Saturday, 5 December 2009

In praise of... Guy Garvey

Elbow lead singer Guy Garvey only has one radio show. It's just 2 hours per week, on BBC 6Music. But it's an important show, in that it points to a possible future direction for digital music radio stations to make them stand out in a world of ubiquitous online music.

The question is this: as broadband becomes the norm, and services such as Spotify give you free access to a huge virtual library, what is the point of a digital music radio station? By this, I mean, how can a digital music radio station stand out from the other services on offer, either as a radio station or as a digital music service?

Doing what existing radio stations do is surely not the answer, simply because they are already doing it, and there's frankly lots of them doing it. And the audience are really quite happy with their existing radio listening choices. Doing what Spotify does is not only impossible for a radio station, but again is not distinctive because Spotify (etc) already does it very well thank you.

So where does that leave new digital music stations?

One answer is in becoming a trusted guide offering curated recommendations, which is something that Spotify isn't that great at, despite various playlist sites which allow you to create a spotify playlist. Which brings me back to Guy Garvey. His show is a "must listen" for me, because I've come to trust that there's a high chance he will introduce me to an artist (new or old) or track or album that I really want to investigate. I value that highly.

This is what I would call "high value" content, combining carefully chosen music, interesting and informative bits between the music, some humour, and audience involvement in parts of the show (e.g."Song for Guy"). Importantly, there's really nothing in the two hours that places it in any particular day or time, meaning there's no jarring time checks or news summaries when you listen on-demand. This stands out enough for me to make the effort to spend time with it.

The ultimate irony of all this is that although I often listen to his show on-demand, it's actually a genius piece of old-school scheduling - late Sunday evening - which really works as a broadcast. A perfect end to the weekend. Or whenever you choose to listen.

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