Pop music: A radio station with real X-appeal

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Indy Lifestyle Online
They hardly ever play your favourite songs and when they do, they talk all over them. If you're sick of patronising radio DJs, says Sabuhi Mir, tune in to Xfm.

London's "only alternative radio station", Xfm 104.9, offers a breath of fresh air to its listeners, according to its programme director, Sammy Jacob. In Xfm, "young listeners between the ages of 15 and 35 have found a station that they really wanted," he says: "Music that means something."

For a start, the DJs are allowed to choose 25 per cent of their own playlist, unheard of at other commercial radio stations which are swayed by record company pluggers. This tactic produces a real variety of music: you can hear anything from Sixties pyschedelic funk, Cobain's version of "The Man Who Sold The World" to something by The Damned, Joy Division or the Dave Pike Set in the same show.

Sammy Jacob is well aware of the so-called similarities between the infamous Peel Sessions and the musical output of Xfm: "I never said that this station is John Peel 24 hours a day. We play classic alternative tunes from the last 30 years. We are also breaking bands all the time, like Catherine Wheel, Rialto, Smashmouth, Libido, Montrose Avenue, Idlewild, Curve. And then there is Gary Crowley's `demo clash'. We don't have a problem playing the bigger bands, as long as the music is great ... If Oasis produce a shit record, it will not be played on Xfm."

While Virgin or Capital serve up an uninteresting diet of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Queen or Robert Palmer, or what they think is cutting-edge, the so-called "new look" Radio 1 doesn't get much better. There, in an attempt to capture the imagination of the "yoof" market, they have dragged in the nauseating, "teen-friendly" Zoe Ball, Kevin "interesting personality" Greening and Steve "ultra-hip" Lamacq. It simply hasn't worked.

Xfm, on the other hand, seems to be getting it right. At the last count the station was attracting 500,000 listeners from the 15-35 age group, an audience which previously hadn't been catered for on the commercial radio airwaves. With plans afoot to expand the Xfmfranchise into Scotland (with the help of Alan McGee, Creation Records boss) and the North-east of England in the spring of this year, radio listeners everywhere are in for a treat.