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24 September 2014
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Lesley Douglas

Head of Programmes for Radio 2

Speech given to the Music Radio Conference

9 April 2003
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Those people were talking about the passion we all feel for music. And that is what is at the heart of what I want to talk to you about today.

It was some six years ago that Jim Moir spoke at this conference and outlined the need for the music industry to support the development of Radio 2.

At that point we hadn't gone through the process of evolution that is now so well charted – we were at the very start of the process, taking the first small steps on a much longer journey.

Happily, you, the record industry listened, reacted and worked with us to provide a platform for new work. It was destined to become a close and productive relationship where our message was understood.

And I am delighted to have been asked to speak to you today at a time when the radio and music industries are at a real crossroads, where the impact of ownership rules and regulation are the subject of much speculation in the radio world, and where technology is posing new questions for both the music and radio industries.

Where the viability of the singles market is the subject of ongoing debate and argument, and where America looms large both in terms of the need for success in that great market by British artists and where American media organisations stand poised to intervene in domestic commercial radio.

So it is a perfect moment to take stock and to attempt to forge even closer relationships between music radio and the music industry.

In that context it is fitting that last night the inaugural Radio Academy Hall of Fame took place in this very building. An event which paid tribute to some of the real radio greats – some of the people who have taken risks, who have looked to the future and broken the rules, presenters who have excited passion.

The roll-call included names who have a resonance with me both in my career and in my personal listening – names such as Alan Freeman, Noel Edmunds, Kenny Everett and Jack Jackson.

I believe it is our responsibility in the radio industry to ensure that new radio icons are developed for the future – it is up to us to encourage risks and to face the future with confidence and daring.

What each of those presenters did was to play with the listeners' expectations – to surprise and delight them with radio which moved the story on. And I believe that is what we try to do in Radio 2 with programmes like this:


I'm sure you'll agree that those programmes stretched the audience, and were examples of great radio.

And I can discern trends in commercial radio where more and more presenters are playing with formats. Presenters such as Pete and Geoff on Virgin, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on XFM, and Stephen Fry on Classic FM are all good news for the image and reputation of radio as a whole.

A strong commercial radio proposition is crucial to the buoyancy of the overall radio environment.

What none of those presenters ever did was to underestimate the audience. And yet, the accepted wisdom is that the audience likes consistency – and doesn't like variety. That if your schedule provides junctions that juxtapose different styles of presentation, or music, then you are providing the listener with a reason to tune away.

Our philosophy is different – we see it as an opportunity to keep the audience tuned in for long periods of time – the average listener to Radio 2 listens for around 13 hours a week. They like the variety. They like the challenge. But most importantly, just as we all have a broad range of musical tastes with CD collections that reflect that, so we accept that the audience also has eclectic tastes.

Last Christmas at the Radio 2 presenters' party I was sat between David Jacobs and Mark Lamarr – where else would you get that eclecticism – but more importantly that range of expertise. And what binds those ends of the spectrum? – it's a love of music radio and a love of music.

We have producers and presenters who understand music, who have lived music and who understand the listener. And I think one of our strengths is that we aren't proscriptive. Presenters and producers who work for Radio 2 do so largely because of the creative freedom.


Of course, we could play it safe and use track testing and impose strict rules and formats. But I would rather ensure that the right people are in the job and allow them to take risks – to go with their instincts and musical passions.

That way you get exciting and diverse music – you get great programmes. And of course we sometimes get it wrong but the mistakes are balanced by the excitement of hearing new artists for the first time – people like Vanessa Carlton, Grand Drive, Kate Rusby, Mull Historical Society and Norah Jones.

And it is as a desire to reflect passion which surrounds music that has led to a major new initiative on Radio 2. I can announce today that this Easter we will launch a new initiative – Sold On Song. This initiative will permeate all of our programmes, and will have a major online presence.

The thinking behind Sold On Song is that the art of songwriting is something which underpins a great deal of Radio 2's output. This major new initiative will give the listeners' the opportunity to understand how songs are written – what motivates the great songwriters – how do you get into songwriting – how do you write for a particular singer?

We will have both off and on air masterclasses with some of the great songwriters. It will provide back up material to some of the music documentaries on Radio 2. And what you will experience is something like this:

Paul McCartney Insert

It's great to have such an insight into the workings of the mind of one of the world's great songwriters. And through Sold on Song we intend to give aspiring songwriters information on how to approach the music industry; we will give music lovers a guide to songwriting. To help the McCartneys of the future to find their way.

I hope you are as excited as we are by this. Songwriting and the strength of songs is at the heart of the greatest music – whether it be Bacharach and David, Bruce Springsteen or Noel Gallagher. Radio 2 will provide an encyclopaedia of songwriting.

But to make this a real asset we need you in the music industry to help us achieve access to the great songwriters and take this musical journey with us.

You know, we in the radio industry can only reflect the music which is being supplied and supported by the music industry. And that is why A&R within the record industry is so crucial to us all – the short termism employed by some areas of the industry has to take some share of responsibility for the future success of music in this country.

Is no hit single - no long term commitment, the answer? The vicious circle of depressed budgets leading to a lack of daring, and thence the inclination to always go for the short term gain is one which is hard to break – but break it we all must.

And to that end Radio 2 has addressed the balance of singles output against albums. I can announce today that we are further moving the balance of singles within the playlist to provide greater patronage for albums. Over time, they will appear throughout the playlist which allows us to provide greater support of artists such as Turin Brakes, The Vessels, David Gray, Paul Weller and Mark Knopfler.

Why have we made this change in our priorities? In reality it isn't a new development – Radio 2 has always reflected albums within its programme output. Historically, this has largely been generated by the enthusiasms of individual producers or presenters, but we have now taken the decision to reflect this in the playlist in a sustained way.

Undoubtedly, the music industry has been supportive of the development of Radio 2. Generally, people in the record industry now get what we are trying to achieve.

Clip - Music Industry

But despite the support of the likes of Tony, Robbie MacIntosh and Nick Phillips I still think the relationship could develop even further. From where I sit it still looks to me as though the music industry is focussed on single sales and how to promote singles into stations in order to achieve a high placing in the singles chart.

And yet, the radio marketplace is a complex one where you have multiple opportunities to promote both new and established artists. Where you can access listeners through local, regional or national platforms. Through analogue or digital media. Where you can focus on broader or more targeted playlists ranging from Radio 1 and Radio 2, through to Jazz FM, 1Xtra, XFM and Classic FM.

And if the proposed new developments in Access radio are approved then potentially you have a platform for local acts on community services.

All of which makes the absolute focus on singles less relevant in the contemporary marketplace. I don't think that gets the best out of us in the radio industry. I believe that a more imaginative use of Radio 2 alone, by developing a portfolio of output opportunities (Live and Exclusive, sessions, interviews, documentaries, features – as well as playlisting) would benefit artists.

By thinking about albums – we should be working together to provide a platform for artist development, to ensure longevity, to build stars.

All of us in this room have a responsibility to energise the music of this country – to ensure that it continues to be exciting. Without great music, and crucially great artists, it is impossible to provide brilliant music radio and it is impossible to develop a record industry which can leave its mark on the international music scene.

It's as a result of the need to build on the talent available and to develop quality in depth that Radio 2 will continue to support and diversify its live music output.

I can announce today that our live music commitment will be extended. We will in future develop a live music strand within the Ken Bruce Show, which will bring live performance to an audience of over six million listeners; we will develop Richard Allinson's Saturday afternoon programme to reflect newer artists – the potential icons of the future and just this Saturday he will be carrying a set by Athlete; and Janice Long will support sessions in her night-time show which provide a platform for the more reflective, acoustic areas of Radio 2.

And of course, our marquee brand, Live and Exclusive continues to support artists like Sting, David Bowie, Elton John, James Taylor – the great icons.

All of the initiatives I have spoken about today, the greater support of albums in mainstream output, the increase in live music, and the new Sold on Song initiative – all of the statements I have made are about our desire to reflect the greatness which is within British Music.

We want to take risks – and we want to work even more closely with you.

And as part of that process of providing a focus for that ongoing debate later, in the summer, we will be clearing the schedule for a whole evening and devoting the night to a debate on the music business.

We intend to look at the British music scene – to discuss the problems of piracy and to investigate ways forward – to bring a realism to the singles debate - to involve artists, listeners and the key music industry players and commentators.

We intend to use the occasion to dispel damaging impressions – to give an external voice to the internal debate. To move the story forward.

It is important that music lovers understand what the issues are that face artists, record companies, radio stations, publishers.

And part of the ongoing development is the future path of radio. What will happen if Americans move into the British radio marketplace?

The debate rages over whether ClearChannel (or any other international media organisation) will move into, or extend their imprint on, the UK radio market – and if they do, then what will the effect be.

Whatever happens to commercial radio, Radio 2 will remain focussed on its public service commitment and continue to pursue excellence, range and diversity. We will deliver programmes to people – and not people to products.

We are here to stretch the boundaries – and to develop new formats and support new music.

And how will a new regulatory framework affect radio? Whatever else happens under the new Ofcom, I hope that there is a lightness of touch which allows radio in the UK to develop and stretch the audience. To challenge the status quo – to test the boundaries of humour, to entice and support daring radio which could lead to a greater expansion in exciting radio.

Of course, offending the audience for the sake of being offensive should not be condoned, but daring should be rewarded by support. Only through that level of support can you develop the Kenny Everetts of the past and the Jonathan Ross's of today. To be over proscriptive about content would, in my opinion, lead to a stagnation of radio in the United Kingdom.

And the future is where digital stations such as 1Xtra and 6 Music will come into their own. Digital radio, and 6 Music in particular, is in a similar situation to that faced by Radio 2 those 6 years ago – they need the support of the music industry to ensure they can give their listeners the high quality contributors and music they crave. And rather like the leap of faith you took with Radio 2, it is important that you trust us again.

6 Music is a great station. 6 Music has a truly diverse and high quality range of presenters – from Phill Jupitus, Bruce Dickinson and Tom Robinson, to Liz Kershaw and Andrew Collins.

I am delighted that, in its first year, it has been nominated for the Sony Digital Station of the Year and that Gideon Coe has been nominated for best daily music programme.

I often hear the record industry crying out for more platforms for exposure – listen to digital radio. Listen to 6 Music and embrace it. It is a radio station which carries around 18 hours of live music a week; 61% of its live music is made up of British acts with 83% being newly signed acts. It is a vibrant radio station.

And it has a small but growing listener base. It has an audience of true music lovers. They are disproportionately likely to buy albums – to go to concerts.

And the audience will grow – it is growing already. Digital radio is the future – you need to understand that and make sure you play your part in ensuring the future of another outlet for great music.

Music is an art – not a science. It is rightly full of conflicting opinions, it is full of attitude, it is full of excitement. And so is the radio business. There is some great radio in the UK. Radio 2 will continue to play its role in the marketplace – it will continue to evolve, it will continue to take risks, it will continue to support great music and to work hand in hand with the music industry.

It's an exciting future, but we can only optimise the opportunities if we work together.


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