BBC Playlister - joining up music across the BBC

Head of Popular Music, Radio and Music multiplatform

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Details of new digital music product, BBC Playlister.

Only last week I was reading an article about the Great British Bake Off and the rapid rise of sales of baking products since it has returned to air – apparently pastry is up 24%. This has been written about with some surprise. I’m not surprised. The power of TV and Radio to stir people into action is not new. This week we launched BBC Playlister, and we hope it can do for music what Bake Off has done for pastry.

There’s so much music in the world, and so little time, particularly in this digital era, with access to near infinite libraries of music through Spotify, YouTube, Deezer and others. For 80 years, the BBC has been helping music fans make sense of this landscape – by selecting music for our programmes, we help you to find and recognise music that you like (and dislike). I remember as a 10-year-old, listening to the Official Chart on BBC Radio 1, or maybe a band play on Blue Peter (Musical Youth springs to mind!). Via a scribbled note on a piece of paper, this journey would lead to me taking some pocket money to Our Price or Woolies, and bringing home the songs I loved.

The behaviour is still true today - but the world has moved on. 

The BBC plays a massive role in the health of music life in the UK. We’re proud of the positive influence we have on the British music industry - just ask Jake Bugg or Nicola Bennedetti. But the Internet and devices are changing our relationship with music, and BBC Playlister represents our first steps to finding our place as a guide in a digital world alongside broadcast.

Our vision is that BBC Playlister will begin to join up all of the music you hear across the BBC to the music experiences you have on the internet. Our most important role is to be a trusted, human voice in recommending music. The most simple mechanic will be to surface music information (in time wherever music occurs on the BBC) and for people to remember it and add it to a list. This helps us understand the individual and helps them to find more of the music they love amongst that world of infinite choice. Having music information close to the surface, or even published before broadcast, means we can demonstrate its importance, take audiences on different journeys and showcase some of the best, most exclusive music content in the world.

It presents the BBC with a huge creative opportunity, in growing the value of music across the entire BBC. As our presenters and programmes begin to use BBC Playlister alongside our audience we can unlock new narratives and routes to music. This could be as simple as revealing the music played in Desert Island Discs in new ways, to curating great archive experiences around past presenters and moments in history. It will bring hours of topical exclusive recorded content to the fore on all based on individual users’ tastes.

Over time BBC Playlister will become a creative tool in programme making, one which reaches people in the places they are consuming music through its core functions. It is important for the BBC to reach more than just the music-hungry fan, to enable the music ecology in the UK to reach those who love music but don’t habitually spend hours seeking it out. We hope that by putting the people and the programming that audiences love at the centre of what we do, will help make meaningful, human recommendations – continuing our heritage for years to come. 

Today’s launch of the BBC Playlister Trial Beta is our first step on this road, making legal music easier to access, and simplifying the relationship between our audiences and music. Please talk to us about our role in music - we are keen to hear your thoughts on where we should go.

Ben Chapman is Head of Popular Music, Radio and Music multiplatform.


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