Wednesday 26 May 2010

iPlayer v3 radio console

So after a fairly long wait, iPlayer v3 beta is now public. There's been lots written on it, but mainly from a TV point of view, so here's a brief run down of what's new for radio fans who use the iPlayer console to listen live or on-demand.

Firstly, the pop-out console is a new size and shape. It now most resembles a smartphone... which is clearly not a coincidence!

The main new features are:

1. Favourites: ability to add programme brands as "favourites", which then are available under the Favourites tab. It'll remember them with a cookie, but if you register and log in you it'll work across different machines. This is a major step forward and will make using the console a whole lot better for regular users who know what they like.

2. Recommend: ability to recommend programmes, and for those recommendations to be seen by your friends on Facebook and Twitter, if you've linked your accounts, and in the main iPlayer site. Great if you like telling your friends what you like listening to. Don't we all?

3. Station presets. You can now edit which radio stations you want under the Stations tab, including adding local stations. A pretty basic but essential addition.

The other really significant change is that there are no longer full "item" or "episode" pages for each radio programme in the iPlayer site. From now on, to get more programme information, there's one definitive place to go to get it - the radio station site, which should have all the basic programme information and any other rich content produced. This means there is no longer duplication between iPlayer and station site, which is a good thing for users (less confusion about where to go) and for SEO (no more splitting incoming links).

The other features are based in the main iPlayer site, so I won't go into detail about those, but read what Anthony Rose has to say for more.

Overall, this represents a fairly big move forward for BBC radio in iPlayer, mainly because the previous console was feature-lite, to say the least. There are lots more exciting develpments coming later this year with the next major iteration of the console, known as "Radioplayer". I'll blog about that nearer the time.

Check the beta iPlayer here

Music listening, April 2010

2010 is turning out to be a good musical year already, in my book. Still can't get the Laura Veirs "July Flame" album out of my head - this will be one of the albums of the year for sure. Jonsi - Sigur Ros frontman - makes what sounds like, well, a Sigur Ros album, which is not to be sniffed at. Laura Marling comes back with her second album. We loved her first one to bits - really - and whilst the second is taking longer to really get under my skin it's getting there. She's still only 20, which when you listen to the album is slightly scary.

New for me in April were the very acoustic Belgian band Isbells, and I came late to two bands that have been around for a while: The Decemberists (lots of folk think their "Hazards of Love" album was one of the best of 2009) and Danish band Efterklang, whose name had always put me off before.

From the US came Beach House with their album "Teen Dream", and Local Natives' "Gorilla Manor". Both excellent.


1. Go Do - Jonsi
2. Norway - Beach House
3. As long as it takes - Isbells
4. Goodbye England - Laura Marling
5. Wide Eyes - Local Natives
6. The Hazards of Love - The Decemberists
7. Alike - Efterklang
8. Where are you driving? - Laura Veirs

Sunday 16 May 2010

Is Steve Lamacq the UK Bob Boilen?

Been thinking about why we don't have an equivalent to National Public Radio's wonderful "All Songs Considered", which is a weekly radio programme, podcast and blog that has been made for NPR since 2000. The show aims to introduce the listener to new music from a wide variety of genres that is generally not heard on other radio stations. It works for me principally because of its presenter, Bob Boilen, who manages to be informative, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and opinionated all at the same time - quite a feat. It's a very personal listen, which plays to radio's strength.

Now of course we have plenty of radio shows in the UK aimed at playing new music, such as Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, John Kennedy (XFM) and many others (please suggest your recommendation below). But somehow they are not the same as All Songs Considered: perhaps because they focus mainly on up and coming artists who you pretty much won't have heard of, but also because of their pace. What I like about All Songs is the relaxed tone which means that rather than simply fitting in as many songs as possible, Bob Boilen gives time to give some context, some history, some musical comparisons and some opinion beyond "this is great". So, rather than a playlist of songs you haven't heard, it becomes a journey you are willing to go on because you value what is being said. I often find myself listening to music I wouldn't normally give ear-time to simply because of Bob's introduction.

Then last night it occurred to me - maybe we do have an equivalent: Steve Lamacq's Radio 2 show, not his 6Music daily outing, is perhaps the nearest we come to All Songs Considered. It's recently moved from late Wednesday night to late Saturday night (clearly aimed at the on-demand listener!). Lamacq sounds relaxed and happy, he takes the time to introduce new music with context, and doesn't only play brand new bands but also introduces you to music from established but generally under the radar artists who are probably never going to be top ten. Sure, it's not cutting edge like Huw or Zane can be, but it's a good listen, and at just one hour in total, is an easily digestible slice of on-demand audio.

Now if only we could make that available in full as a podcast...

If I've missed other programmes which could be described as the UK's All Songs Considered, let me know here.