major labels/massive indies. The BBC should be independent and respect talent and allow them the hours and individual shows to support 10’s of 1000’s of indie labels and millions of DIY artists from all over the world.
Why is Jools Holland fine to keep as a wise old man who is unsackable and not Marc and Gideon? it’s bizarre and will actually cause the BBC to lose listeners and respect.”
Neil Rockett, Rotherham
“Thought about this a lot. Frankly, those of us who listen to radio in the evening are, how to say this without sounding naff, a unique bunch. None of my friends/family do. Most watch TV. I’ve no issue with the new presenters per se (I like them both), but I’m not convinced they can generate a larger audience. I’m also worried that the live sessions will become a thing of the past. Given the negative impact of Brexit for touring musicians a reduction in live sessions could hardly come at a worse time. I’d implore the management to think again. Don’t try to fix something that’s not broken. Keep the Marc Riley & Gideon Coe shows in their existing formats.”
Stewart Lee, 41st Best Standup Ever!, London
“Next Sunday I will do an Observer bit about abandoned heritage as I am walking around the country all through Easter – burial chambers, old churches no-one’s looking after, rivers etc and hope to tag 6Music evenings into this in a funny way that shows culture isn’t all stone and mortar, but ideas too
The BBC press release, cutting 6Music’s evening alternative programming from 20 hours to 8, describes its two driving presenters, Gideon Coe and Marc Riley, as ‘curators’, a word now much derided. But they have been curating – shaping and guiding the tastes of a generation of musicians and listeners to sustain a strand of underground music that influences and informs everything. But they have been much more than curators too, doing something that the algorithms of streaming platforms and the stabs and slashes of social media can’t do – they did what radio uniquely does which is to create a sense of community, Terry Wogans of the night, whose listeners write and email them as friends and who feel part of a wider network of fans and creators, going to the gigs the radio shows tell them about, buying the records and merch because they know it keeps the bands they value afloat.
Let’s get political. We know Brexit has decimated the British music industry, once a beacon of our soft diplomacy. “James Bond. Manchester United. Beatles”, a Kurdish nomad shouted at me from his bedouin tent on a dirt road by the Syrian border in 1987. We know that streaming platforms mean no-one gets paid for making music anymore. We know that the withdrawal of grants, a lack of cheap housing, the disappearance of those 80s and 90s back door cheats like the enterprise allowance scheme, mean that making music is increasingly the domain of the already solvent in a Britain where social mobility is moving backwards.
But those 6 music shows played a part in the reversing this, or at least holding it at bay, finding new voices, lining them up alongside established ones, a creating and sustaining British music. We have to ask, at this point, what is a license payer funded national broadcaster actually for, if it isn’t to do this?”
Thank you to Holiday Ghosts, Wesley Gonzalez, BC Camplight, Wild Billy Childish, Ian Damaged, Ray Collins, Stewart Parsons, Darren and Heather Grayer, Brian Campbell, Damnably, Neil Rockett, and Stewart Lee for their quotes.
Maxine Peake, Actor…and writer
“No, no, no, no no! Marc and Gideon have been instrumental in my musical education and yes I know, I can hear the cries.. ’who really cares about what a middle aged woman is listening to! You’ve had your time’. Maybe I have but the new upcoming bands have not. Without Marc’s sessions how do these artists get to a wider audience? An audience that will put their hand in their pockets buy tickets for gigs and merch? This equals an existence for the musicians, a living, a chance to give full attention to their creativity and food on their tables.
This isn’t about keeping two older blokes in a job, it’s about the future of a music industry that is not suffocated by the mainstream. It’s about livelihoods and the power of music that lives outside the box.”
The Bug Club, South-Wales
“Nobody would know we exist without Marc Riley’s radio show. He has been unbelievably supportive of our band from the first song we released. His backing along with other great djs like Gideon Coe and Adam Walton has had a direct and very positive effect on us. Their loyal followers trust their recommendations and end up at bands like ours’ gigs. There’s a real community around these radio shows. We haven’t played a gig without someone raving about Marc’s show to us.
As a listener Marc’s show is my favourite place to find new bands and the radio needs djs like Gideon and Marc who just play what they want. They have a real genuine relationship with the artist and listeners that I know means a lot to many people. I’m sure Marc and Gideon will make a new great show and people will just go to bed a bit later but I hope the people in charge realise how important these shows are to so many people.
Jah Wobble, London
“These were the only two shows I ever listened to on BBC 6 …which is pretty a square station nowadays anyway. The big problem for the controller I would imagine is that she can’t control either @gidcoe or @marcrileydj in terms of what they play. So move em to graveyard slot”
Will Sergeant, Echo and the Bunnymen
I have heard on the grapevine that BBC 6 Music is considering merging Gideon Coe and Marc Riley’s shows. Not sure why you would want to do that. I am a regular listener to Marc Riley’s show. He has opened my eyes to so much music over the years. Do you think that kids listen to 6 Music; forget it? They are watching YouTube and tick-tock er… that’s it. Loyal listeners to 6 Music are the older fan of music, the ones that still actually buy and listen to actual records, the ones from back when all we had was music and football. I think all this axing Ken Bruce has gone to your heads over at the Beeb. You have got yourselves in a right old feeding frenzy. We are the people listening, the ones who know what a DAB radio is. Do you think Kids are listening via the iPlayer? Think again; they are off once they get on the phones and pads. I see this as shooting yourselves in the foot with a Bazooka. I know you are trying to get a younger audience, but they don’t give a crap. The Radio is no longer in their world but still in ours. Please keep the shows as they are. BBC Radio is one of the best things left in Britain; please don’t ruin that as well.”
Kelley Stoltz, Musician, US
“THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Marc Riley and Gideon Coe have been supportive of my music and many other people you probably like too… without their wise ears we wouldn’t have much chance of getting played on the BEEB… unfortunately the BBC has just chopped their two unique programs into one co-host type show with no input from us, the listeners!”
Lloyd Bent, Bingo Records, Sheffield
“Marc was the first DJ on any station to give our releases a chance. Since then he has been a friend and a consistent champion of the label and much of the music we put out, giving first spins and sessions to The Bug Club, Melin Melyn, Mr Ben & the Bens, Potpourri, and plenty more. Over the last few years, Marc’s show has been pivotal to the growth of Bingo Records. While many DJs seem inaccessible without expensive plugging, Marc reliably listens to anything sent to him and as a result, presents a unique opportunity for people to have a chance of being played on national radio without needing the resources to pay for professional help – something beyond the reach of many at the beginning. This is a vital, barrier-lowering opportunity to musicians and labels that start out with ambition but without huge resources. A great deal of new and little-known music would not have made it to the ears of many people who became fans without Marc’s help. I hope that whatever 6 Music plans to do to help new music going forward can match the incredible value of Marc’s support and accessibility.”
Personal Trainer, Amsterdam, NL
“Marc Riley’s support has meant a lot for the group. We started selling out shows after he started continuously playing us on his radio show. He has created a platform we can really build on as a band. It feels like he curates his shows out of curiosity and love for music, and his listeners seem to trust him, which is cool.
Being from The Netherlands, stuff like this slowly disappearing to the background until it completely vanishes is a pattern we recognise from back home. We think it’s very very very nice that someone plays music that they like on the radio!”
Joan As Police Woman, NYC
“Marc Riley was extremely instrumental in breaking my music in the U.K. Since 2005, with my first vinyl-only 7”, he has supported not just me but so many underground sounds from New York. Without his exceptional show the music world would be a duller place. I imagine his unparalleled level of humor and kindness has helped avert many nervous breakdowns as well! Amongst music-makers and fans alike, he is a true legend and treasure.“
The Lovely Eggs, Lancaster
“Have so far struggled to put into words how we feel about the loss of Marc Riley’s 6 Music show. People say it’s progress, change blah blah. But Marc’s show was so much more than just a radio programme to so many people. Losing Marc’s show has pulled the rug from underneath the DIY music scene, from bands with no connections, no playlist pluggers, no music industry infrastructure. Marc helped us to build an audience, a scene, connect with other bands. He allowed us to operate outside the system. We still can’t express how much that man has helped our band and allowed us to operate on our own terms. We don’t know what else to say. Thank you Marc Riley.”
Pip Blom, Amsterdam, NL
“When I released my first songs, which I recorded on my own in my little studio, Marc started playing them on 6music when no other radio station had played them yet. This gave me such a boost of confidence because I had never made music before! Later on, when we started playing and recording as a band, Marc continued to support us by playing us a lot and inviting us for sessions. This helped us grow our audience a lot. We started playing in bigger and bigger venues and even started selling out places like The Scala in London. At every show, we receive feedback from a lot of people who first heard us on Marc’s show on BBC 6music. That is always great to hear. Marc played a crucial role in our career. Without his support, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Thanks so much, Marc!”
2 thoughts on “UK National Radio and the DIY Community ”
I teach Media Studies at GCSE and A Level. Part of both courses is Radio. Not one of my students listens to the radio apart from in their parents’ cars. It is of no interest to them whatsoever. They don’t own dab radios because all their music is streamed through their phones. I really don’t understand what 6Music think is going to happen with this change.
I’m a long-term listener to Marc’s show, and I think I’ve discovered about 75% of new music in recent years from bands he has showcased on his show. I love lots of the other shows on 6 Music too and their diversity. But Marc’s is the one that really showcased new artists that I relate to. I looked back at gigs I’ve been to in the last 5 years, and all but 3 were bands I discovered through Marc’s show. It would be an enormous loss for music across the UK if 6 Music minimises the showcasing of new bands to a much-reduced late-night slot – it will have real implications for the already struggling live venues across the UK, and reduce the diversity of music that 6 Music has been so good at maintaining over 2 decades regardless of schedule and personnel changes.