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RGM Sport Interview – Matt Crawley, Luton Town

Matt Crawley is the Matchday Announcer at Luton Town. He also co-presents a weekly radio show with journalist, James Cunliffe. Transmission (@TranmissionLTN) focuses on brand new indie and alternative music.

RGM spoke at length to Matt about his radio show, the overlooked importance of music in football and the dream job of curating a matchday playlist at his local club.

How long have you been picking the playlist at Kenilworth Road?
It’s my seventh season at Luton as the Announcer. Basically at the start, I was given the new Now CD and told “play this”. That would last until the next Now album came out! But I had been DJing for a little while and aftershow parties for people like Noel Gallagher or Bombay Bicycle Club. I had been travelling round the country doing that so my own taste in music was there.

So I started playing a few unsigned bands in between the mainstream Now stuff from my laptop. Eventually I just changed the whole format and it has taken that long! It does get mixed reaction and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. My reasoning though is people like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran don’t need the exposure anymore, so it’s like, why would I play them when I could play a new band that is working hard, spending their own money to make records and just want some airplay.

Have you always been a Luton fan?
Yeah I grew up just outside Luton as a fan, and it was my grandparents, Uncles, Aunties that got me into it. So it’s a real family thing. I had a season ticket from sixteenish to my late twenties.

I’d never done any public speaking before or anything, but a friend asked if I wanted to have a go at doing the PA. It was a youth game so I went along and they offered me the job there and then. It was a bit robotic then, how I used to do it! I had a whole script written and I used to read it top to bottom, and it didn’t sound good. Now I do ad-lib most of it, I’ll have a few notes here and there.

So that, paired with being a DJ, it must be the dream job?
It is exactly. I grew up listening to the tracks at Luton and some do still get played now. You’ve got The Jam, Town Called Malice which we use as the run out track. The other good thing is, because of PRS rules, we are only allowed to play one track four times a season which means I don’t play the same music every week. I don’t want to name any clubs but you’ll go there and probably hear the same thing every single game.

There are good clubs, Macclesfield have got a great playlist. Salford have got a good one too.

Every week on my radio show there’s anything between 20 and 40 new tracks so I’m never stuck for choices when it comes to the playlist. Very rarely on the radio show we’ll play the same song twice and the same logic applies at the club.

Tell us a bit about your show, Transmission, which you present alongside James Cunliffe. I had done some radio work in the past but I wanted that creative freedom. So with my own show, I write it and pick the music. Obviously we get recommendations, James gets involved with that too. It has been going about two years now as a radio show.

Transmission actually started as a club night in local venues. Then a mutual friend introduced me and James at an Idles gig up in Bedford and said “why don’t you bring Transmission back”. The name works for a radio show and we’ve been going from there. We basically play two hours of the very best new indie releases every Monday night from 8pm on Diverse FM and Tuesdays on Indie Rocks Radio.

When curating the matchday playlist, what are you looking for?
We’ve got 10,000 people here at Luton every week, so I’ll pick a playlist and the bands are really grateful for it. A lot of people follow the playlist now and it has taken 7 years basically to put my own stamp on it. It means a lot to these bands, hearing their music in front of a crowd.

But even the bigger bands always share it and interact when we tag them in the matchday playlist. You don’t do it for the recognition or the clout, its just a love for the music. If we don’t like it, we won’t play it, it’s the best way to be really.

I got the support of the club, that’s the big thing. They see what’s written online and for every odd bad tweet you’ll get plenty of good tweets. Gary Sweet our Chief Executive listens to the playlist and he sometimes comes to me and says he has added a new artist to the playlist and he’s the person you need to get recognition from!

A lot of clubs seem to miss out on the link between music and football. So with your show curating the playlist, and famous fans like Tom Grennan, is Luton developing a bit of a culture around music similar to that of St Pauli maybe?
They do yeah. I don’t know if we will ever get to that level, but it is picking up for sure. We use Tom Grennan as a run out track and he was in the youth team here. He still does things here as people will see regularly. Tom was my first interview on the radio show actually! He had just got back on a plane from America and was doing a little gig in Luton. Severely jetlagged but he powered through like a pro and played a few acoustic tracks for this charity gig. We talked football and some of the local venues. It’s all about trying to build a local thing, with who we speak to the bands we pick to play.

Tom Grennan and the Luton legend, Mick Harford

Are there any bands that you’ve uncovered, and think are heading for success?
Sarpa Salpa! They really stand out. They were going to be playing Big Weekend for Radio 1, and Jack Saunders has been playing them. We will play a track sometimes months before national radio and with watching Sarpa Salpa as a local band grow has been nice. It shows we are doing something right if we play a song then two months later it is on the national radio.

On to the football – I guess from the start of 2017/18 season to now, it has been bittersweet, with lots of change to say the least!
This club has been to the bottom, we got massive points deductions due to owner mismanagement and suddenly we’re in non-league for 5 years. Then John Still came in and brought this unified feeling back to the club, which was needed to save the club and as a community. It is a massive thing in the community, which maybe you don’t see as much down South.

When you look at Bury and how that affected people, it could have been us, we were days away! The news broke that ‘2020’ had saved the club just before we dropped into League Two, but it still felt like a special moment.

Nathan Jones came in initially when we were in League Two and brought us up again, with a good team and good squad. So as a fan when Nathan left it was hard but we had all enjoyed it, and then Mick Harford came in who is the Luton legend. It was redemption for him almost, he was in charge when we had got relegated originally from League Two and he felt it personally. Then he came in and saw the promotion through, it just meant so much to him and the community.

When the season was shaping up to restart, there was so much discussion about the Premier League but little on the EFL. What’s it been like as a Hatters fan?
Maybe you would say we got to the Championship a bit earlier than imagined, and it has been a difficult season. I wouldn’t have wanted to see us kept up out of luck, it has to be earned. I think most fans are happy to just accept whatever might come now, particularly with where Luton have been in recent memory. We have been to the bottom so whichever league we end up in, we’ll be there home and away.

The football in the Championship is much better, but the money side of things is not right. As a fan it just doesn’t feel right. And with what is happening now you feel like it just can’t carry on. The cherry of the Premier League is just dangled and, with some clubs, it doesn’t look like it is being done within their means anymore.

I’d always rather have a club to go to every week and support.

If there is any track you could pick for our readers to listen to today, what would it be?
I’ll go for Sarpa Salpa – Forwards Backwards, definitely go and check them out.

Go follow Matt and his radio show, on Twitter and Instagram – @djmattcrawley / @TransmissionLTN