6 Music's Overnight Schedule
Let me start with the understatement of my year thus far: There's a lot of stuff going on in and around 6 Music at the moment.
But amidst all the grabbier statements about 6 Music's future (or lack of one) and its plans, its new talent, new shows, the high birth rate among its presenters, the news that the Station's overnight schedule has been given a Spring Clean might understandably have been overlooked. So, for anyone who is interested in what 6 Music does with its archive documentaries, music sessions and concerts, here's a brief outline describing our arrangements from Easter 2010 and some background to add a bit of context.
Night times on 6 Music used to be largely voice-tracked. From midnight to the early hours of the morning, Chris Hawkins, Clare McDonnell (and others) would link the various documentary series, music sessions, concerts and tracks which were scheduled throughout the nights. The theory was that using presenters would give these oftentimes quite disparate elements some personality appeal as well as greater consistency of tone. However, a problem started to become apparent. It was clear that grouping this content within single shows with long durations meant that listeners couldn't easily find the documentaries and music archive when they were using the iPlayer.
To make orientation on the iPlayer and other schedule information clearer, we've exposed the elements of these long shows, so that people can now more easily find the great material they contain. Documentary series such as The Beginner's Guide To Reggae, profiles of George Martin, Glyn Johns, Tony Visconti, Chris Thomas and Todd Rundgren in The Record Producers, and the excellent Me & Billie Holliday are now more visible, as are some compelling music sessions and live gigs from artists such as White Stripes, Working Week and World Party.
As well as achieving clearer billings information (something which is essential in the digital domains) the reorganization of the night time schedule has made space to repeat some of the important music interviews and journalism originated on 6 Music. So, if you missed Craig Charles' edgy interview with the poet, author and musician Gil Scott Heron, you get a second chance by tuning into the new Joy of Six slot, or want to hear what Steve Lamacq and his guests think of the week's new releases, you can try before you buy by listening to 6 Music Recommends. Both these programmes are also offered as downloads, and another benefit of the night-time re-jig is to free up space for regular and ad hoc downloadable content. The dozen Easter Egg Podcasts from Adam & Joe fits this category, as does the soon to be available series, the Best of Tom Robinson's Introducing .
Finally, the reorganization of the night time schedule has given 6 Music the chance to give a little bit back to the lovers of Stuart Maconie's Freakzone, which airs on Sundays at 6pm, straight after Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service. Because of the ambition to evolve the Sunday schedule over recent months, the Freakzone has gradually been clipped from three to two hours duration. Not a popular move with the Children of the Zone, I am aware. But it doesn't seem too unreasonable a trade-off as it helps make space for new additions such as Cerys Matthews, Adam Buxton, Jarvis Cocker and 25% more Huey Morgan.
But from Easter, Stuart Maconie's exploratory music surgery gets its lost hour back, albeit at midnight on Saturday. We hope listeners to the new Freakier Zone who don't want to stay up late will use the iPlayer to access Stuart and the Prof at a more convenient time.
Paul Rodgers is Editor, 6 Music