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Industry this week: Radiomakers meet to discuss getting more Aussie music on the air

Are we hearing more Australian music on commercial radio?

At commercial radio’s conference Radio Alive in Melbourne in spring, delegates blinked at a strange sight – executives from the music industry and radio sitting next to each other on stage without scratching each others’ eyes out. What’s more, they actually talked about how, since April, they’ve been working together to get more Australian music onto radio, including having regular meetings to monitor that quotas were being met.

Dean Ormston, head of rights collection APRA AMCOS said, “It’s been a very positive collaboration. We found there are very few stations that don’t want to help Australian artists. But they also don’t want to be told how to run their business.” Dan Rosen, CEO of ARIA, told delegates, “We welcome the conversation on how stations can better support Australian music. Radio stations are a vital part of the music ecosystem, and music is a critical component of radio’s success – so it makes perfect sense for our industries to jointly focus on ways to enhance our working relationship.” Joan Warner, Chief Executive of the sector’s body Commercial Radio Australia observed, “We won’t always see eye to eye but we shouldn’t go to war over it.”

On another panel, decisions-makers from Nova, Triple M and K-Rock agreed Australian pop has never been stronger, with the likes of Amy Shark, Dean Lewis, 5 Seconds of Summer and Morgan Evans. K-Rock content director James Speed stated that with such artists, there was “no problem reaching our quotas”. He added that the success of such acts made them more open to taking risks. The panel said their support for Australian music went beyond airplay, as there were live shows including Nova’s Red Room and Triple M’s Garage Sessions.

Triple j and community radio stations play well over the 25% quota, at 47% and 39% respectively. Commercial radio is accused of making up numbers with blocks of golden oldies in wee hours – though this is sharply denied. Radio says record companies must share the blame. Either they push the wrong acts to the wrong formats, or they don’t give enough choice. Triple M’s head of content Mike ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick explained, “We see 15 songs a week [from labels], (and only) two to three of them are Australian.”

It was a different story in late 2017. The Music Network discovered with alarm that APCOM – the body that oversaw Australian music quotas on commercial radio – no longer existed. Research by Melbourne publicist-turned-academic Chrissie Vincent for her masters thesis found “that during a typical week NOVA played a measly 7% Australian content, Fox FM just 11% and KIISFM played 13% during a 24 hour period, with the stations making their quotas playing local artists from 10pm till midnight during the ‘off-peak’.” 

An emergency meeting was held at BIGSOUND. In December, APRA AMCOS and ARIA met with radio of their concerns. With the possibility of the business using the 2018 government inquiry into supporting the music industry, to call for a 35% quota like Canada’s or for authorities to monitor quotas being met, radio was happy to be more cooperative.