BBC producer Guy Freeman has discussed the “incredibly positive” reaction to the broadcaster’s annual New Year’s Eve concert.
Nile Rodgers and Chic became the latest stars of the Westminster Central Hall event, which is broadcast on BBC One before and after the fireworks display on the River Thames, produced by BBC Studios.
The show has been staged each year since debuting in 2013, with previous performers including Gary Barlow, Queen + Adam Lambert, Bryan Adams and Robbie Williams.
“People automatically turn on for New Year’s Eve on BBC One so we thought let's try putting a live concert either side of it - half an hour before, half an hour afterwards - and let's see what happens,” Freeman told Music Week, “and huge numbers of people built up to it and stuck around for it."
Chic’s performance attracted 4.1 million viewers prior to midnight and 4.8m when it continued afterwards, according to TellyMix.
“These shows are all about the back catalogue,” explained Freeman, BBC Studios editor, special events and formats. “In the nicest possible way, you have to imagine an audience that's probably very… merry, let’s put it like that! The great thing is there's a choice of vibe - you've got Hootenanny on BBC Two that gives you a much deeper music experience, a bigger range of artists, and this BBC One show is, frankly, a party.
‘It's about catching that audience who turn on the telly for the fireworks but don't want to then go to bed and the reaction to it's been incredibly positive over the years - people actually feeling it is worth staying up for. It's amazing how many people clearly don't go out on New Year’s Eve.
“The reason we do it in that venue is because we can go out on the balcony and you can see Big Ben and the fireworks over the shoulder and it connects it to that point in time.”
Following a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, Chic began the second half of their set with Let’s Dance (the Bowie original was produced by Rodgers) and Freeman revealed the BBC makes the same request of all NYE headline acts. “We always ask the artist to put their biggest song as the first song after midnight, so we've had [Queen's] Bohemian Rhapsody, [Robbie Williams'] Angels and [Bryan Adams'] Summer Of ’69,” he said. “You're looking to kind of live in that moment and hook people in a really interesting way, and it works.
“Westminster Central Hall is a lovely venue, it's about 2,000 people - standing downstairs, seated all round upstairs. Wherever you are situated, you are close to the artist and the stage - and I think the artists love it as well.”
- Freeman recently starred in Music Week's Aftershow feature