Matthew Young: BBC totally out of tune with what 6 Music means to new bands

ALMOST everything I've heard about the BBC's threat to axe 6 Music suggests to me that hardly anyone in the upper echelons of the corporation have any idea what the station actually does in the first place.

In ditching 6 Music the Beeb would basically be abdicating any role in cultural and artistic development in the field of popular music. They may think that fits with their charter, but I do not.

Basically, Radio 1 is what is already happening, and Radio 2 is what was never happening. These stations are entirely dominated by the finished article, but who is going to finish that article for them?

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In the absence of 6 Music there will be the shiny, professional mainstream at one end, and tiny DIY enterprises at the other, and barely a single thing in between.

It's almost as if the BBC has no idea where popular bands, like Mumford and Sons for example, emerge from. Now they're on Letterman, whereas two years ago they were shaking my hand outside the Captain's Rest in Glasgow – a venue with a capacity of little over a hundred souls – and thanking me for an EP review I wrote on a blog I'd imagine barely anyone reading this has ever heard of.

How does the BBC they think they made that massive leap without the developmental steps provided by things like 6 Music, where you can start out with a couple of airplays on one show, maybe get a session on another, and hope to make the step up to a Maida Vale Session and perhaps eventually some Radio 1 airplay?

Take away 6 Music and you have to achieve all this in a single leap, which is a ludicrous expectation. The widening of that gap also threatens to leave a lot of bands permanently moored on the wrong side.

When small labels work with bands, or when bands self-release (as they are increasingly having to do) they need a tangible, realistic next step to aspire to – this provides encouragement, and allows them to develop at the right pace.

The remaining new music specialists, such as Scotland's brilliant Vic Galloway, are likely to end up under so much pressure that just getting on to their shows at all would become a crap-shoot, and they'd have so much to cover they would be extremely unlikely to be able to offer sustained support.

But it's not just because 6 Music gives unprecedented opportunity to small and emerging bands that it is important, but the way their specialist DJs put these bands on playlists with everything from bouncy pop fun to esoteric experimentalism – you put new music into the historical and cultural context it needs in order to find its own place.

This kind of intelligence, awareness and variety has attracted a core audience of real music lovers – you know, the ones who still buy albums, the ones who support their favourite bands with a passion, and who offer the kind of support and encouragement which, in the absence of much hope of monetary reward, keeps new bands and young labels going when they need it most.

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The BBC is paid a lot in the form of tax and it has a public service responsibility, and as far as I am concerned, cutting 6 Music while increasing the spend on vapid dross like Strictly Come Dancing, as it is planning to do, will represent a very significant failure to fulfil that role.

If the BBC loses the trust of the musicians at this stage, it is not unlikely it will lose it for good, because you can't expect to become anyone's new best friend when someone else has had to nurture them through the hard times.

• Matthew Young is the founder of Song, By Toad, an Edinburgh-based blog, podcast and independent record label.

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