“It’s not true I had nothing on. I had the radio on”
So finally I can tell you that I am going back to XFM.
In radio terms it feels a lot like coming home.
Now let me say, right off the bat, that that doesn’t mean I heart BBC6Music any less.
I continue to adore 6Music from the bottom of my socks. Also - because the people who populate radio stations don’t actually (and contrary to popular belief) consider each other mortal enemies who must dual to the death at dawn armed only with broken off Evoke ariels - you will continue to hear me on 6 whenever they need me and I am available. It will be, as always, a pleasure.
But this post is not about 6Music. This post is about XFM - the original indie radio station, and it is written as a homage to the people who keep its flaming spirit stoked.
Because from the moment I was able to share my news people have been collaring me to try to intellectualise about XFM’s current place in the indie radio pantheon. I’m at Crimbo parties just minding my own egg-nog when they sidle over, determined to line up these two great stations in some sort of sonic sack race.
Well it’s nonsense and it needs to bloody stop! These comparisons are not only stonkingly unfair, but they are also pretty much redundant. And let me tell you why…
I know XFM and I love it. And more than that, I RESPECT it for what it has done for the British radio landscape since long before 6Music was even a twinkle in a restless executive’s eye. I admire it for its BALLS, its TENACITY and its bloody RESILIENCE during tragic periods of under-investment and crippling commercial constraint. Because, that’s right, it’s a COMMERCIAL radio station. That’s why you simply cannot compare it to the BBC.
Now, those hard times weren’t any one person’s fault (and I would have no interest in pointing fingers even if they were - do you think I’m STOOPID?!!) but they had a cataclysmic effect on the mojo of a station that was already ill-prepared for the day when the industry (and therefore the kids) went off guitars a bit.
Which they did.
I also say THANK YOU to XFM for all the broadcasters, producers and talents that it has put on paths to greatness. ALL the presenters I hero-worship have been on XFM and some of them I am now lucky enough to call my colleagues and my friends. Apart from Russell - I never could get up the courage to say Hiya to him when were both at MTV. I was always scared he would evicerate me with a single sentence and render me quite useless for interviewing Hollywood types on TRL. Then of course he promptly went and became one himself …*sigh*… I am now waiting for Shaun.W.Keaveny to do something similar, hopefully in time for The Expendibles 7.
But I digress.
I guess the thing I want to say here - the notion I’d like to float - is that maybe it’s time to see XFM for what it is right now and what it fully intends to be in the future, rather than to endlessly bang-on about what it was at a time when the British broadcasting landscape was utterly and completely different.
It’s a point about fair comparisons….and overly-harsh judgements…and…most crucially…about perception. I believe that XFM deserves to be staunchly defended against those tiny but noisy factions (and their associated hipsters and know-it-alls) who like to trumpet its decline and use 6Music as the stick with which to beat it. Not a single person I know at 6Music would want that.
I won’t bore regular readers of this blog by raking over my personal journey to this standpoint, but for newcomers I will ‘radio edit’ by saying that I am a childhood radio ‘anorak’ and music obsessive who managed to wangle her way on air in her late teens. I was a travel girl, then a news girl, then a presenter, then a ‘bigger’ presenter (whatever that means) then on telly a bit (MTV) then at XFM for the first time in 2007/8. After that I took a break to look after mi’Ma in South Africa then went to Uni (at last!) and worked part-time at BBC6Music while I did my English Lit degree.
I’ve been around a bit.
That said I will also fully acknowledge that I am not ‘qualified’ to make comment on the comings and goings of the British broadcasting industry AT ALL. I am not a journalist and I am certainly not a critic. I am just a worker who cares about music, creativity and audiences. I believe 100% in radio as a means of communication, information, and enrichment and as a blissful escape from the drudgery of life.
Radio is, and has always been, my friend.
So there is my disclaimer. Don’t go bitching about me you internet forum people.
GO OUT. Get some fresh air.
My creative writing lecturer always told me that you should write what you know.
Well, here’s what I know about XFM:
XFM is, and always will be, driven by a love of and a respect for music. We LIVE music. We have promoted artists like Mumford & Sons from their very beginnings on Xposure with John Kennedy to the dizzy heights of international stadium greatness. And we don’t stop playing them at that point. We play them MORE! We play the music that OUR audience want to hear and we are constantly working on doing that better. We obsess over new music, like everyone else, but we don’t aim to ‘educate’ anyone musically. Other people can do that much better than us because they have the resources to do so. No, we are here to play big tunes and big new tunes. That’s what WE do.
We have friends too, people like NME, Rocksmith, and War Child with whom we make great content and a tangible difference in ever-reducing industry spaces.
And then there’s the staff…
I KNOW that every single person who works at XFM (and many of those who no longer do) continues to believe wholeheartedly in the station and what it stands for. Yet we are a TINY team. Proper tiny. Something like 7 designated staff plus presenters, across BOTH STATIONS. And these unbelievably passionate people keep the fires alive whatever the odds…and let me tell you, those odds have been TOUGH.
There is no license fee here. If we are to win an increase in our budget from our parent company Global Radio then we have to EARN it - which we fully intend to do. Global Radio believes in XFM as much as everybody else does. I believe that personally now and I will say that I haven’t always. They have kept us on their portfolio (where else would we go?) when they really didn’t need to and I think they deserve credit for that* Our ad-breaks, sponsorship deals and brand hook-ups sit among big, popular, anthemic tunes because that’s what we’re about. We play hits.
*Again, I fully acknowledge that there is a much larger discussion to be had here and again i’ll decline to get any further into it because I AIN’T BLOODY STOOPID!!!
XFM is not the BBC and the BBC is not XFM. But nor are they against us (well, certainly not in my experience) and we are certainly not against them. I can’t say the same for the likes of Absolute Radio and Real XS, but that’s a fair fight for which I have already sharpened my Evoke tip and for which they too are game. You can bring THAT shit ON!!
But for now I would just like to stand on my guitar amp with my hands on my hips and my shoulders back and say proudly that I am back at XFM because there are GREAT things happening that I am GAGGING to become a part of.
The XFM force has become STRONG again.
*(I also have to get Jon Holmes back for making me ‘Bob for CDs’ in a mop bucket of water one Saturday morning - but we’ll keep that under our hats)
So, with that in mind, I’ll finish with one last (respectful) request:
If you don’t already listen to XFM, or if you stopped listening for any particular reason…Give us a try again in 2013.
Just to make sure…
And listen to us with fresh ears knowing that we are now the happy underdog in this crazy, multi-platform world and we will soon be bustin’ out of our kennel. No harking backwards though, ok? Promise? Those were unique times which cannot be replicated. Besides, you can go to the podcasts and YouTube for all that.
Listen only forwards this time….and see what you think.
As to the rest…
I’ll keep you posted.