BBC urged to support independent music

AIM membership approves proposal for lobbying push

LONDON -- A vote of the AIM membership has approved a proposal for the U.K. independent music companies' trade body to lobby the BBC to play a wider range of independent music on national top 40 station Radio 1 and AC network Radio 2.

The proposal won the members' vote at the "Your Big Ideas" section of the Association of Independent Music annual general meeting at the O2 Indigo venue in London. The AGM marked the 10th anniversary of AIM, and chairman and chief executive Alison Wenham described the last decade as a "rollercoaster of a ride."

Wenham said she would bring up the playlist issue at a scheduled meeting with Andy Parfitt, controller of Radio 1 and BBC popular music, in the next month. It will also be among the ideas to contribute to AIM's "manifesto for the future," which will be published later this year.

The BBC playlist lobbying proposal was made by Wez Wesley, co-owner of U.K. indie Full Time Hobby, who told the audience that "we sell a lot of records" but had only had one track on the Radio 1 or Radio 2 playlist in five years of the label's independent existence. The track was U.S. rock act Alkaline Trio's "Time to Waste" from 2005, which had Radio 1 support.

Wesley said the label was "pretty close" to getting on the playlist with Austin indie rock act White Denim, which released "Fits" last month.

But he believes Radio 1 and Radio 2 generally stick with major-label artists throughout their campaigns, rather than picking new singles for airplay on merit alone. "They support an act," he said, adding that "we have to be careful" in speaking out publicly on the issue.

Harry Cowell, managing director of Mission Control Production and Publishing, backed the proposal. "It's unbelievable that on the A-list on Radio 1 there was not one independent record last week," he told the audience.

Although it was noted that indies' repertoire has a bigger presence on specialist evening shows and on lower priority playlists, Cowell added that "we have to keep an eye on the BBC."

The latest Radio 1 playlist does have indie-rock act the Arctic Monkeys' comeback single, "Crying Lightning" (Domino), on the A-list. Radio 1 has an A-list, B-list, C-list, 1-Upfront list and DJ's Record of the Week for various shows.

But while the indie sector wants more of its music on Radio 1 and Radio 2, it also wants a wider selection of labels rather than the usual suspects such as Domino, XL Recordings or Ministry of Sound.

"We aim to play music our listeners will enjoy, irrespective of what label the artists are on, but independent labels are well represented in both our playlists - Radio 1 currently features 10 independent artists on a playlist of 48, while Radio 2 has seven out of 30 - and across our schedules, particularly in Radio 2 shows like Bob Harris, Janice Long and Radcliffe & Maconie, and in Radio 1's specialist output where only a quarter of the music played is from major labels," said a BBC spokesman in a statement.

"We talk to representatives from all areas of the industry on an ongoing basis and value their input, and we will continue to support and nurture new British artists."

At the AGM, Wenham also outlined her hopes for the future on 10 big issues for the indie sector, including the need for government regulation of the "wild west marketplace" of the Internet, easier licensing on a Pan-European level and action on the "injustice of paying mechanicals" to the MCPS collecting society "on goods that have been shipped but not paid for." This was a reference to the "exceptional, catastrophic times" that have seen the demise of independent distributor Pinnacle last year.

"I hope that any talk of copyright tribunals is premature," she said of a possible impasse between labels, publishers and the MCPS.

Asked about licensing music to ISPs such as Virgin Media and Sky for new unlimited services, she responded by saying that "we have to do this with Virgin and Sky but it's an experiment."

The AIM AGM also included a vote for the four vacancies on the AIM Council. The successful candidates were: Billy Grant of 2Point9 Records, Natalie Judge of Matador Records, Jeremy Lascelles of Chrysalis Music and Simon Wills of Absolute Marketing and Distribution.

The accompanying report for the July 13 AGM included a foreword by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, who wrote: "The indies will always be the lifeblood, usually started by misfits who are passionate about music and the excitement of youth culture."