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They say all good things come to an end, and that certainly seemed to apply a year ago when that icon of British music television, Top Of The Pops, was given one final reprieve in the face of sinking ratings and an ongoing critical drubbing. Twelve months on, and we have not only a rejuvenated TOTP but, on Saturday afternoons, Top Of The Pops II. The ratings are heading back in the right direction, the critics have been forced to eat their words, and new (mainly British) music once again has the prime-time TV showcase it deserves.
When TOTP was sinking, its collapse was attributed to the decline of music as a force among contemporary youth. The programme promptly dispensed with the Radio 1 DJ presenters and introduced a number of measures to reduce the number of singles - and, in particular, dance singles - that were allowed onto the show. The results were disastrous.
Thankfully, last year's ultimatum from the Beeb coincided with wholesale changes in the production team. Today's TOTP people recognise that there are still millions of punters buying singles every year. That new music is still exciting to even more millions of people. And that dance music can make for good television if it's properly packaged. Jack Dee and Jamiroquai may be an unlikely combination, but it works.
As musicians, we should all be grateful that variety and vibrancy have triumphed over the machinations of the marketing men. Without outlets for new music aimed at a young and open-minded audience, the potential for what we do would inevitably be reduced.
Top Of The Pops is not an isolated case. One of our In Session features this month chronicles the progress of a show in the excellent Later With Jools Holland series. The series has been rightly acclaimed and is deservedly popular despite its Saturday night slot. And while the production team admit their shows have displayed what could be perceived as an anti-dance bias, this is only because dance music produces relatively few performers, and performance is what Later is all about. In all other respects, the programme's policy is refreshingly catholic. No pigeonholing. No pre-conceptions. No pressure to conform.
Today the big question for musicians (and for the whole music industry) is: can Radio 1 follow where the TV shows have led? The programme controllers say they're happy for the audience figures to fall so long as the decline tails off; the drop is merely a reflection of the station's 'new music' policy. To an extent, I agree. It is vital that Britain has a national station committed to providing an alternative to the identikit programming of independent local radio, which relies increasingly on oldies and - as Smashey and Nicie put it - 'adult-oriented guitar-based rock'.
The danger is that, by devoting itself exclusively to the new and the untested, Radio 1 itself becomes a victim of pigeonholing - a once-great station trapped within the confines of a dark and uninviting ghetto. The programmers must remember that new music loses its impact if it's removed from the context in which it was recorded. That's the lesson the TV people have learned. For Radio 1, the jury, as they say, is out...
Speaking of good things coming to an end, this is the last leader comment of mine you will read in the mix. Having successfully launched Britain's freshest music production magazine, it's time for me to hand over to a younger man - assistant editor Chris Kempster, to be precise. You haven't seen the last of my ugly mug in these pages; I'll still be contributing on a regular basis.
And meanwhile, the magazine couldn't be in safer hands. Like me, Chris is very much of the view that variety is the essence of music production and, therefore, of a good music production magazine. Other magazines may be happy staying in their ghettos; The Mix will go wherever it needs to go.
Editorial by Dan Goldstein
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