Maconie used to present his own solo show on Saturday afternoons from April 2006 until 29 March 2008, and is a frequent stand-in for holidaying presenters on Radio 2. He also hosts BBC Radio 6 Music programmes The Freak Zone, on Sundays from 8pm to 10pm and The Freakier Zone, on Saturday night/Sunday mornings from midnight to 1am.
Maconie was born in Whiston. While at St John Rigby college (Orrell, Wigan), Maconie formed a band named (after several iterations) "Les Flirts", featuring Maconie on guitar/vocals, Nigel Power on bass and Jem Bretherton on drums. They performed at Wigan venues like the BierKellar and 'Trucks'. Performance style was influenced by the early Elvis Costello school of delivery. Set highlights included the self-penned "Little Flirts" and a crowd-pleasing cover of "Satellite of Love".
In his career as a writer and journalist he has written for Q, Word Magazine, ELLE, The Times, The Guardian, the Evening Standard, Daily Express, Select, Mojo, Country Walking, Deluxe and was an assistant editor for the NME. In September 2008, he began a new monthly column for Cumbria Life magazine. Maconie previously worked as an English and sociology teacher at Skelmersdale College, Lancashire for one year in 1987–88. He has written screenplays for television and films.
Maconie is also the author of Cider With Roadies, an autobiography of his experiences as a music journalist. Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North, a humorous book that discusses the modern reality of the North of England (as opposed to the popular myths), was published in February 2007, with an audio version following in March 2009. Maconie, himself a 'professional northerner', uses his own childhood experiences alongside anecdotes from recent visits to illuminate the book. A third book, Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England was published in March 2009. Maconie's March 2012 book, Never Mind the Quantocks, is a collection of more than 50 humorous essays from his monthly column at Country Walking magazine.
Maconie also is credited with starting two urban legends; that Bob Holness, UK host of the game show Blockbusters, played the sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's hit single "Baker Street" and that David Bowie invented the board game Connect Four. The stories first appeared as blatant jokes in a spoof NME 'Believe It or Not' feature, but have since been repeated elsewhere as if true. He also claims to have coined the well used phrase Britpop in the 1990s. "I'm sure someone must have used the expression before me about the Hollies, or the Beatles, back in the '60s. But I was the first person to use it about bands like Oasis and Blur".
He was a music reporter for Mark Goodier's Evening Session on BBC Radio 1, alongside Andrew Collins. Also on Radio 1, from 1995 to 1997, Maconie joined forces with Collins presenting a music review called Collins and Maconie's Hit Parade, which originally went out on Monday nights from 9pm to 10 pm and then on Sunday afternoons from 3pm to 4 pm. From 1994 to 2001, he presented the satirical news review The Treatment, on BBC Radio 5 Live.
In addition to this, in October 1996, Maconie took over a weekly album show on Radio 1 on Sunday nights, until late 1997.
Maconie joined BBC Radio 2 in 1998, with shows such as All Singing, All Dancing, All Night, a northern soul music show, and, for several years, Stuart Maconie's Critical List on Saturday evenings. He also presents documentaries and deputised for Johnnie Walker on Radio 2's Drivetime programme.
From April 2006 to 29 March 2008, Maconie presented the Saturday afternoon show previously presented by Chris Evans.
In addition to his Saturday show, on 16 April 2007, Maconie joined forces with Mark Radcliffe to present a new show on BBC Radio 2 which was broadcast between Monday and Wednesday (Monday to Thursday up to April 2010) from 8–10 pm. As of spring 2011 this show was transferred to 6 Music in the afternoon slot, 1-4pm weekdays. In 2012 Maconie began presenting "The People's Songs", a "story of modern Britain in 50 records". Described as music as social history, 50 programmes in the series examine periods in Britain, the events that were occurring and how a particular song was the soundtrack of that period.
He also joined BBC Radio 6 Music from its inception in 2002 where he presents The Freak Zone radio show. It is described as "the weird, the wonderful and all that's in between", and is very diverse in musical content. This show is broadcast every Sunday from 8 pm to 10 pm, and has been supplemented in 2010 with The Freakier Zone, which airs from midnight to 1 am every Saturday night/Sunday morning. As of spring 2011 his Radio 2 show with Mark Radcliffe was moved to 6 Music, weekdays 1-4pm.
Maconie has also presented musical specialities for BBC Radio 4 and the new-style "populist" BBC Radio 3 and has appeared on television and in films. In 2007 he presented Stuart Maconie's TV Towns for ITV3, six one-hour shows about TV and film locations in Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool and London.
In February 2015 he was the guest of Sarah Walker on BBC Radio 3's Essential Classics.
Maconie is President of the Ramblers and is a keen fellwalker. He completed, on 20 June 2009, all 214 Wainwrights in the county of Cumbria and is an honorary member of the Wainwright Society, having given their Memorial Lecture in 2006. In late 2009, Experience Northwest released a series of short stories he wrote about the hidden gems in England's Northwest.
Maconie is a supporter of Wigan Athletic and Wigan Warriors. In December 2009, Maconie was awarded an honorary master's degree by Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. There is a halls of residence called Maconie at the university in his honour.
In July 2011 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from The University of Bolton.
In January 2016 he became a patron of Warley Woods after a number of years being actively involved.
Maconie self-identifies as a Marxist. "In these days of identity politics and what you might call “the selfie-fication” of political thought, Marxism remains refreshingly bracing in its view of the world."— (1999). 3862 Days: The Official History of Blur. London: Virgin. ISBN 978-0-7535-0287-7.
— (2000). James – Folklore: The Official History. London: Virgin. ISBN 978-0-7535-0494-9.
— (April 2005). Cider with Roadies. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-189745-1.
— (February 2007). Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-191022-8.
— (March 2009). Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-192650-2.
— (October 2009). Short Stories for Short Breaks. Warrington: North West Regional Development Agency.
— (March 2012). Never Mind the Quantocks. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-1-4463-0165-4.
— (September 2015). The Pie at Night: In Search of the North at Play. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091933814.
— (July 2017). Long Road from Jarrow: A journey through Britain then and now. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-1785036316.