It's time to bring back Top of the Pops

I don’t remember much from childhood, but I’ll never forget the time I belted out Just Like A Pill at a P!nk concert when I was 10 – without knowing what the hell it meant. 

My life probably peaked when she grabbed my hand after my mum and I wrestled to the front of Newcastle’s then Metro Radio Arena in 2004.

But I was a country kid living almost an hour away from my nearest city, so even if concerts were on average pretty affordable in my youth – £22.58 in 1999, to be precise – I wouldn’t always be able to make the slog into town to attend.

And even if I could, which my long-suffering, generous parents made sure happened more often than they should have, the Beyonces of this world rarely ventured north of the M25.

So live music, especially when it comes from in-demand megastars, has never been particularly accessible for many people in the UK. 

And in 2023, it definitely isn’t, with concert ticket prices breaking banks left, right and centre. 

But at least back then we had a regular dose of live music on TV to keep our love of music alive in Top Of The Pops (TOTP).

Something I want to see resurrected – and stat.

Airing for the first time in 1964, TOTP was the world’s longest running weekly music show, and hosted all the biggest stars of the day, from The Beatles to Bowie. 

Every Thursday – and latterly Friday – evening, the nation witnessed some of the most epic and chaotic performances in history, like Celine Dion belting out My Heart Will Go On in 1998, or when rock band Travis had a pie fight on stage mid-performance of Sing in 2001. 

Back in its heyday, before YouTube and streaming sites, in the days of CDs, tapes, and when the charts really mattered, TOTP’s popularity was born from its ability to give fans direct access to their favourite musicians.

I only got to witness the twilight years of this iconic show as it was axed in 2006 after ratings plummeted, but it kept this country gal entertained for a few precious years.

After it was axed, I often sat up well into the night and watched TOTP archive footage of older performances as a teenager. But I always felt like I was the only one watching, as the acts of the past rolled in and out, and the audience shimmied awkwardly to a 1980s beat with their bangs and faded jeans. 

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But this made me nostalgic for a past I never even lived through, and watching repeats left me disheartened, fearing I’d missed music’s heyday. 

Although TOTP could never replicate the atmosphere of being at a gig, there was something magical about seeing artists brave live performances for the world – albeit behind a camera. 

And there is something electric about live performance no amount of archive footage could ever muster. So I say let’s bring it back. 

With the cost-of-living crisis, soaring energy prices and pandemic debris still floating around our minds rent-free, there’s never been a greater need for some penny-free musical relief. 

Alright, we have live music on The Graham Norton Show and The Jools Holland show, but there isn’t a regular slot dedicated solely to broadcasting performances like there used to be in TOTP. This is particularly sad given the astronomical price of live gigs these days. 

In 2018 (the latest available data), the BBC reported that the average price of gig tickets has doubled since the nineties. I can’t even imagine what the figures would be like today.

But if that’s not bad enough, the reality of trying to bag concert tickets in 2023 way surpasses mere £40 tickets. 

Even if there are, say, a few Madonna Celebration world tour tickets priced at around £47, which there reportedly were when she released her first batch earlier this month, these were snapped up instantly leaving most people with their only option costing upwards of £100.

Recently, I also discovered that buying Red Hot Chilli Pepper tickets as a present for my boyfriend could cost me up to £165 for one (I don’t love him that much). 

This is all partly because in 2011, Ticketmaster – the UK’s monopoly ticketing site – introduced much-criticised ‘dynamic pricing’, where ticket prices fluctuate depending on real time demand.

A YouGov poll in December last year found just over half of Britons ‘strongly’ opposed ticket pricing systems, with half also saying high prices have stopped them from attending a gig at least once in the last five years, while one in five people said this happens ‘frequently’. 

Given this, it’s desperately sad that there is no regular space dedicated to live music on the telly anymore – unless of course you can’t fork out £340 on a Glastonbury ticket so watch it on TV instead. Delightful as the broadcast is, this only happens once a year and doesn’t really cut it.

So of course normal people are going to be priced out of concerts. But it’s not all Ticketmaster and Madonna’s fault. 

Ticket prices have also increased because the cost and expectation of production is much higher, with better technology available to make performances pop.

And of course, touring is now the humble artist’s biggest form of revenue since streaming giants have made music less pricey to buy.

But at a time when the UK is battling with the cost-of-living crisis, and people can’t afford to heat their homes, over £100 for one night of live music seems tasteless and out of touch.  

This price is totally unaffordable to the average Brit, 60% of whom have admitted to struggling financially due to the rising costs of living. 

I think if we can’t bring ticket prices down for live shows, it’s time to bring Top Of The Pops back so everyone can enjoy live music like we used to. 

Even ex-host Fearne Cotton agrees, as in 2021 she revealed she couldn’t understand why it was axed in the first place. 

‘After the show had finished, I sort of campaigned: “Please can we bring it back?” Why is there no decent music TV? I just don’t understand it,’ she said on The Gaby Roslin Podcast.

Experiencing the atmosphere of live music should not be limited to people who can afford it – and it’s not just fans that need this, but artists too. 

In a world where everyone with a voice, camera, and internet can call themselves a musician, quality can sometimes be lost in the sheer quantity of content out there. 

Bringing back TOTP would fill a much-needed gap of brilliant, curated content, showcasing the best genuine talent in the music industry today.

And why wouldn’t artists want to give more access to fans who can’t afford to see them live?

As a rule, music should not discriminate – especially in our current, polarised world. It should unite. That’s what makes it so powerful.

And while most people don’t have a spare £100 knocking around which they can happily splurge on one night, most people do have a TV and a favourite song. 

So let’s bring the music into people’s homes again for free. It’s not just future generations and artists that need accessible live music – the country needs it, especially now.

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