opinion Opinion April 12, 2018

A step in the right direction: Commercial radio airplay for Aussie artists on the rise

Charts & New Music Editor
A step in the right direction: Commercial radio airplay for Aussie artists on the rise

Following an investigation into the standards of local music quotas on Australian radio, it appears as though commercial networks are changing their tune. The Q1 2018 Hot 100 airplay chart, released Monday as part of TMN’s quarterly Singles Report, highlights a positive shift.

Last year only 11 local artists made the first quarter chart for 2017, with Sia and Illy dominating. That number has now risen to 18 Australian artists with 20 combined entries on the chart, an increase of over 38% for local acts. Commercial radio took a two-pronged approach to championing more Australian music in general, giving airplay to a wider range acts such as Gang of Youths and PNAU, as well as supporting the exceptional quality of fresh faces coming through (namely Jordie Ireland, Tyron Hapi and Rojdar).

Six Aussies made the Top 40, compared to just four in Q1 last year. While there were less Australian acts in the Top 10 this time around (only PNAU, landing at #7), the increased breadth and overall diversity of artists on the chart is something for us collectively – as artists, managers, labels, publishers, promoters and industry people alike – to celebrate.

But there is still plenty of work to be done.

As referenced by Michael Gudinski in his speech at the APRA Music Awards on Tuesday night, the lure of high-profile international acts has been too strong for Aussie commercial radio stations to resist in recent years. Quotas were continually missed (but not picked up on), and young Australian artists were left hanging on the fringes waiting patiently for their big break. The responsibility has historically rested on the shoulders of youth-oriented broadcasters like triple j, who do an impressive job of promoting young local artists through the early stages of their career – but it’s simply not enough.

Official figures suggest commercial radio listenership numbers are increasing year-on-year. In fact, 10.5 millions Australians tuned in to commercial radio in 2017, with key spikes among the key demographic of 18- to 24-year-olds. CHR stations are the prominent weight-bearers for this reason, with the format raising its hand high enough in Q1 to convince us it can be the advocate we have long been looking for.  

“As a music director, it’s important for me on the surface to reflect the needs of my audience,” says Hit105 music director and Aussie music champion Jack Ball, “and playing some big, already established Australian artists arguably takes care of that.”

“But as a genuine fan of Australian music, I believe I have a larger responsibility in my job, to support the music from our backyard. It’s a responsibility that goes so much deeper than just the Aus music content quota.”  

“Radio is the frontline in supporting Australian music. It’s absolutely pivotal. And while I can’t control the level of support other radio stations or streaming platforms give to Australian music, I get a bit of a kick out of the role I play in connecting Australian music with new or existing fans.”

Whether the outcome of this collective shift is a by-product of increased pressure from music industry bodies in partnership with CRA, or a genuine and concerted attempt to champion new Aussie music is beside the point. This renewed vigour means local artists are reclaiming ground that has been slowly slipping away from them for years, and radio is once again becoming the launching pad for bigger and better things.

Commercial radio will face yet another test in Q2 amidst the ever-growing competition creeping in from overseas. Yet with so many eager listeners, the responsibility of continuing to support local acts rests with the entire commercial radio landscape.

The call has been put out, but who will respond?

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