The Essential Mix is a weekly radio show on BBC Radio 1 currently broadcast between 4:00 - 6:00 AM UK time on Saturday morning. Originally broadcast on 30 October 1993, the Essential Mix features contemporary DJs and music producers of electronic dance music. The show has been presented since its inception by Pete Tong and features an uninterrupted two-hour mix from a different artist each week, overlaid with occasional continuity announcements delivered by Tong. With a broadcast run in excess of 20 years, the Essential Mix is one of the longest-running programmes in the current BBC Radio 1 schedule, and is one of very few Radio 1 shows which is not broadcast live.
The Essential Mix is a weekly radio show broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and features many styles of electronic dance music. It was originally the brainchild of Eddie Gordon, the producer of the show from the first broadcast in 1993 to 2001. In 1993, after months of receiving weekly mix shows on tape-cassette, featuring New York DJs Tony Humphries WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM and Frankie Knuckles WQHT HOT 97 FM, and recorded and mailed religiously by US Billboards Dance Editor Brian Chin, Eddie advised BBC Radio 1 that a weekly dance-mix show with DJs of different genres of music would offer more variety and the chance for the ever-burgeoning UK dance music scene to flourish with new emerging DJs as well as the internationally famous. Eddie further encouraged the DJs he scheduled to flex their musical knowledge. The broadcast was not playing to a dance floor but to people listening in their homes all over the world and a high number of listeners were recording the show on cassette to listen to later, so a straight out "4 to the floor" seamless 130bpm mix for two hours was not totally necessary and the DJs could include more eclectic music or offer something different from their normal set. DJ Paul Oakenfold particularly grasped the concept, and after sitting with Eddie to blueprint his December 1994 Essential Mix, he produced the now world-famous Goa Mix, which won a Silver Award in the Specialist Music Programme category at the 1998 Sony Radio Awards and in 2000 was voted the Best Ever Essential Mix by the BBC Radio 1 listeners. Then DJ David Holmes in June 1997 created another two legendary hours in the history of the Essential Mix; his set, a surprising journey from Nancy Wilson to Jimi Hendrix, redefined the DJ as a collector of musical history. In May 1998, DJ Ashley Beedle, known for his house music style, completed a two-hour reggae mix to reveal his extensive knowledge of that genre of music and it is blogged as the best reggae mix ever broadcast (see link Best Foot Forward).
The show has been hosted since its inception in 1993 by DJ Pete Tong, who was also the first performer, broadcasting on 30 October 1993. Every Friday late night/Saturday morning a two-hour programme is broadcast, usually between the hours of 1 am and 3 am UK-time (the programme was previously broadcast between Saturday late night/Sunday morning 1 am and 3 am, and before that, between 2 am and 4 am and originally midnight and 2 am). The standard format of the show is an uninterrupted guest mix of two hours provided by an invited DJ, group or producer, introduced by Tong. The mix is usually studio-recorded in advance.
Another Eddie Gordon initiative was to take the show on the road with live broadcasts from clubs or festivals, particularly during the summer months (Northern Hemisphere) and at the New Year's Eve end of the calendar months. The live broadcasts started from within the UK and soon broadened out as live from Ibiza, North America, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Hawaii and other destinations in Europe including Rome in Italy. One special broadcast was the BBC Radio 1 - One World millennium celebration starting with DJ Carl Cox from Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia (more Eddie Gordon origination), before heading to Cape Town, South Africa with DJ Danny Rampling prior to broadcasting DJ Dave Pearce from Glasgow, Scotland, DJ Pete Tong from Liverpool, UK then DJ Junior Vasquez from New York, United States before closing with DJ Carl Cox, who had flown backwards across the dateline to complete a DJ world first with two millennium gigs by broadcasting from Honolulu, Hawaii.
The forerunner to this mammoth New Year's Eve Essential Mix was the transatlantic three-cities broadcast on the New Year's Eve of 1997 into 1998, with simultaneous broadcasts from three clubs directly to each dance floor with DJ Pete Tong at the Ministry Of Sound, London, UK, DJ Todd Terry at the Nynex Arena in Manchester, UK, and finishing with DJ Eddie Baez at the Tunnel venue in Manhattan, New York, USA. It was produced by Eddie Gordon, who originated the idea of linking the three venues via ISDN broadcast.
The broadcasts from Ibiza have taken place every summer since the first Essential Mix live broadcast from Amnesia. The first ever Essential Mix from Ibiza came in the summer of 1995 Ibiza as a pre-recorded broadcast of Nicky Holloway playing live at nightclub Ku (today Privilege) on 2 July 1995.
The Essential Mix quickly established a strong reputation within the dance music community and has gained prestige both in the UK and internationally. Although Eddie Gordon originally had his work cut out attracting big names to the program due to their busy DJ schedules, his determination and broad knowledge of the big-name DJs' dance music styles has meant that the hugely successful Essential Mix's list of performers now essentially reads as a "who's who of dance music". The show's success can perhaps be partly attributed to Radio 1's unique ability to offer DJs the chance to play relatively long sets on radio uninterrupted by advertisements, something which cannot be matched by the BBC's commercial rivals (the BBC is funded through TV Licensing). The absence of any kind of interruption in music has led to the show being touted as a "two hour musical journey" rather than as simply an assortment of records. The show has been used as a platform for artists to showcase their talents, and for some is seen as a major boost to their careers.
Like all of Radio 1's dance music output, the Essential Mix is seen as significant in its contribution to the popularisation of dance music in the UK. The programme has charted the development of the dance music genre from 1993 to the present day and shows no sign of losing its influence.
The advent of the internet brought the programme to an international audience for the first time (the launched in 1996). In 2002 the BBC launched their 'listen again' online radio service and the Essential Mix (along with the Essential Selection) became consistently the most popular specialist music show of the whole BBC Radio network among internet users. According to BBC server logs, the show receives around 50,000 online requests per week (though this can be significantly higher, with the 2003 Ibiza show attracting more than 96,000 requests), which compares to the show's "live" audience of 80,000. Whilst demand for a podcast of the show is high, the BBC has resisted making the show available in this way due to copyright issues, but the development of peer-to-peer internet technologies has spawned a new trend in which fans of the show make recordings of mixes available to users of services such as BitTorrent and eMule. Although illegal, the BBC has taken little action against such activity.
However, in 2010, , a website which hosted stream and download links to past Essential Mix broadcasts dating back to the first ever edition for its members, was asked to remove all its past recordings by production company Somethin' Else due to copyright infringement. The Mixriot website is still live, although it has since taken down all Essential Mix broadcasts.
Many torrent sites and internet forums still continue to provide mp3 download links to past shows, which can be found easily through internet search engines.
Essential Mix of the Year
At the end of each year, a shortlist of the most popular Essential Mixes from that year is drawn up by the BBC. Listeners are invited to vote for their favourite shortlisted mix in a poll on the around two weeks before the final show of the year. The mix with the majority of the votes is given the title of "Essential Mix of the Year" and is replayed in the final show of the year. The exception for the proper nomination of the Essential Mix of the Year award was in 2007, when voting and competitions were suspended on Radio 1 until further notice, due to failures in various BBC competition voting systems. So for that year, the Essential Mix of the Year (High Contrast) was chosen by Pete Tong and the Radio 1 Essential Mix team.
- 1995: Tony de Vit (1995-01-08)
- 1997: David Holmes (1997-06-15)
- 1999: Basement Jaxx (1999-05-02)
- 2000: Dave Clarke (2000-01-16)
- 2001: Sander Kleinenberg (2001-06-10)
- 2002: Sasha & John Digweed (2002-04-07)
- 2004: Above and Beyond (2004-06-06)
- 2005: Sasha (2005-05-22)
- 2006: Trentemøller (2006-10-15)
- 2007: High Contrast (2007-10-07)
- 2008: Flying Lotus (2008-11-29)
- 2009: Sharam (2009-08-29)
- 2010: Swedish House Mafia (2010-09-04)
- 2011: Above and Beyond (2011-07-02)
- 2012: Nicolas Jaar (2012-05-19)
- 2013: Eric Prydz (2013-02-02)
- 2014: Caribou (2014-10-18)
- 2015: Ben Klock (2015-10-10)
- 2016: Midland (2016-02-20)
- 1993-10-30: First show, Pete Tong studio session.
- 1994-12-18: Paul Oakenfold's Goa Mix.
- 1996-07-28: First live Ibiza show – Danny Rampling, Sasha, Pete Tong.
- 1997-03-02: Daft Punk studio session.
- 1997-06-15: David Holmes Funk & Soul mix.
- 1998-05-02: Pete Tong, Sasha and Paul Oakenfold at first Creamfields.
- 1999-12-31: Carl Cox Millennium Eve.
- 2005-05-22: Sasha at Maida Vale.
- 2008-11-29: Flying Lotus
- 2009-01-17: Greg Wilson