Radio stations may often serve as background audio but our choice of station is often read as an indicator of our stage in life. The formative years are intimately associated with Radio 1, whereas Radio 4 is often portrayed as a middle-aged and full of dreary domesticity – albeit almost exclusively by those who don’t listen to the station.
These days I’d comfortably pledge my allegiance to 6music. As a station, it speaks to me and where I am now, while indulging in shared culture I can relate to. 6music’s core audience is, I imagine, around mid-20s to mid-40s, and its presenter line-up is full of names the audience grew up with, including the likes of Adam and Joe, Marc Riley, Stuart Marconie, Mark Radcliffe, Cerys Matthews, Craig Charles, and others. The music on 6music evokes delight, surprise and serendipity, all in a way that’s somehow attuned to my musical tastes. It is the farthest cry possible from the dismal repetition of commercial radio, which I choose to avoid at all costs.
Although I struggle to define the demographic, I suspect 6music is expertly speaking to a group that I happen to neatly fit into. It’s perhaps for those who have cast aside self-consciously following the trends of the latest hot indie bands that defined our university years and have moved on to wanting new musical discoveries, but now entirely comfortable in our own musical tastes.
The strange thing is that this progression is often one that’s done unconsciously. I only realised that I’d mentally moved on from listening to Radio 1 while on car journeys where I found myself feeling entirely out of touch with the music and callers on the air. Was I ever in the position of those Radio 1 listeners with the radio on revising for some exam? At one time, yes, but it seems a far cry and thoroughly distant from my life today.
And so, without seeking to be defined, I have, I suspect, made the move from one demographic group to the next; one of several I’ll likely make during my lifetime. Yes, radio may only be background audio, but it’s someone we choose deliberately and it continues to say something about us.