Radio DJ and music aficionado Tom Ravenscroft always plays a unique blend of tracks, powered by genuine passion and knowledge.
As a result, his regular BBC Radio 6 Music slot has won him plenty of plaudits over the last three years for its eclectic playlist policy and its openness to champion new bands.
Coming from robust musical heritage – his dad was legendary BBC DJ and aural explorer John Peel – Tom has a mighty record collection and an ear for the unusual.
Here, we pick his brains about how upcoming acts can attract the attention of their favourite DJs and bag themselves some all-important radio airplay…
What is your music policy for your Radio 6 Music show?
I’m very fortunate on my show because I have complete free reign. I get to pick every single track, there’s no playlist. It’s really nice that they let me get on with it. I usually get to squeeze around 35 tracks into a three hour show. It’s often the case that I have too many I want to play and then I have to decide which ones to play – which can be quite traumatic!
Does anything go?
Yes it does. My show comes off the back of Steve Lamacq’s and he has a certain audience so I don’t want to immediately piss them off. It’s not a great idea to go flying in with gabber at 7pm! In the same way, I have 6 Mix afterwards. All music can work, it just depends where you put it. I play the softer bands early on and the more harrowing stuff later!
Do people still send you demos?
Oh my god, yes! I get an extraordinary amount. The only thing that’s changing is that where I would’ve got bags and bags of post full of badly burned CDs, things are slowly moving over to mp3s. Both have their ups and downs.
Who goes through them?
I go through all the stuff I’m sent and all the mp3s. Once I’ve done all that, then I can go shopping. It’s a lot easier to find what I’m looking for in the shops than the things people have sent, to be honest.
What advice do you have for upcoming bands looking for their first radio play?
Getting on the radio is a lot easier than it was – there are a lot more opportunities. Back in the day there were only a handful of shows to send your stuff in to. But now, radio is in such a good state. There are so many radio shows now where people get to pick all their own music. DJs can do their own thing so there’s chance for a greater variety of bands to get their stuff played.
You need to find DJs you think are most likely to listen to your music and like it. Send it to them and don’t forget to keep badgering them! If people stop sending me stuff I’m fucked! Quite often people send you something and you don’t play it because you don’t like it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t like your second record so it’s a good idea to send things through a few times.
Do you just want the CD or mp3, or do you like to read some blurb about the band and see pictures too?
I don’t know, it depends. I quite like getting nameless things through, it can be quite fun. It could be anything! Sometimes you get a CD and the music is brilliant but the sleeve can put you off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
You recently opened the Studio to Stereo exhibition at Proud Galleries in London. What is your favourite photograph?
My favourite picture is of the band Tame Impala at their recording studio. I’m not exactly sure where it is, I think it’s in Australia. It’s extraordinary and looks out over some jungle and then on to the beach. It’s one of the few occasions where I’ve thought I’d like to be in a band!
What else is keeping you busy at the moment?
We’ve got lots of Christmas shows coming up. It gets to that time of the year in the music industry and everyone starts compiling their favourite albums of the last 12 months and looks forward to the New Year. We’re doing lots of Best Of shows. The usual end of year fare… But I don’t have a memory so it’s tricky!
Tom recently compiled a playlist for M online – tune in