Is BBC Radio 1 sweeping new music into a corner?

Is BBC Radio 1 sweeping new music into a corner?

What does Radio 1’s decision to remove its In New Music We Trust playlist mean for new music?

On face value, it feels like a blow that’s perhaps been dressed up in soft, neutral colours. The simple fact is that the BBC has axed Radio 1’s new music playlist.

Yes, two new slots are opening up on the station’s C List, with the idea being that emerging artists will fill them. And yes, the news came alongside the launch of Phil Taggart’s weekly Specialist Chart, which collates the buzziest and best new music into a 60-minute weekly show. But doesn’t the removal of a playlist that’s become a prestigious checkpoint on a new act’s trajectory just give them one less thing to aim at?

Ignoring sales and streams, the Specialist Chart collates average specialist plays on the station throughout the week and arranges the tracks in a Top Ten. Speaking to The Line Of Best Fit last month, Taggart described the chart as “a playlist-based show focusing on specialist tracks we think people need to hear that week. It’s really a handy one-stop-shop for people who are looking to see what’s big in the specialist world.”

So that’s effectively a promise to put exciting new music chosen by a passionate group of DJs (Taggart, Annie Mac, Benji B, B.Traits, Annie Nightingale) in the palm of listeners’ hands via a 60-minute show they can listen to whenever they please. Taggart likened it to “Match Of The Day-type highlights” and went as far as to say, “I wouldn’t call it a podcast, but it’s not far off.”

Is that what new artists want, though? To have to vie for position in a Top 10 chart its presenter likens to a podcast rather than aim for inclusion on a covetable, notorious new-music dedicated playlist? Radio 1 built a significant brand around In New Music We Trust and it’s a shame to see it go. 

Whether the Specialist Chart will serve to sweep emerging talent into a corner that resembles the dusty acid jazz aisle of an ailing record shop based in a remote town with particularly bad transport links remains to be seen, but the removal of the playlist just doesn’t feel like good news. And who’s to say those two new C-List slots won’t be filled by a couple more overplayed Drake songs?

Discussing the news with 37 Adventures A&R Sahil Varma on Twitter this week, Mike Watson (manager of Swim Deep, The Magic Gang and Pixx) tweeted, “It’s the opposite of trusting in new music”.

Let’s hope the Specialist Chart proves him wrong.

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