An extracurricular fad has recently gripped the otherwise staunchly professional working environment of The Big Issue office in the form of DIY music radio bingo. The rules are simple: stick a cheesy ‘no-repeat’ station such as Planet Rock, Absolute 80s or Smooth Radio on in the background, all draw up your own personalised bingo cards, and cross off those involuntary nostalgia-spilling artists of yesteryear as they predictably come, in fierce competition for such glittering prizes as a box of old wine gums left lying about since Christmas. Behold how surprisingly exciting listening to a run of artists that may go something like Living In A Box, Nik Kershaw, Soul II Soul and T’Pau can suddenly become. Marvel as Howard Jones elicits perhaps the single most ecstatic cheer he’s stimulated in any sentient human since 1989. House!
Before I get myself or anyone else sacked, I hasten to explain that there is a semi-pertinent point somewhere in all of this and it’s that, as mainstream music radio seems to become ever less inspiring, sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
Much as BBC 6 Music remains a reliable haven on the radio dial for a certain stripe of independent and alternative music, the station’s recent unadventurous DJ reshuffle speaks more to an interest in doubling-down on a solid core listenership than it does a desire to encourage new broadcasting talent and attract a fresher, wider, more diverse audience. A short dose of the shrill BBC Radio 1, or the self-styled ‘male-focused’ Radio X (né Xfm), the broadcasting equivalent of eight pints of watery lager and a kebab, and it’s hard not to wish that we could each have a Deke Duncan in our lives, the 73-year-old Stevenage man who has for 44 years and counting been happily broadcasting an ultra-bespoke pop radio station from his garden shed to an audience of exactly one, his wife Teresa, in the living room.
This is why I will be tuning in with interest to LP Radio as it makes its entry into the radio-sphere over coming weeks. Launching after a crowdfunding campaign, which smashed its target, it’s a brand new live online alternative worldwide music station, broadcasting out of a glass booth on the mezzanine of LP Records, a tiny but tastefully stocked vinyl-only record emporium in the west end of Glasgow. Created, says founder Lorenzo Pacitti, with an “emphasis on helping break the streaming malaise of endless choice with trusted curation and 24/7 attention to music discovery with no pretension”, its DJs are drawn largely from the Scottish music scene – Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Amandah Wilkinson from Bossy Love and Paws’ Phillip Taylor included, with some international flavour brought by Nate Krenkel, co-founder with Conor Oberst of New York record label Team Love.
Could the Beeb not launch a BBC 6.1 little sister station – an alternative to the alternative?
In its mission to upset the algorithms and make music curation more human again, LP joins a growing coterie of similarly spirited independent online stations around the UK – from NTS Radio to Reprezent, LVLZ and Rinse FM – each in their own distinct ways embodying the spirit of the alternative music radio godfather, the late John Peel. Further mixing things up on the music radio spectrum, broadcasting big boys Bauer Media’s new “informal and accessible” classical station Scala will launch in March, led by Simon Mayo following his much-publicised departure from BBC Radio 2. If you prefer your classical fix from a more self-starting source, there’s always London Big Issue vendor Tony Wood’s crowd-funded Cardinal FM, an “oasis of calm and tranquility amid the bustling hub of Victoria,” he says.
It remains to be seen whether LP Radio and its ilk are the beginning of a new DIY broadcasting revolution, or merely symptomatic of a wider atomisation of music culture and consumption. But if their only success is to make bigger players appreciate that they can’t get too set in their ways, then that will be enough. Following the roll-out of the BBC Sounds online platform with its tagline “listen without limits”, might not the Beeb consider launching some sort of BBC 6.1 little sister station – an alternative to the alternative, voiced and curated by DJs much more representative of the artists BBC 6 Music plays?
Until then, here’s to the plucky outsiders on the airwaves. And more DIY music radio bingo.
LP Radio will begin broadcasting this month; @LP_Glasgow