9 September 02005

In-depth music documentary sources

While I was working through all the pages on this site I listened to the last six or seven episodes of The Story of Atlantic on the BBC Radio Player. They were broadcast on 6 Music Plays It Again, and you can still catch some episodes if you're quick.

This was a 14-hour series made by the BBC — presumably before the days of extensive independent production — in 01988. It's a salutary sign of the scope and seriousness of commissioning back then, in the days before the market was flooded with specialist music magazines forever digging up in-depth features on lost Syd Barrett sessions recorded in a sauna in Croydon. Rarely does any music documentary subject get more than one hour-long radio programme these days.

Producer Kevin Howlett and journalist Pete Frame travelled America and the UK recording 76 interviews for the series, including key figures like Ray Charles, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Wexler, Robert Plant, Steve Cropper, Ahmet Ertegun… and Mike Rutherford. Do you think they kept all the original interview tapes, or did they throw them away after they'd edited the programmes together? A bit of googling suggests the series is on Tape number T 84272 in the BBC library.

Last year, when I wrote about the job I'm looking for, I was thinking that the speech elements of BBC documentaries like this might ultimately be made available under the Creative Archive Licence. Developments since then make it look very unlikely that that will happen, as the BBC doesn't want to be seen to be undermining the music industry by making stuff available for 'free' if the industry thinks there might be money to be made. (This is partly the fallout of the BBC's embarrassment over the success of their Beethoven downloads.)

In June, the BBC announced a licensing collaboration with Universal relating to BBC footage of artists on Universal's labels. Will Atlantic Records, part of the Warner Music Group, be interested in using elements from the BBC interviews as part of its promotions, or the equivalent of boxed-set 'extras'?

If so, will any BBC revenue from such commercial deals go back into commissioning more documentaries with the ambition and range of The Story of Atlantic?

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) BBC, Cultural Calendar, Curatorial, Future of Music, Radio on 9 September 02005 | TrackBack
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