BBC free music streaming service Playlister to host archive …

The BBC is planning to tackle the on-demand music market with Playlister, a streaming service that is free for TV license payers.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the musical equivalent of iPlayer will be launching at the end of 2012 or early 2013 and will provide users with potentially ad-free access to hundreds of thousands of tracks from the BBC’s archive of recordings. The project — headed up by the BBC’s director of audio and music Tim Davie, who has said he wants it to be his biggest legacy at the corporation — stands to herald a return to the businesses roots and a reclamation of its radio heyday. approached the BBC for a comment, but it would not be pushed on any details.

The BBC needs to secure track rights from record labels to air its back catalgoue of recordings. This could be achieved in collaboration with third parties — the corporation is speaking with Spotify, Deezer and iTunes about their bulk rights deals, with a spokesperson saying it is “regularly in conversation with digital music providers about how we strengthen radio’s position as the number one place for discovering music in the UK”.

The BBC’s epic back catalogue of live radio gold would make for an incredible, and incredibly original, streaming service. The 1932 Empire Service (later, the World Service) prompted the BBC’s habit of recording programmes. It was a practical solution to a common problem — how do you air something at inconvenient hours, across all the empire’s various time zones. Since then, we’ve seen the Beatles and Dire Straits perform for Live at the BBC and John Peel provide us with an endless list of live talent at the Maida Vale studios, from Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana, the White Stripes and Sigur Ros.

“It represents more than 80 years of unique public service broadcasting,” BBC Sound Archivist Simon Rooks said in an unrelated interview. “The BBC has made programmes on every kind of subject and featured every kind of person you could possibly imagine.”

We could feasibly expect soundbites from Churchill and Chamberlain, recorded in the days before tape was introduced (bringing with it a tragic spell where recordings were wiped and taped over in the 50s).

The company has been working towards this for some time, with Rooks revealing in an old interview that “the most important thing the BBC is doing to secure the future of the archive, and make it more accessible, is the preservation programme. This is digitising all the old formats and storing those in digital audio files, which will make it much easier to manage the archive and deliver the archive” — or, alternatively, upload to Playlister.

The BBC hasn’t released any details on the service, its format, or the possibility of any embedded social media tools, but if it affords users the ability to switch between a 1962 recording form the Beatles, an excerpt from a historic speech and a Proms series from the Royal Albert Hall, it would be a spectacular achievement and an accessible view for everyone into the country’s past. It would also be an entirely novel audio-streaming format.

Image: Royal Albert Hall / Amanda Slater / CC BY-SA 2.0


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