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THE BEEB: LISTEN, WATCH, SHARE, EVOLVE
Chris Price Head of Music, BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra

What are you doing to adjust to the changes in the way people are consuming music?
At BBC Radio 1 we think everyone should be able to hear great new music as soon as it comes out, so in the past six months we’ve hosted listening parties for new albums by Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Beyoncé and Biffy Clyro, among others. Playing a brand new album front to back on the radio, contextualized by experts—sometimes even by the artists themselves—is the kind of excitement, immediacy and passion that only radio can deliver. We’re seeing massive interest in our listening parties, both from the audience and from other stations copying the idea!

 We’re also transforming the way we make our programs in order to deliver them to listeners in a way that they increasingly tell us they want them: “Now, please, and on my phone.” We’ve just launched a series of “phone first” programs, including New Music Friday, The Radio 1 Specialist Chart and The Artist Takeover, that go out on air but are really designed to be listened to on demand. They follow our Summer Mixes series, which received over a million streams and half a million downloads. Young audiences want programs when it suits them, not when it suits the scheduler of a radio station.

 All of this is an evolution of a strategy—Listen, Watch, Share—that has informed the way we engage young audiences for five years now. As the most watched radio station in the world, we’re as focused on our 3.5 million YouTube subscribers as we are on our 11 million radio listeners. It’s all about delivering the right content on the right platform at the right time.

What key metrics do you consider in playlisting a record or increasing its rotation?
Passion comes first. At BBC Radio 1, we play stuff so early that very often our passion and instincts are all we have to go on—which is fine, because that’s precisely how decisions about music should be made. The passion of our specialist presenters is a great first metric, and in fact, our new specialist chart might be considered an attempt at quantifying that; it’s a vital tool for informing what grows from our nighttime shows onto the daytime playlist.

Of course, we track our decisions by monitoring streams, ticket sales, music testing, etc., but it’s a post-hoc thing rather than a driver of what to add. I feel strongly that, in order to maintain a diverse and plural culture, radio should be driving the data, not following it. We need powerful, independent editorial voices driven by passion, not data. Otherwise we run the risk of perpetuating an internationally homogenous popular culture in which fewer and fewer super-artists have bigger and bigger hits. 

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