There's a huge problem at the moment with Australian commercial radio: there's not much Australian music on it. According to research conducted by Collarts' Head of Entertainment Management, Chrissie Vincent, during 2017 Australian music took up as little as 2.5% of songs played between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm on weekdays on some commercial radio stations, a tiny fraction of the 25% local content quota required in Australia.
Chrissie Vincent at Parliament in November to present her research.
Chrissie's research instantly caught the attention of music bodies like APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) and the (Commercial Radio Australia. "They weren't used to someone holding them accountable", says Chrissie. While she wasn't the first person to notice inconsistencies in programming, she was the uniquely qualified to get the statistics in front of the right people. With a background in publicity, artists management, and promotion, Chrissie was able to leverage her experience in the industry to open a discussion about the responsibility commercial radio has to showcase local artists.
"We have a responsibility to Australian artists to showcase their work and support them. The quality is there, there's no excuse."
"It's such a big deal, it makes a huge impact on the potential career of an artist" Chrissie explains, and the statistics paint a clear picture. Melbourne band The Teskey Brothers went from selling 50-capacity shows to selling out The Corner hotel for four nights of their 2017 tour after being featured on Triple M's breakfast show. "We have a responsibility to Australian artists to showcase their work and support them. The quality is there, there's no excuse."
The Environment and Communication References Committee which represents Australian Screen, TV and Music industries in the Senate recently published their report into local content quotas, referencing Chrissie's research published in the Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association last October. They also included all of her recommendations on how to hold commercial radio accountable moving forward. While commercial radio stations have cast doubts as to whether there's enough Australian music at the quality necessary for broadcast, others in the community are actively working to disprove that.
Luke Penman, founder of Adelaide-based online radio station play / pause / play says he started the project to prove that it was possible to play high-quality Australian music 24/7. "I grew up going to local shows and couldn't understand why these amazing local artists weren't massive," Luke says. "I wanted to give some support and recognition to the community and artists I love". With a background in community radio, there's arguably no one better equipped to showcase independent music in Adelaide than Luke.
Luke Penman, photo by Andre Castellucci.
Broadcasting for a year already, play / pause / play was funded by a successful crowdfunding campaign and has seen Luke travel to SXSW in Austin, TX to share about the project. "The support has been incredible, and it's already having an impact locally and around the world. Listeners have told me that they've discovered new artists on play / pause / play and bought tickets to their shows. At SXSW I bumped into a guy from New York who told me he listened to the Heaps Good 50 countdown [Top 50 Adelaide artists] that we hosted in December and listed off a dozen South Australian artists that he now loves and follows," he says.
"We need a diverse range of outlets to showcase the many different voices that make up the Australian music scene, and commercial radio makes up a huge part of the picture. It's so necessary for local artists to be represented in that space."
While play / pause / play specifically focuses on showcasing Adelaide based artists, or artists playing soon shows in Adelaide, Luke says that he's excited to see similar initiatives pop up around the country. "Projects like Triple J Unearthed are incredible, but they can't be the only avenue for an artist to share their work," he says. "We need a diverse range of outlets to showcase the many different voices that make up the Australian music scene, and commercial radio makes up a huge part of the picture. It's so necessary for local artists to be represented in that space."
While things aren't by any means perfect at the moment, things are moving in the right direction. With people like Chrissie and Luke pushing for more support and awareness of homegrown work, Australian music is in a great position to grow and expand. There's so much potential in the local music industry, and it's exciting to see support for artists continue to grow.