Sunday, 24 April 2011

The DJ as 'Curator'

Listening to music radio is a great way of indulging your passion for a particular genre of music, whilst perhaps learning something about it along the way.

The best music radio presenters are ones who share their passion with you, and take you on a musical journey every time they take to the airwaves.

In the UK, the ├╝ber-daddy of this was the late, great John Peel, who guided many a ‘new music’ fan through the exciting new sounds and movements he discovered along the many years of broadcasting.

There has always been a split in terms of the types of radio presenters there are. There are the ones who love music, like Peel, and draw together a merry band of listeners who they want to share their love of music with.

Then there are “personalities” whose sole aim is to entertain – they care very little about the music really. And that’s fine... that’s not their job.

Then there are the ones who just like to be on the radio... they don’t care much for music either, nor are they particularly entertaining – they just like being on the radio. Not that inspiring really, but there’s still a role for them!

I’ve found myself drawn to the first kind again recently; the DJ as curator... a trusted guide... someone I can allow to play me music I know and love, and to surprise me with the occasional song I wasn’t familiar with.

And the person whose re-ignited this in me? Dance music stalwart, Dave Pearce.

BBC Radio 2, a brand not closely associated with dance or club music, has commissioned a 13-part series where Dave is taking us on a journey through the history of dance music. From the early days of disco, through to the birth of house music in Chicago, right the way on to the UK rave scene and Ibiza. Each show is a veritable potpourri of rhythmic styles!

First thing to say is that this is exactly the kind of thing the BBC should be doing, so hats off to them for that. Second thing – they’ve got exactly the right person to do it. Dave has been there and done it and witnessed most incarnations of dance music during the last 30 years. So he’s the perfect “trusted guide” to take me through an hour of “choons” every week.

But it’s not only playing the records that counts. Any old monkey (or playout system) can do that. It’s the knowledge and context the DJ can bring to the show that really makes it enjoyable. So the little stories, anecdotes and bits of info that are peppered across the show make it a great listen to an unashamed fan of dance music, like me.

So if you’re a radio station that has room in your schedule for a late night show that allows a DJ to be the curator, the trusted guide... why not do something similar? The old expression of “Ratings by day, reputation by night” still applies, and your station may gain some new found respect and even generate some more listening off the back of doing something like this. There are loads of ‘listener friendly’ versions you could do, regardless of the format you’re in. And something like this really breaks the monotony of “the format” especially if you have the feeling (or evidence) your listeners are searching for something a bit deeper from your radio station.

And in an on-demand world, this is the perfect ‘listen again’ opportunity. (By the way, you can listen to Dave’s fantastic show by typing Dave Pearce into the Radioplayer search engine).

I know the ‘DJ as curator’ has never really gone away as a phenomenon, but a show like Dave’s Pearce’s on Radio 2 has reminded me of how great that concept is.

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