BBC Radio 6 Music

BBC Radio 6 Music[1] is a British digital radio station owned and operated by the BBC, specialising primarily in alternative music. BBC 6 Music was the first national music radio station to be launched by the BBC in 32 years.[2] It is available only on digital media: DAB radio, BBC Sounds, digital television, and throughout northern and western Europe through the Astra 2B satellite.

BBC Radio 6 Music
Logo used since 2022
Broadcast areaUnited Kingdom and Internationally via Satellite and BBC Sounds
FormatAlternative/Indie music
OperatorBBC North (Manchester)
BBC Radio (London)
BBC Radio 2
First air date
11 March 2002 (2002-03-11)
Former names
BBC 6 Music (2002–2011)
WebcastBBC Sounds

BBC 6 Music has been described as a "dedicated alternative music station".[3] Many presenters have argued against the perception that the main focus is indie guitar music.[4] The station itself describes its output as "the cutting edge music of today, the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years and unlimited access to the BBC's wonderful music archive".[5] Since 2014, an annual music festival, 6 Music Festival, has been held in different cities around the United Kingdom and broadcast live on the station.[6]

In July 2010, the BBC Trust announced it had rejected a proposal by the BBC to close 6 Music to provide commercial rivals more room.[7] The trust commented that the station was "well-liked by its listeners, was highly distinctive and made an important contribution".[8] In 2018, 6 Music was the most listened-to digital-only radio station, with an average weekly audience of 2.53 million.[9]

According to RAJAR, the station broadcasts to a weekly audience of 2.4 million with a listening share of 2.4% as of September 2022.


BBC 6 Music was proposed in October 2000 as a "digital-only" radio station and named "Network Y".[10][11][12][13] ("Network X" became BBC Radio 1Xtra and "Network Z" BBC 7).[14]

The BBC 6 Music logo at the time of its launch, used from 2002 to 2007

The station opened at 7 am, Monday 11 March 2002, with a show presented by Phill Jupitus. At the start-up, presenters included Liz Kershaw, Andrew Collins, Tom Robinson, Gideon Coe, Janice Long, Chris Hawkins, Gary Burton, Craig Charles, Stuart Maconie, Brinsley Forde, Suggs, Clare McDonnell, Bruce Dickinson, Tracey MacLeod, Sean Hughes, and Bob Harris.[15] The first record played was Ash's Burn Baby Burn[16] 6 Music attracted criticism for changing daytime schedules during late 2007 and early 2008.[17][18] In response, Lesley Douglas, Controller of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music at the time, said that the changes were intended to attract more female listeners. She claimed that "men tend to be more interested in the intellectual side of the music, the tracks, where albums have been made, that sort of thing".[19] This in turn brought on more criticism of perceived sexism on Douglas' part.[20]

A BBC Radio 6 Music studio in Salford

In March 2006, BBC 6 Music moved from Broadcasting House to new studios in the adjacent Wogan House (then called Western House) to allow the regeneration of Broadcasting House.[21]

In 2011, BBC Radio 6 Music started the process of moving some of its presenters, staff, and shows from London and elsewhere to the new studios at MediaCityUK in Salford near Manchester. The studios are located on the ground floor of Dock House.[22][23][24] Among programmes broadcast there are Radcliffe & Maconie, The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, and Marc Riley's and Mary Anne Hobbs' shows.

Proposed closure

The BBC Radio 6 Music logo, 2007–2022

In February 2010, in anticipation of a review by the BBC Trust, newspaper reports suggested 6 Music might be axed.[25] The review stopped short of recommending closure but noted that only one in five UK residents were aware the station existed, and that it lacked presenters with credibility as music experts.[26] The Times claimed that Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, proposed closure as part of a bid to scale back BBC operations and allow commercial rivals more room.[27] A high-profile campaign to oppose closure of the station attracted media attention and led to "#SaveBBC6Music" quickly becoming a trending topic on Twitter. A leading voice in the campaign was Jarvis Cocker, the lead singer for the British band Pulp who presented his own show on BBC 6 Music, Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service.[28] A Facebook group set up to oppose the proposed closure gained nearly 180,000 members.[29] A campaign was launched to get the song "Joy Division Oven Gloves" by Half Man Half Biscuit to No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart on 12 April 2010;[30][31] it entered the Singles Chart that week at No. 56 and the Independent Singles Chart at No. 3.[32][33]

The Sunday Times reported that following the public outcry over the proposed closure, 6 Music would be rebranded as Radio 2 Extra, retaining a similar playlist but broadcasting for only 12 hours a day[34] but Tim Davie, head of audio and music at the BBC, denied this was a possibility.[35]

Five months after rumours of closure first emerged, the BBC Trust announced that it was not convinced by the BBC Executive's plans and that the station would not be closed.[36][37][38]

In the first quarter of 2011 some BBC radio services, including 6 Music, were part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers.[39] His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."[39] The Telegraph suggested that this was due to 'commercial sector criticism'[39] whilst The Guardian cited a National Audit Office report.[40]

BASCA was actively circulating petitions challenging the BBC's plan to close down 6 Music.[41]


Ratings and listenership

In February 2010, 6 Music was reported as showing growth in its audience, winning an audience of 695,000 listeners over the first quarter, up 12.3% year-on-year.[42] However, in the quarter to December 2009, its 'reach' (proportion of the adult population who listen for at least 5 minutes in the course of an average week) was 1%, and Total Survey Area share (of total listening time) was 0.4%.[43]

According to the BBC's service review of Radio 2 and 6 Music, published in February 2010, the average age of 6 Music listeners was 36, which led the authors to suggest more might be done to attract older listeners, considering the station played a broad range of music from the 1960s to the present day. The review also claimed that the deficiency in appeal to female listeners apparent in 2007 was still in existence, and that there should be changes to attract more listeners from ethnic minorities and lower income groups.[44] However, the review did not give details of the scale of these issues.

Following the proposal to close the station, online listening figures rose significantly. The number of weekly unique online listeners rose to an average of 133,653 in March 2010, up 50 per cent on the previous March.[45] When the RAJAR listening figures were released in May 2010, it was revealed that 6 Music had an average of 1.02 million listeners in the first three months of the year, compared to 695,000 the previous year.[46]

In 2011, 6 Music had a total audience of 1.3 million listeners in the three months to 27 March, up from 1.14m in the previous quarter, according to the latest data from the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) board. Buoyed by shows from high-profile DJs such as Jarvis Cocker, Huey Morgan and Lauren Laverne, 6 Music has also grown its audience from 1.02m in the first quarter of 2010.[47] The station broke more records in 2012, with a total audience of 1.62 million in the third quarter of the year.[48] For the last month of 2012 RAJAR reported 6 Music listening figures had overtaken BBC Radio 4 Extra to become the most listened to digital only radio station in the United Kingdom.[49] The same report also showed that 6 Music had surpassed BBC Radio 3 in listening share, an increase of 31% from the year previously.

In 2014, a report was released stating that BBC Radio 6 Music had overtaken BBC Radio 3 in numbers of listeners per week for the first time. The digital station's weekly average was 1.89m listeners (up 5.5% on 2013) while BBC Radio 3's average weekly listenership was 1.884m.[50]

In 2018, BBC Radio 6 Music was the 10th most popular radio station as measured by weekly reach – between Talksport and Absolute Radio – and the 6th most popular as measured by listener hours – between BBC Radio 5 Live and Kiss.[51]

Press coverage

Nominations and awards

Several of BBC 6 Music's presenters and shows have won Sony Radio Academy Awards. In 2006 presenter Marc Riley won a Silver award for The Music Radio Personality of the Year.[52] In April 2008, comedy duo Adam and Joe's 6 Music Saturday morning show won the Broadcasting Press Guild award for Radio Programme of the Year.[53] George Lamb also won the Sony 'Rising Star' award. In May 2009, Adam and Joe won three Sony Radio Silver awards.[54]

Following the announcement that 6 Music was to be closed, Adam and Joe won the best comedy prize at the Sony Radio Academy Awards in May 2010, with Jarvis Cocker winning the rising star award, voted for by listeners, for their 6 Music shows.[55] Two years later, the station was named UK Station of the Year at the Sonys, with the judges citing its "confidence across its schedule that not only reflects a real passion for music but also a firm understanding of the audience they are broadcasting to."[56]


In 2007 BBC 6 Music was in the press because of scandals over rigged competitions. It emerged that in 2006 the Liz Kershaw Show faked a competition by using producers and their friends as 'competition winners', leading to the firing of a junior producer.[57] On 20 September 2007, it was announced that the Head of Programmes, Ric Blaxill, had resigned.[58]

In May 2008 George Lamb was reprimanded for using his programme to back Conservative candidate Boris Johnson for London mayor.[59]


6 Music Festival

In January 2014 the BBC launched 6 Music Festival, a new music festival featuring artists that "share the alternative spirit of the network".[60] The festival takes place in a different city each year, with the first edition held in Manchester in February 2014 and headlined by Damon Albarn.[60] Tickets sold out in six minutes for the event, but Albarn's headline set was criticised and it was claimed that the festival "just didn't work".[61][62]

6 Music Festival returned in 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, with performances from Neneh Cherry, Royal Blood, The Charlatans and Hot Chip.[63] The festival was praised as a "triumphant celebration of the left-field",[64] and compared favourably to the 2014 event.[62] The 2016 event was held across three venues in Bristol with performances from Foals and Bloc Party.[65] The daily capacity was 5,000.[66]

The 2017 edition took place in March 2017 (unlike previous festivals which took place in February) in Glasgow, and included major sets from Future Islands, Sparks, Depeche Mode, The Shins and Belle and Sebastian. It again included evening gigs, daytime gigs, talks and screenings.[67] No festival took place in 2018. However, the station did curate the Belfast event of the Biggest Weekend.

The 2019 edition of the festival took place in Liverpool.[68] It ran for three days across four different venues and included sets from The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Anna Calvi, John Grant, Idles, Fontaines D.C. and She drew the gun.

The 2020 edition took place at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London, England, immediately north of Camden Town, in the London Borough of Camden.[69][70][71][72][73]

The 2022 edition took place in Cardiff.[74] Róisín Murphy headlined the Saturday night event.


Stand-in presenters

Station management


  • Paul Rodgers – Head of 6 Music, 2016–present[75] previously Editor, 2008–2012, and Head of Programmes, 2013–2016
  • Bob Shennan – Network Controller, Radio 2 and 6 Music, 2009–2016[76]
  • James Stirling – Head of Programmes, 6 Music, 2012–[77]
  • Jeff Smith – Head of Music, Radio 2 and 6 Music[78] / head of the weekly playlist meeting[79]
  • Lorna Clarke – Network Manager, Radio 2 and 6 Music, 2010–present[80]


  • Lesley Douglas – Network Controller, Radio 2 and 6 Music, 2004–2008
  • Ric Blaxill – Head of Programmes, 2004–2007


  1. BBC, "BBC Radio 6 Music Programmes – Radcliffe and Maconie, With Guy Garvey, Cerys Matthews and Jarvis Cocker", 4 April 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  2. BBC 6 Music pre-release website – archived website from 15 February 2002. "Stand by for the BBC's first new national music radio station in 32 years"
  3. Charlotte Philby (3 March 2012). "What went so right for the BBC's 6 Music?". The Independent. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  4. Alexis Petridis (10 March 2012). "The fall and rise of BBC 6 Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  5. "About Radio 6 Music". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  6. Martin, Tim (15 February 2016). "BBC 6 Music Festival, Bristol, review: 'could become one of Britain's greatest'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  7. "BBC 6 Music and Asian Network face axe in shake-up". BBC News. 2 March 2001. Archived from the original on 3 March 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  8. "BBC Trust Strategic Review Interim Conclusions". BBC Trust. Archived from the original on 1 August 2014.
  9. "Quarterly Listening". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  10. BBC, "Launch date for BBC digital radio", 17 January 2002.
  11. Jane Robins (19 January 2001). "BBC plans to spend $491.28m on digital radio and TV channels". The Independent. London.
  12. BBC, "BBC Proposed New Services" Archived 25 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, 2001.
  13. "BBC News Release, "Licence payers consulted on new BBC radio and television services", October 2000". Archived from the original on 23 October 2000. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  14. BBC Annual Report & Review 2000–2001. Confer section on Future Plans: Introduction & New Services. Archived 26 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "BBC 6 Music website list of presenters in 2002". 5 September 2002. Archived from the original on 5 September 2002. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  16. "BBC Radio 6 Music – Cerys Matthews, 6 Music Celebrates 10 Years live from Maida Vale". BBC. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016.
  17. John Plunkett (15 February 2008). "Lesley Douglas defends 6Music changes". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  18. Ro Cemm. "6Music: Leading the fight or losing its way?". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  19. Plunkett, John (18 February 2008). "Lesley Douglas defends 6Music changes". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  20. Simpson, Dave (20 February 2008). "Women and men do not listen to music differently". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  21. "BBC site about Western House". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  22. "BBC 6 Music moves to MediaCityUK" Archived 28 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, How-Do, Monday, 14 November 2011
  23. Slade, Jane, "Weather girl tunes in to better life in the north", Daily Express, Property, 29 February 2012
  24. "BBC 6 Music teams move into MediaCityUK", Radio Today, November 2011
  25. ""Pass notes No 2,727: BBC 6 Music. Is there any truth in the rumours that the BBC may axe 6 Music." Retrieved 22 February 2010". The Guardian. London. 10 February 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  26. Plunkett, John (15 February 2010). ""How can Radio 2 get its older listeners back – and who should 6Music hire." Retrieved 22 February 2010". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  27. Foster, Patrick (26 February 2010). "BBC signals an end to era of expansion". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 20 September 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  28. "Jarvis's Sunday Service". BBC. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  29. Busfield, Steve (5 July 2010). "BBC 6 Music: Is its reprieve a triumph for social media?". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 8 July 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  30. McCabe, Maisie (22 March 2010). "6 Music supporters push Half Man Half Biscuit song". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  31. Plunkett, John (7 April 2010). "Campaign to save 6 Music takes the Biscuit". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  32. "Official Singles Chart Top 100: 11 April 2010–17 April 2010". Official Charts. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  33. "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50: 11 April 2010–17 April 2010". Official Charts. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  34. "Axed radio station BBC 6 Music returns to life". The Sunday Times. 11 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  35. "BBC 6 Music 'will not be rebranded as Radio 2 Extra'". The Guardian. 14 April 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  36. "Lyons sets out initial conclusions on future direction of the BBC". BBC Trust. 5 July 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  37. Robinson, James (5 July 2010). "6 Music saved from closure". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 7 July 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  38. "BBC Strategy Review: Initial Conclusions" (PDF). BBC Trust. 5 July 2010. pp. 33–35. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  39. Andrews, Amanda (28 November 2010). "BBC enlists commercial sector help to shake up radio". The Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  40. Sweney, Mark (5 February 2009). "BBC could do more to keep cost of radio shows down, says report". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  41. "Petition to BBC". Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  42. "Jazz FM, 6Music and Radio 7 are bright spots amid digital radio's gloom" Retrieved 22 February 2010
  43. "Quarterly Listening, All Individuals 15+ for period ending December 2009". Rajar.
  44. "Service review of Radio 2 and 6 Music" (PDF). BBC.
  45. Plunkett, John; agencies (30 April 2010). "BBC 6 Music's online audience soars". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  46. Plunkett, John (13 May 2010). "BBC 6 Music's audience rises 50%". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 16 May 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  47. Laughlin, Andrew (12 May 2011). "BBC 6 Music attracts record audience". Digital Spy. London. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  48. Plunkett, John (25 October 2012). "Chris Moyles' swan song beaten in ratings by Today programme". Media Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  49. "Quarterly Listening, All Individuals 15+ for period ending December 2012". Rajar.
  50. "BBC 6 Music overtakes Radio 3 for the first time". BBC. 31 July 2014.
  51. "RAJAR Listener Figures". RAJAR. 8 June 2018.
  52. "Sony Radio Academy Music Awards 2006". Archived from the original on 8 September 2006.
  53. "1975". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  54. "Adam and Joe scoop three Silvers at the Sony Radio Awards". Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  55. Plunkett, John (11 May 2010). "BBC's 6 Music and Asian Network win hat-trick at Sony radio awards". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  56. "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2012: UK Station of the Year". The Radio Academy. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012.
  57. Andrew Pierce and Andrew Porter (20 September 2007). "BBC staff face sack in cheat inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  58. Sabbagh, Dan; Sherwin, Adam. "BBC Radio 6 chief quits over new breaches". The Times. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  59. Paul McNally (13 May 2008). "6Music's Lamb warned over Boris gaffe". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  60. "Damon Albarn to headline BBC 6 Music festival". BBC News. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  61. Hall, James (1 March 2014). "6 Music Festival, Manchester, review". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2016. The two-day event's 8,000 tickets sold out in just six minutes. ... Damon Albarn's a brave man for playing his unreleased solo album for the first time, live on radio, during a headline slot on a Friday night in Manchester. The Blur and Gorillaz frontman was justifiably nervous as he played all of Everyday Robots with new band The Heavy Seas. The music was by turns haunting, funky and warming. It rarely wasn't beautiful; no-one does sublime melody like Albarn. But it was too subtle and failed to connect. Although he played Gorillaz's On Melancholy Hill, Albarn didn't help himself. With hundreds of Blur songs to choose from, the one he played was a B-Side to Beetlebum. Someone should remind him that there is a difference between having nothing left to prove and giving the audience what they want.
  62. Pidd, Helen (22 February 2015). "Cheap tea, daring polo necks, top tunes: 6 Music Festival Tyneside". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2016. The inaugural 6 Music festival was held in the Victoria Warehouse near Old Trafford, former home to the Warehouse Project nightclub. It just didn't work – the volume was so low in the main room that everyone talked through Damon Albarn's headline set and there was a dehumanising one-way system to queue for the skanky loos.
  63. Denham, Jess (27 January 2015). "6 Music Festival 2015 line-up: Neneh Cherry and Hot Chip among confirmed performers". The Independent. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  64. Simpson, Dave (23 February 2015). "6 Music festival review – a triumphant celebration of the left-field". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  65. Maine, Sammy (15 February 2016). "Foals and Bloc Party help bring 6 Music Festival to a roaring close in Bristol". NME. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  66. "The BBC Radio 6 Music Festival 2017". eFestivals. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  67. "6 Music Festival 2017". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  68. "BBC Radio 6 Music – The 6 Music Festival, 2019". Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  69. BBC Music. "New Sounds (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  70. BBC Music. "Hear Her (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  71. BBC Music. "Icons Only (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  72. BBC Music. "Hometown Heroes (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  73. BBC Music. "Best of (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  74. BBC Music. "6 Music Festival 2022 (playlist)". 6 Music Festival 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2022 via YouTube.
  75. "New heads of 6 Music and Radio 2 under BBC Radio restructure". 28 November 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  76. "Shennan becomes head of Radio 2", BBC News, Tuesday, 27 January 2009. "Bob Shennan has been appointed the new controller of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, succeeding Lesley Douglas who resigned over the Russell Brand affair."
  77. "Lou Reed brings his New York Shuffle to Radio 6 Music". London: BBC. 26 September 2012.
  78. "Jeff Smith". The Guardian. London. 26 May 2011.
  79. "TMV Video Interview – Jeff Smith, Head of Music – BBC Radio 2 & 6 Music |THE MUSiC VOiD". Archived from the original on 1 March 2012.
  80. "Lorna Clarke appointed Radio 2 and 6 Music network manager" The Guardian, Monday, 19 July 2010.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.