Reverend And The Makers take on Radio One in playlist debateYesterday there was a fascinating twitter debate between Jon Mclure of Reverend And The Makers (twitter @Reverend_Makers) and George Ergatoudis head of Radio One.

The crux of the debate was the Radio One play list (this weeks playlist- full of expensive pop, tiny amount of indie and no rock) end how Mclure felt that it was blanking out lots of bands. Obviously the debate was personal for the charismatic Reverend And the Makers frontman who, despite selling out a big UK tour and having a top 20 album, is getting no daytime radio play.

His argument was not just about this though and he brought up great recent records like from Janice Graham Band that fall between the cracks because of lack of daytime radio backing.

Mclure felt that the playlist is suffocating and seems to be a byzantine system that is making it hard for bands to break through and is also unfair to bands like his who have a big following but can’t get the next break to the mainstream.

It’s always been the frustration with radio- even my band Goldblade nearly got daytime radio play with our top 75 single Strictly Hardcore- the playlist panel liked the single but said there was too much guitar in the song to be played on the radio! Mclure was also unhappy with Radio One’s claims to having done market research to ‘find out what the audience wanted’ and questioned this grey area research.

The debate was heated yet polite with head of Radio One George Ergatoudis claiming that the playlist system was fair with 15 people on a panel making the decisions and that it’s a ‘democracy and not a dictatorship’ and that new bands like the 1975 and Alt-J are getting radio support and how he doesn’t interfere with evening radio DJs choices. He also pointed out that Radio One was pitched at 15 to 29 year olds.

It’s an interesting debate. What is the role of Radio One? if it’s paid for by the public should it be reflecting what they want to hear? if it plays pop music, then it should play music that is popular- like heavy metal which never gets near the playlists yet sells out stadiums! who decides what three minute piece of sound is ok for radio play? is Radio One a self styled filter or a reflection of what people want to hear?

Apparently though the remit for Radio One is not to play pop music, the service licence provided by the BBC Trust says “The remit of Radio 1 is to entertain and engage a broad range of young listeners with a distinctive mix of contemporary music and speech. Its target audience is 15-29 year olds but it should also provide some programming for younger teenagers”.

That sounds like the Reverend And The Makers audience! and also the audience of those big metal and rock bands that never get played on Radio One! This needs to be addressed because, otherwise, it’s not a ‘broad audience’.

Even nowadays, decades later from its seventies heyday, Radio One is still an important influence on public taste and that’s what frustrates Jon Mclure. He is right to question why his and other records don’t get played. The Reverend And The Makers gig I saw last month was quite special in terms of the band’s music and the intense atmosphere in the room. Do we have to wait for the band to break big with hard graft and the increasingly influential internet before they get played on the radio? Why do bands still have to rely on 15 people to decide whether they are worthy of getting heard by several million listeners?

Obviously Radio One can’t please everyone. Maybe we need a new radio station to play all the other stuff? the internet is already changing the balance with many cult bands getting bigger and bigger without having to rely on the very narrow tastes of daytime radio and the media where only mercury prize nice indie gets a look in.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. The age question that Radio 1keeps peddling (used for the pedant on the Frazer King interview) is an irrelevant one. I was amazed at the Rev and the Makers gigs that I saw on this tour, just how young the audience was. They’d fit the Radio 1 demographic perfectly and they’re being excluded from that station by the music programming of people not really qualified, by their age often ironically, to make those choices.

    The Radio 1 guy also avoided questions about the playlisting of Chris Brown, a guy who has a record of beating women.

  2. I have to defend the BBC here. Radio 1 is about the current and targets a certain audience, this would be a problem if Radio 1 was the only BBC Radio Station but its not, if people want real music listen to 6 Music like the rest of real music fans, if the BBC were to play the new Marilyn Manson track after a Rhianna all the mindless sheep would just switch to some mind draining commercial station like Capital and the BBC loses out as a whole. maybe McClure needs to spend a little more time improving his music and its message instead of trying to change the world.

    Not intellectual
    We ain’t got the time
    All we cared about
    Is a little bit of bump and grind
    But it’s effectual
    Each and every time
    ‘Cause all the people want is a b-b-b-b-bassline

    hardly war and peace is it.

  3. “Obviously Radio One can’t please everyone. Maybe we need a new radio station to play all the other stuff?”

    …you mean like 6Music?

  4. I’ve only just left the age group that radio 1 claim that they are aimed at yet none of my friends listen to it. Like all people I like a wide variety of different music but radio 1 doesn’t cater for this rather they assume we listen to what’s currently in the top 40. Jon mclure is right about radio 1’s playlists by limiting themselves to such a small selection of music they are contributing to the decline of the British music industry. Bands like reverend and the makers when given the exposure they have earned become mainstream and then encourage the next generation of music fans to go it and discover lesser known acts for themselves. Having a station with the influence and reach of radio 1 supporting this is vital for the future health of the UK music industry.

  5. At 21 I am very firmly in radio 1’s remit yet I already feel quite old when I listen to it. I like good indie, but I also like folk, punk and rock. However none of this kind of music is played, instead we get “dance music” and pop. Even pop is an interesting one, I read a thing about nick grimshaw saying that Robbie Williams isn’t relevant to 14 year olds but one direction are. Soz Grimmy but 14 year olds aren’t even in your remit and as someone who is who grew up with Robbie Williams I find him to be pretty damn relevant (albeit as a very guilty pleasure). Radio 1 need to sort their playlists out if they want me back as a listener. In the meantime? 6 music.

  6. Radio 1 seem to be in a massive flux at the mo. They refuse to play the music you mentioned, refuse to play Robbie Williams even yet play Madonna tracks etc. I also do not know of many 29yr olds who would listen to 1D. I personally stick to BBC6Music

  7. But hasnt it always been teh same? R1 has only ever played chart stuff during the day. New bands have hardly ever got a look in if they dont fit the right type. Perhaps a better solution would be to make 6Music available on non-digital radios then at least people would get the chance to hear new bands all teh time and not just if they have a DAB radio.

    • Radio 1 has long lost its way. The ageism aspect of Radio 1 seems to infer that only kids are good for spotting new talent. John Peel would turn in his grave. The good DJ’s are moved out. With possibly Zane Lowe the only DJ of any merit or substance remaining. Radio 1 doesnt know what it stands for is it an age group and what does that mean? Radio 6 on the other hand knows its demographic and has a range of programs to cover it. Death to Radio 1 long live Radio 6

  8. I’m just not convinced this is even a relevant debate anymore; maybe it was when we had 4 BBC radio stations, and if you wanted anything else it was Caroline or Laser 558, but even for those without DAB there’s streams from pretty much every station from around the world over the web to our PCs and phones, digital radio over Freeview, Rhapsody and Spotify suggesting new music according to your previous selections, more people attending live gigs and getting exposure to new acts, all of which serve to make Radio 1 and it’s limited playlist increasingly irrelevant. For me it’s only ever an issue in the car stuck with AM/FM radio and can’t get XFM or Absolute beacuse I’ve strayed too far from London! But then I can just stick a CD on. With this range of alternatives, I can’t see the point in fighting radio 1.

  9. Eventually, as digitial radio usage creep up, FM radio will be turned off. At that time, one of the big advantages Radio 1 has over broader but digital only stations like 6 Music will fade away.
    Radio 1 generally plays to the lowest common denominator so will always have a large audience (esp amoungst impressionable kids/teenagers/twenty-somethings) but it will also mean it doesn’t have a stable identity and is always playing catch-up to MTV-type, USA originated trends.

  10. You hit the nail on the head in your blog with the term – expensive pop music – that’s exactly what it is, and the so called 15 playlisters are continually wined and dined by those with the money and commercial interest at heart. Radio One is complete inane bollocks, like Chris B said, the lowest common denominator. It’s Tabloid Radio for an OK Magazine X Factor generation and bares no significance on ‘our music’ or ‘our culture’ at all – httpss://


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