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BBC planning its own music streaming service

By | Published on Tuesday 8 September 2015

BBC Playlister

The BBC has outlined plans to launch its own music streaming platform, of sorts, building on the existing Playlister service and aimed at music discovery.

In its newly published ‘British, Bold, Creative’ report, considering what the Beeb might do under its next Royal Charter from Parliament, despite its funds being further cut, the Corporation notes its importance to the UK music industry, pointing out that it is “the single biggest licensee of music in the UK and the largest employer of professional musicians”, and bigging up initiatives like BBC Introducing and their role in uncovering new talent.

However, as music consumption trends shift with new technology, the BBC’s role as a big player in music is not a given. So, says the report, the Corporation “must adapt if we are to remain relevant to audiences, and remain a cornerstone of the wider music industry [and] evolve our music offering so that it serves new audience needs and habits and allows us to remain a strong partner and contributor to the UK creative sector”.

It goes on: “To that end, we have developed a digital music proposal with the music industry, which builds on BBC Music’s Playlister. It would make the 50,000 tracks the BBC broadcasts every month available to listen online, for a limited period. Audiences would be able to access this music via playlists curated by the BBC, and they would be able to build their own playlists based on the music they hear and love on the BBC”.

“Through this digital music offer, we would reinvent our role as a trusted guide, in partnership with our audience and with the UK music industry”, it adds. “Together, the BBC and its audiences would curate music in new ways, enabling the discovery of more of all the music we play across the schedules of our many radio stations and TV channels”.

Of course, under its charter the BBC’s ambitions are always curtailed, in that it has to be careful about competing with commercial content providers, especially outside of conventional broadcast channels. There was talk of a BBC streaming service once before when the Playlister project was first being developed, and some chatter was given to what role the Corporation should actually play in this space. Playlister as it is very much directs people to other streaming services, and arguably uses BBC radio brands to introduce consumers to music services that compete with radio.

Still wary of being seen to have ambitions beyond its remit, the new report particularly talks up how this new streaming service would champion unsigned and less mainstream talent “who are less supported by the wider broadcast and digital market but for whom there are enthusiastic audiences”. Content exclusive to the BBC would also feature prominently, such as Radio 1’s Live Lounge and performances from the radio station’s Big Weekend events, as well as recordings from the BBC’s archive of classical performances.

And, Spotifys and Deezers of the world should note, like Playlister to date, the service would also be “fully open and integrated with other digital providers”, with users “able to transfer playlists between digital music products, and access them after BBC availability has expired through third-party providers”.

A name and exact timeline for this proposed new service is not given. It remains to be seen if conventional streaming music services busy trying to build their audience see the BBC’s new ambitions in this space as a massive help or a massive pain in the arse.