Let’s get this straight, the idea of 6music is fantastic- a whole radio station carved out in the image of the late and great John Peel, a place where diversity rules and a whole wide ranging gamut of alternative music is celebrated, or at least we though that was the idea.

Of course, no-one really expects this to be true, but it’s a wonderful notion. There are some great shows on 6music and as a sort of hip radio 2 it works fantastically.

Maybe we were mistaken to expect it to be a John Peel styled radio station. A modern version of the great Peel session would be a fantastic thing but maybe not possible.

John Peel seemed to play everything from African music to death metal, from weird noise to indie pop and his shows were adventures into sound. These days there is nothing like that on mainstream radio and alternative music has become homogonised and blandly boring. It’s become alternative in word only, why have Coldplay at number one in the readers poll when you could have U2 or Take That? When did alternative music become so sensible? like a warm old pullover or a pair of comfy slippers?

6Music still has its moments but I guess marketing means that things have to be cleaned up. With a diet of mainly indie music and certainly not of that noisy rock stuff or anything too off the wall or even a bit noisy, 6music is a hip easy listening station and does that job very well but it is not diverse or truly alternative. There is nothing wrong with that of course, it’s just that many people thought it was something else. There are some great DJs there and you do hear bits of good stuff…

Recently 6music polled its listeners to find their favourite songs and the results have been quite telling. it’s not that the bands are bad, it’s just they are all polished indie bands who in the main are not really that alternative and also, like Coldplay, had the marketing and the twitter numbers to make sure they got voted up high in the poll. There are some great things in there, who could deny Johnny Cash or feel a certain rush with Artic Monkeys or a glow of pride for British Sea Power but please don’t tell me Coldplay or the National’s polished, slick, mainstream pop dressed up in indie clothes and marketed as alternative is alternative…

The equivalent poll to this in the late seventies would have been Fleetwood mac winning best alternative band in the middle of the post punk wars…

1. Coldplay – Clocks

2. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

3. Elbow – One Day Like This

4. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

5. The Killers – Mr Brightside

6. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

7. The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

8. Johnny Cash – Hurt

9. British Sea Power – Remember Me

10. Radiohead – There There

Previous articleEels: Wonderful, Glorious – album review
Next articleThe Computers: Manchester Roadhouse – live review


  1. 6Music has got the best excuse to play what it wants, when it wants … it’s subsidised by the BBC … but still it plays popularist nothings

  2. It’s not like I’ve done a survey, or anything, but I’m sure 6 Music is gradually easing its way into Radio 2 territory. There seems to be an increasing bias towards smooth, easy-listening sounds, winsome folkie stuff, and the like.

    Sure, they’ll play rowdy old tunes by the likes of the Ramones or Velvet Underground, but the new music selections seem to be getting more and more staid and respectable. The overall policy seems to be ‘a limited selection of noisy old music; lots of nice, respectable new music’.

    Maybe they think that’s their demographic: old punks and retired rockers who enjoy hearing the old rackets but prefer their new stuff to be a bit more AOR these days.

    I’m generalising, of course – 6 Music does play the likes of Bo Ningen, Jim Jones Revue, etc, and good on ’em for doing so. But artist like these increasingly appear as occasional noisy punctuation points in a sea of audio respectability.

    The best shows – the non-playlist shows like Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone, Tom Ravenscroft – increasingly seem like aberrations amid the general niceness. Even Marc Riley seems to favour twingly-twangly folkie acts over bands with the guitars turned up – just look at the bands he gets in for live sessions.

    And as for Tom Robinson’s Now Playing show, which supposedly reflects the music that’s making waves across the web, in blogs etc – are we really to believe that nobody on the web is interested in anything genuinely left-field, abrasive, or a bit wild? They’re obviously not looking at Louder Than War, for a start!

    I was a big supporter of the campaign to save 6 Music from closure. But now maybe we need another campaign – NO to the Radio Twoification of 6 Music!

  3. We can’t have it both ways. Too ‘alternative’ and you won’t get the listeners. Too mainstream and it becomes as bland as X factor. I think 6music is fantastic because it has a wide range of music on it. OK, not the ultra-wide range that John Peel had, but when did ‘ultra-indie’ ever win listeners’ votes? Indie-snobs (of which Peel was NEVER one of!) are as boring and up their own arses as beard-stroking art critics and wine buffs!

    I think this top 10 is pretty good considering the amount of disposable shite pushed relentlessly by the majors. Coldplay may well be at the light end of ‘indie-lite’, but rather them than JLS any day of the week!

  4. its still out there you just need to lookin the right places.

  5. I’ve never heard Coldplay on 6music, but they probably did play them ten years ago. The reason it won is because @coldplay, which has 9.5m followers, asked fans to vote for it.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree!! I find Marc Riley plays some pretty nifty tunes, but most of the DJs are indistinguishable with what they play – apart from your specialist shows like Craig Charles, Cerys Matthews and that guy who plays that awful ‘world music’ on Saturday afternoons (Giles?), the ‘mainstream’ on 6music all follow the same pattern; a very strict ‘new music’ playlist and plenty of delving into the archives for our favourites.
    I have quite often turned the radio off in disgust when Lamacq is interviewing Coldplay or the god-awful Florence and The Machine (both of whom have appeared on x-factor).
    Don’t get me wrong – I love 6music, and one flip to the banal world of Radio One makes me praise SIX even more. But you’re not going to hear anything of the extreme Peel stuff we used to hear; you’re not going to hear a repeat session by 70 Gwen Party or Extreme Noise Terror.
    Even BBC Radio Wales’ Adam Walton, who’s show is solely dedicated to new Welsh music will (occasionally) play music from the more challenging areas of the spectrum. I switched on the car radio last night after finishing a gig (Braxton Hicks – quick plug there!) to hear Adam playing a track off the new split EP by North Wales anarchist punks Global Parasite, soon followed by Manchester based (with NWales connections) Queer’d Science, which was simply wonderful, and it’d be nice to have someone on 6music happy enough and dedicated to seek out the unlistenable, the challenging, the left of leftfield, the good, the bad and downright ugly…..

  7. I concur! Just to clarify though: “Recently 6music polled its listeners to find their favourite songs…” is slightly misleading; the 100 songs were pre-determined by 6music DJs, and listeners were able to vote for one of those songs. I voted for the Flaming Lips because they’re my favourite band, but “Do You Realize?” isn’t even the best song on the “Yoshimi” album, never mind the best song from the last 10 years.

    When it was under threat of closure, 6music seemed to throw the playlist out the window for a while and went back to how it was when it started out, with DJs playing what they wanted. But then it seemed once its continued existence was assured, the playlist came back into force. What a shame. But as long as we all continue to support the shows that do dare to play something a bit different, there’s hope for the world yet.

  8. Radio 6 Music has become decidedly bland. Most of the songs they play sound similar to each other nothing really stands out from the crowd of similarity. Same old same old as some say and please oh please don’t play The Smiths again and if you’re going to play punk don’t play Sex Pistols again! Half Man Half Biscuit maybe?? The People’s Playlist on Lauren Laverne’s show does interest me though as it usually throws up some unusual choices. Tom Ravenscroft needs to live up to expectations after all his dad was a legend of radio. That bloke in the morning needs to shut up and stop reiterating the rubbish jokes. Radcliffe’s no good without Maconie, but The Chain and Tea Time Theme Time can reveal some solid musical nuggets. If it wasn’t for Jeremy Vine and Ken Bruce’s yattering I’d listen to Radio 2 instead. The playlist is just as limited but the music is more varied.

  9. I am happy enough with an occasional 60 minutes of Lauren at lunchtime and the Raven once a week on Friday
    (I have found Maconie interesting and knowledgable, but it needs to be available as a podcast for me to get to listen)

    I’d prefer two-hours of quality once a week (ie:Tom Ravenscroft)
    rather than a lesser amount stretched out over eight hours Monday to Thursday (Marc Riley)

    For example, last year I really wanted to listen to the Jesus&Mary Chain archive session on Marc Riley’s show, but I just couldn’t tolerate the rest of his broadcast, so I tuned off rather than getting annoyed.
    (But admittedly, Marc Riley is more interesting than Lammo and much better than the completely unlistenable Don Letts, Tom Robinson, or anything on radio1)

    It’s Raven’s understated, relaxed delivery, (rather than hype-hype-hype) and he plays pretty electonica, aggressive electronica, and genuinely exciting US guitar-based bands (rather than bland UK fakers – a non-ironic Art Brut ‘look at us, we formed a band’)

    It might be interesting if Mary-Anne Hobbs was let off the leash a bit more?

    But overall, 2 hours is enough for me.
    Radio 3 has become my background music during the day, as 6music does tend to drift into the territory of a slightly edgey Radio2 or that of a station for people who’ve out-grown Radio1.

  10. Actually, I was more than a bit unfair on one particular presenter, so I’d like to correct myself..

    Marc Riley is far, far from crap,
    he does play music that is both new to me and which I enjoy,
    and he has an excellent raport with the live bands that come in
    I like his self-deprication,
    I don’t know why I was picking on him, if I am honest with myself.

    Anyway, I don’t obsessively listen to the radio, like I did to John Peel when I was 19 to 23 years old

    Overall, certain shows on 6music are good to dip into,
    (but there is room for improvement)

  11. Excessively hyping Paul McCartney was the last straw
    There has been a loss of integrity
    (it’s like the Lib Dems pledging not to raise tuition fees)

    Last week I heard Polica and Squarepusher being played in the afternoon on 6music
    and it reminded me that there is interesting and exciting modern music available
    if I search for it myself.

    6Music is not for me.
    It upsets me more than interests or excites me.
    I am going to use Last.FM for a couple of hours per week instead.

    No more horrible mid1970s to late 80s ugly music.
    No more ‘Xfm indie’
    It’s still incomparably better than R2 (+ the unlistenable R1)
    but Radio3 is more pleasant, interesting and less annoying for daytime background music.

    I’ve found something better.

  12. I shouldn’t have named specific shows, a lot of the criticism was unfair.
    I was just sensitive to the ‘attention deficit’ style of fading in/out background music or speaking over tracks in an R1/R2 format,
    and thought there was a lot of music from a certain era for people in their 40s and 50s.
    The two presenters that I unfairly described as “unlistenable” were the first names that I thought of while I typed the sentence, soley because I heard them recently filling-in on an absent show.

    Different shows are made for different audiences, so one person’s subjective opinions are not a valid criticism on their own.

    I have found the shows that interest me, which I can dip into when I want.
    I really shouldn’t have criticised specific people.

  13. Well, I think this thread needs updated a little. I would say that having heard a lot of the bands this year (2014) on 6Music and keeping a close eye on their best 15 albums of 2014, I think the problems of 2013 aren’t as relevant now. It’s feasible that the top 4 albums (as I write they are only at no.5) will consist of Kate Tempest, Ex Hex and Flying Lotus. If picking Flying Lotus’ excellent album You’re Dead as one of the top albums of the year isn’t a nod to future sounding, innovative, totally unique music, I don’t know what is.

    To address the actual shows, Marc Riley’s evening show has been a real eye opener for me. I don’t know half the bands he plays but it’s a show that sticks to underground bands as the prime theme of the show. It introduces little known bands to me all the time.
    For the guy who classed Gilles Peterson’s show as “awful world music”, that is a surprising display of ignorance. Gilles has been a musical pioneer since 1979, playing pirate radio then Kiss then one of the most popular, outlandish shows on R1 until they shunted him to 6Music where he’s definitely found his home. Some shows he’ll focus on ‘Blue Note’ music, others are rap and hip hop heavy, others dominated by electronica, or brazilian or japanese dn’b, Jazz or Cuban culture. His sonic landscape tends to avoid guitart bands and focus on music around that. He nearly won the world music award for his double album ‘In Brazil’ a few years ago. His alternative WorldWide Awards each January in London showcase a diverse range of artists you either love or are ambivalent to. One of the best british dj’s of the last 20 years and more respected globally than any other British dj.

    A lot of the other shows have changed their format and okay some are a little more same/same like Lauren Laverne but why not. Stuart Maconie ensures Mark Radcliffe’s show isn’t too bland and then there’s the guy who plays Friday evenings Tom Ravenscroft (son of John Peel). I even like Huey Morgan’s delving into much more US sounds on his show and it adds a little something although it can dip into very mainstream sometimes.
    Overall, the station still offers a bigger and broader diversity than any other bbc radio station and long may it continue to evolve


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here