For a young band, getting some love from the biggest radio stations in the country can mean money, bigger stages and a greater chance at longevity in a notoriously difficult industry.
But a new study suggests major commercial stations are not playing enough homegrown music.
Nova, Triple M, Southern Cross Austereo’s FOXFM and others are required by the Code of Practice to play 25 per cent Australian music between 6am and midnight.
But some are falling short, with Nova in Melbourne playing just 7 per cent Australian music in one week in June last year, according to research conducted by Chrissie Vincent, head of entertainment management at Collarts, as part of a masters project.
“Overall, during the week commencing June 5th to June 11th, 2017, between 6am and 6pm, Nova Melbourne played a total of 68 Australian songs compared to a staggering 437 American, 297 UK, 134 songs by artists of the European Union, 77 songs by Canadian acts and 20 artists from New Zealand,” Ms Vincent states in the report.
On Nova Melbourne, the report says: “The local content played is designated to the final hour of the day between 11pm and midnight, when the audience is significantly less than during peak times of 6am to 6pm.”
Commercial stations have for some time been accused of “stacking” Australian music — which is rarely as popular as big hits from overseas, according to the ARIA charts — into less-popular timeslots as a way of meeting their quotas.
Ms Vincent said her results, which have not been published or peer-reviewed, proved that was happening.
“It’s usually between 11pm and 12am … and 6am and 7am in the morning,” she said.
“You can see it, clearly. I went through every single song — ‘that’s Australians, that’s from the US, that’s UK’. It took ages, but I looked at every single station and got that data.”
Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner, who last year called allegations of stacking “mischievous”, said compliance with the quotas could not be measured over “one or two days”.
“The performance period is 126 hours over seven days between 6am and midnight,” she said in a statement.
“The quota can be met at any time during that period.”
The ABC has contacted Nova in Melbourne for comment.
Australian artists are not appearing in the charts
The study comes as CRA, along with APRA AMCOS, the peak body for collecting royalties for musicians, and ARIA, who run the country’s charts, pledge to work together on how to make sure commercial stations are playing enough music from Australia.
At the same time, there is concern Australian works, in the digital age, are being overlooked in the deluge of music now available to fans.
Last year, no Australian artist had a number one song in the ARIA charts, prompting finger-pointing at both the increasing popularity of playlists on streaming platforms and commercial radio’s desire to play the hits of the day.
Dean Ormiston, the incoming CEO of APRA, said they would be taking a more active approach on collecting data and analysing it, though acknowledged that the data would not be made public.
“There’s opportunity for us to look at how might we better report what is happening with Australian music on radio,” he said.
But he said there’s no way to force commercial stations to play Australian music at popular times of the day.
“I think that is a difficult one,” he said.
“There is nothing currently in the code that would allow us to go back to the CRA and say, ‘That’s not OK’.”
‘Culturally healthy’ to have Australian music on big stations
Ms Vincent said her goal was to start the conversation about the importance of Australian content and the lack of it on major radio stations.
“I know that a lot of artists that get commercial airplay do really well,” she said.
“That will then benefit the industry as a whole.
“It’s important to keep the Australian music industry healthy, and it’s also culturally healthy to have Australian music on Australian radio.”
The ABC’s triple j has a 40 per cent quota for Australian music.