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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Does it matter whether DJs choose their own music?

Huey Morgan has a go at Lauren Laverne on Twitter, implying that while he "builds" his programme by hand, she gets hers handed to her. I love it when deejays have cat fights. In public they're always fulsome in their praise and respect for each other. In private they're absolute bitches about each other and the most popular gibe has always been "they get handed a box of records and a running order by their producer". Now that most radio stations are controlled by a hard drive many don't even have to open a box any more.

But does it matter whether DJs choose their own music? Not from the point of view of "credibility", whatever that is. Most of them have advertised tastes which are very orthodox. In my experience the DJs who make a song and dance about their passion for music are often more bogus than the people who just turn up and do a job. But it matters if you think DJs should be playing records that they feel like hearing at the time they feel like hearing them, that they want to put you in the same moment that they're in. Which I suppose I do.


  1. As it happens, Laverne does pick the non-playlist tracks on her show. It was just that, when Morgan deputised for her during her maternity leave, the producer insisted on selecting them for him in order, I guess, to keep the equilibrium of the show itself. If he listened to Laverne, Morgan would know that she wasn't merely pressing 'play' on others' choices - lots of "I really fancied playing some [insert name here] records this morning" etc.

  2. Inevitably, it depends why the DJ was employed in the first place.

    Back when Jonathan Ross was on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings, you knew that he was chosen for his repartee and humour, rather than his music tastes (similarly Graham Norton) - although it helped that sidekick Andy was obviously the guy who chose the music.

    If your DJ can't coherently talk about the music he's playing, then it's a problem.

    It also depends on which station you're listening to. No-one tunes into Toby Anstis on Heart because he's hand-picked that morning's selection of 80s hits.

    However, on 6 Music, you tend to think a DJ has had at least 'some' input. Personally, Lauren Laverne has enough 'cred' to make me believe she at least cares about the music, regardless of whether she personally sits down and chooses the music.

    Similarly on Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Brian Matthew makes no bones about the fact Phil 'the Collector' Swern puts together the show, but we know that Brian lived through all the music first time around, so it's less of an issue.

    Let's face it, though, we're talking about BBC here, though, as most commercial stations give no such power to the voice behind the mike.

  3. Simon Garfield's The Nation's Favourite - is a glorious 'from behind the broadcast curtain' book, written as an insider when the old school Radio One was being broken apart like the Berlin Wall. Bates would operate a network of scandal and back-biting from his office - while women were only there to 'make tea and put the Christmas decorations up'

  4. I remember hearing Dermot O'Leary on Radio 2 say that he'd listened to a song on his way in to work and insisted that they plug his iPod in when he got to the studio so that he could play it to us, which certainly fulfils your last criteria, but somehow, for me, takes away a bit of the DJ glamour and magic - if any there were. "So, you turn up, plug your iPod in and just play stuff? I could do that at home."

  5. It's odd being at each end of the extreme. At one end, the commercial radio DJ chooses nothing musically and is often told what to say too. At the other, the music and the links are put together lovingly by the specialist jock. It's the different between appointment-to-listen radio and half-hour measurements of background noise that get ticks in diaries.

  6. One show I really enjoy is Cerys on 6Music on Sunday morning. This week we got Desmond Dekker, The Groundhogs and Samuel Yirga (brilliant but new to me)one after the other. I assume she picks the stuff herself - very eclectic

  7. It only matters if you want it to matter; without going over well worn territory (viz John Peel vs the rest of the Radio 1 jocks in the 70s), my Saturday morning is a good barometer to test David's theory: I listen to Brian Matthews on Radio 2 (Sounds of the 60s) from 8-10 followed by David Freeman on Jazz FM 10-1 (Blues and Boogie). Both excellent shows, for the most part, with eclectic playlists (considering the parameters of the respective shows). You couldn't slide a cigarette paper between the two. But 'your old mate' Brian Matthew has never had a say in what gets played on his programme. Yet Freeman has carte blanche. Go figure.