The new head of music at BBC Radio 1 has said the station should stop relying on data and let its employees trust their musical instincts to pick songs.
Christopher Price, 42, said Radio 1 and 1Xtra have leaned too heavily on what appears to be popular on Spotify, YouTube and Twitter when devising playlists.
Radio 1’s music selection is hugely important to the pop industry: the station’s choices are often critical to a record’s success.
Mr Price chairs the weekly meeting that decides on the 50 songs that are played in heavy rotation to Radio 1’s 10m listeners — a playlist that can propel an unknown artist to stardom.
“You should be making decisions about music using your ears, rather than data served up by third-party sources,” he said.
Global streaming services are inherently biased towards artists already popular across the world, rather than breaking new music in local markets, he said.
“If music radio relies too heavily on data that’s been served up by global streaming services — which, by definition, tend to favour the music industry 1 per cent, the huge international superstars — there’s a very real danger that we end up with a globally homogenous culture,” he said.
“What we need are powerful independent editorial voices at the local level that are driven by passion and not data, that can reflect the full diversity of local music scenes.”
He also warned that if the government forces Radio 1 to become a more niche station it would have a “huge negative impact” on the UK record industry.
Mr Price, who previously worked at the Last.fm music website and at the MTV channel, has arrived at the BBC as the government considers ways to reform the public service broadcaster.
A report published in March by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport suggested that Radio 1 should become more clearly defined in its music and feature more speech content during peak listening hours.
However, Mr Price argued that reducing Radio 1’s freedom would hurt not only its listeners but inflict “seismic” damage on the UK record industry, whose annual revenues have remained flat in recent years at about £1bn.
“If it was left to commercial radio to break new music, we’d be in all sorts of trouble,” he said.
“What’s unique about Radio 1 is that we mix amazing new music in with bigger hits. That’s what gives us our strength.”
Radio 1 plays almost 4,000 unique songs each month — double the number of its commercial rival Capital and quadruple the number of Heart, according to data from CompareMyRadio.com.
As the cost of recording music and distributing it over the internet has fallen over the past decade, the number of songs available to listeners has surged. However, despite all this choice, the listeners are still gravitating to a relatively small number of the biggest hits.
“We are so swamped with music that presenters have become even more important than ever more,” Mr Price said.
Last year, Apple hired Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe to become a DJ on its new online-only radio station, Beats 1. And in December, Spotify, the world’s leading streaming service, hired George Ergatoudis, Mr Price’s predecessor at Radio 1, for the newly created position of head of content programming for the UK.