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BBC DEPARTURE DERBY: NOW IT’S NIGEL

And then there were five—or six, counting Zane Lowe. A day after breaking the news that four BBC Radio 1 producers were following Lowe to Apple, Music Business Worldwide’s Tim Ingham reports that Nigel Harding, the station’s Music Policy Executive for the last nine years, is also leaving the Beeb. Harding has worked closely alongside Head of Music George Ergatoudis, and the two were widely regarded as among the most influential figures in British music.

Unlike his colleagues, though, Harding isn’t headed to Apple; instead, he has taken what the Brits quaintly refeer to as a “voluntary redundancy” in order to launch his own freelance business. He’d applied for redundancy last year, but the BBC turned him down, Ingham discovered.

Sources tell the reporter that Harding, whose last day at the BBC is today, has already been courted by two U.K. major labels for freelance work.

In 2011, The Guardian placed Harding at #4 on its Music Power 100, noting, “If you hear a song on Pop radio anywhere in the country, it’s probably because Radio 1’s Nigel Harding decided to air it.” Two years later, Harding’s name turned up on GQ’s 100 Most Influential Men in Britain list.

One U.K. industry exec told Ingham today: “Nigel’s team have made decisions on the Radio 1 playlist that have pissed us off over the years, and I’m sure it’s the same for other labels. But that’s his job, and you have to say he’s been very good at it: he’s played an instrumental role in breaking some very big artists and seems to pride himself on giving new acts career-changing exposure. Nigel’s opinionated, but he’s also upfront and unafraid to explain his decisions at length—even when he’s giving you bad news. That’s rare and commendable.”

In reaction to MBW’s Apple/Radio 1 story yesterday, the BBC said in a statement: “Radio 1 is respected worldwide for making great programs and is vital to the record industry for choosing the best new music and artists. We are proud to have a proven record of discovering and developing staff that are seen as the best in the business.”

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