Last night guitarist and song writer Pete Townshend delivered the BBC John Peel lecture at the Lowry Theatre in Salford.
It is well worth reading in full as it ranges across subjects such as iTunes, Steve Jobs, the BBC and creativity.
But as a passionate supporter of dance music – which has very sadly mostly disappeared from our national radio stations – I wanted to highlight some particularly interesting quotes which I believe resonate strongly today:
“What John Peel did with his show on radio for many years is worth looking at. Annie Nightingale once told me that John was one of the few deejays at Radio 1 who would take home everything left in the in-tray cubbyholes at the end of each week. More than that, he listened to it all. Sometimes he played records that no one else would ever have played and that would never be played on radio again. But he listened and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew (partly because the selection was sometimes so insane) proved that he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians to the radio audience.”
“So he listened. And he took chances with what he played. And he is gone.”
Here is a another:
“What creative people want is to know their music has been heard. They would prefer a response that was constructive than a positive or negative review. They would prefer expertise to opinion. They would like to know the public, if they had a chance to hear the music, also had a chance to make up their own minds. They would prefer that in the long term the public were willing to pay for their music. But looking at the John Peel model what is clear is that just knowing there was a chance the great man would listen, react and offer the music on air, for whatever reason, was enough for budding musicians and bands.”
And now what I consider to be some key quotes:
“Radio is not like internet radio, or torrent sites. Radio pays musicians a fee when music is aired.”
“Peel was not a musician. He was a listener, a patron of the arts, a broadcaster with almost no censorial mandate or agenda. He only played what he thought deserved to be played.”
“What the BBC has to rise to is the challenge of using some of its resources to sidestep editorial censorship, and give the listeners the kind of license they got when they tuned into John Peel.”
I’m not going to comment further because Townshend makes the points far better than I could, but let’s hope people were actually listening to what he said.