Sometimes I wonder why I don't listen to the radio more. Certainly there's the irritating prattle between songs and the fact that I don't really need someone else to choose music for me. But, thanks to a new tool on the BBC website, I'm now able to see that they don't actually play any of the music I listen to. As Matthew Shorter explains on his BBC blog, you can track the total plays since September 2007 (excluding specialist shows) for any artist:
1. visit http://musicbrainz.org 2. enter artist name in the "artist" field under "Search" on the left hand side 3. click on the name you're after on the list of results 4. select the alphanumeric ID from the page's URL, e.g. from http://musicbrainz.org/artist/4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a.html, select 4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a. 5. paste the ID to the end of the URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/, e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a
It's astonishing really. There are four main stations to choose from - Radio One, Radio Two, 6Music and 1Xtra - but my taste doesn't figure. I checked out my top 20 artists for the last six months as recorded on Last.fm.
Andrew Bird, Thelonius Monk, Gunild Keetman, Mayra Andrade, Yo La Tengo, Autechre, Tom Waits, Lyrics Born, Steve Reich, M Ward, Hanne Hukkelberg, Sufjan Stevens, Of Montreal, El Perro Del Mar and Liars - 15 of my top 20 artists have barely featured on BBC radio over the last 11 months. Some of those are jazz, classical and world musicians and therefore excluded from the stations above but the rest are relatively well-known, critically well-received and still active. Two of them have released albums this year, a few of the others released albums last year but not a dent on BBC Radio.
I tried a few other artists I listen to a lot with the same result: Battles, Dirty Projectors, K'Naan, Of Montreal and TV on the Radio to name a few.
Of course, there's no reason why my favourite artists should be played. 6Music, for example, focuses on the "cutting edge music of today" and "the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years". Perhaps Liars aren't cutting edge enough. Perhaps Tom Waits isn't iconic and groundbreaking.
On his 6Music blog, Steve Lamacq bemoans the state of this year's Mercury Prize shortlist. He'd rather write about Silvery and XX Teens - two of his favourite artists at the moment. He may write about them but doesn't seem too fussed about playing them. If the data are correct, Lamacq has played each artist only once on his show.
So what have they been playing? Well, Coldplay mostly. In the last week, Chris Martin's outfit have been played 60 times across radios One, Two and 6. More than eight times a day.
After that, it's one major label act after another. Adele, Noah and the Whale, The Verve... cutting edge? There are two independent acts in last week's top 20, Tinchy Stryder and Dizzee Rascal - both there courtesy of 1Xtra, but if you want to get on the other stations you'll be needing big money behind you.
And remember: you're never more than three hours away from Coldplay on the BBC. If that's not enough to make you smash your radio I don't know what is.