BBC Radio 1 prides itself on delivering "The Best New Music And Entertainment".
And despite causing the odd bit of controversy by not playing a certain Robbie or DJs counting down the wrong Top 40, it is the biggest music station in the UK and home to the most diverse playlist going… Bring Me the Horizon before 9am?! Nice.
Digital Spy speaks exclusively to one of the most powerful figures in the industry - Radio 1's head of music George Ergatoudis - on how the playlist is formed, how much say Radio 1 has on the charts and whether it's time reality talent shows took a breather…
How is Radio 1's playlist formed?
"We have 45 tracks on the playlist each week plus one track from a new BBC Introducing artist. A team of 12 people picks the list: a mix of people, half men, half women, some very experienced music professionals and some younger, fresh ears but all with a shared passion for and expertise in digging out the best music for our listeners. We meet every Wednesday afternoon to listen to a selection of tracks including recommendations from Radio 1's specialist music presenters.
"The Radio 1 music team, led by me, has to do a significant amount of filtering before the meeting to ensure we are considering the right tracks. We spend our lives listening to new music, checking tip-offs and trawling YouTube and we dig up all the objective information we can on an artist to help inform our opinion. There's more music being made than ever before, and it's our job to find the best. It's definitely a challenge."
How much say do the daytime DJs get over what they play?
"Each daytime DJ has a 'record of the week' and some, like Huw Stephens and Fearne Cotton, get to pick additional tracks they want to champion."
I've noticed more and more guitar acts are getting play throughout the day, like Jake Bugg, Everything Everything and Frightened Rabbit. Is it about time indie/rock got its say again?
"I am confident that we are in a year of transition and I fully expect guitar-based acts to start rising in popularity again. The public is beginning to tire of the formulaic sounds that make up much of the Top 40 singles chart and we have audience research to back this up. They want more variety and that's good news for Radio 1. Having said that I don't think we'll see the important guitar acts of this decade really smashing it until 2015."
Radio 1 DJs Scott Mills, Fearne Cotton, Dev, Nick Grimshaw, Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens
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How influential do you think Radio 1 is on the charts?
"A lot of people believe we have total control over what gets in the charts and what is popular, but this simply isn't the case. Of course we do have influence, but the public know what they like and if we don't acknowledge that they'll soon turn us off and go elsewhere. At mass-market level I strongly believe there's a cycle of musical taste in the UK and Radio 1 is unique in reflecting this cycle while simultaneously supporting the best contemporary popular music from a wide range of different genres: rock, pop, dance, hip-hop, R&B and indie to name just a few.
"We position ourselves at the front of the cycle, gently pushing the market forward, taking risks that no commercial station would ever do. We have a mission to break new artists, but of course it would be wrong to simply define success as crossing over to the mainstream. We play music from TNGHT and Bring Me the Horizon because it's exciting, not because they're about to have Top 40 hits. It's all about balance: as long as Radio 1 gets the mix of music right we can make a real difference by introducing huge numbers of listeners to music they wouldn't hear anywhere else. That's why Radio 1 is so fundamental to the success of the UK music industry."
What is your take on reality talent shows like The X Factor and The Voice? Are you pressured to play acts from the latter because it's a BBC-produced show?
"My take is that they are primarily TV entertainment formats and the public's appetite for these shows is now waning. It happened to Opportunity Knocks, Blind Date and Big Brother; all these shows had their day, but that day ends. There's no pressure on Radio 1 to support artists from any of these shows, but we will play them if we believe they're relevant to our young target audience."
Radio 1 is extremely productive in its support of new music, via Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Phil and Alice, BBC Introducing, etc. How important is new music to the station's output?
"New music is in the DNA of Radio 1 and it's definitely one of our unique selling points. Our daytime audience likes popular melodic music, but they are open to different sounds and styles; I refer to them as the 'eclectic mainstream'. They choose Radio 1 because they want to hear what's new and exciting in a range of genres. I strongly believe that our support for UK artists makes a massive difference to the UK music industry and BBC Introducing has proven to be a brilliant gateway for new talent."
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