Is Triple J a music industry monopoly?

Written by on 18 October 2020

When you take public money, a small pie with a large group of hungry musicians and a national radio network focused on delivering those musicians something to eat… You end up with a lot of grumpy people all around the country! Settle in you awesome f$*kers, we have pointed our kettle at Australia’s largest “youth” radio network for a look into the claims of bias delivery of music through its network across the years.

Triple J is the longest running, publicly funded youth station having begun as a community AM station in the 70’s as an ABC endorsed station called 2JJ but very quickly was nicknamed by the public as “Double J”. 

The station expanded nationally in the 80’s and begun broadcasting on an FM frequency and in 1981, started its national transition into an Australian FM Youth Focused Network.

It wasn’t until the 90’s that the station started popping up in regional area’s all around Australia and from then on, it’s growth exploded all around the country!

Credit: Triple J YouTube

Today, it is one of the most well known radio networks with a focus on alternative music from all around the world and to the Australian Music Industry, is known as the place to get your music if you want to expand your career quickly…

But is it worth your time pushing to this network or should you focus on alternative routes to expand your audience?

I’m going to cut to the common point I am seeing at the moment… Triple J is claimed to be a biased music network that is focused on a small group of music styles and promoting what is best known to the public in their opinion. It once had a well known name for discovering new talent and giving them a platform but these days, it is 100% focused on what is already existing in popular music and it is driving artists to “ignore pure self-expression in favour of manufacturing a sound to get played on the station” (source, Fairfax investigation).

Credit: STA YouTube

In a 2014 inquiry into the Australian Music Industry, a 27yr old, unidentified Melbourne Musician identified one of the biggest issues musicians seem to have is attracting an audience outside of their local area/city and that Metro area’s are causing a roadblock to regional area’s to develop music on popular mediums due to the geographical location of the representatives of the station…

It mentions Triple J holds a monopoly over the national music scene commanding what young people listen to and determining what artists are “hot” with an influential voice to medium to large festival bookers. Musicians have argued for a long time that Triple J will only give them a go on their platform if you meet the particular ‘Triple J Sound’ and anyone outside this extremely narrow criteria will experience a lot of difficulty reaching a national audience…

“Basically if you put it in a metaphor of the Stockmarket, Triple J is the insider that says ‘buy these shares’ and everybody rushes to buy them. There’s stuff that just falls by the wayside consequentially.

Credit: FriendlyJordies YouTube

Triple J is a publicly funded government project under the auspice of ABC and although calls for privatisation have come and gone numerous times, the question is often raised about wether or not the money being given by the tax-payer is helping the already struggling music industry of Australia by allowing this type of “sorting of sound” and “claimed bias”.

Over time the station went from having a large playlist of local and unsigned homegrown content to being primarily a commercial style station with preference to playing tracks international acts have produced and encouraging an international sound to the listeners.

Case and point would be from 2007 to 2017, the majority of artists that took out their hottest 100 were international superstars and the rest were well established, signed and internationally touring Australian acts. I guess the question here is should Triple J be considered the pinnacle of an Australian Music Artist’s career locally or should it be a launch pad into the commercial music industry pushing people through their network and encouraging homegrown, unearthed artists?

Credit: Triple J YouTube

Triple J’s response to the investigations into these claims was to push an Unearthed station which claims to be a feeder to Triple J. Unearthed being a public website and online/digital TV radio station that you can upload your music to in-order to gain airplay on a network less promoted but still attached to the Triple J brand.

Many Australian and International musicians upload their music to this medium bypassing an opportunity to sell their music and making it available for free to the masses signing away financial usage and APRA royalty rights in the process.

There has been calls to give Triple J Unearthed a national FM radio frequency so that local and unsigned artists can attract a national audience but what was instead given was a frequency on Digital TV and a feed online.

None of the above is news to most musicians in Australia as this has been a frustration for a long time with musicians… Many have argued with Triple J, ABC and the Federal Government about this however being the juggernaught and hugely supported station that it is, generally the fiercely protective public listener would flare up before looking into the facts and cause all cries for a look in to disappear quickly. Not to mention the attitude of a number of the presenters calling out very publicly many who have been a voice of negativity towards the radio network.

Credit: Triple J YouTube

We are interested in your thoughts on this one… We aren’t going to take on a side here because this isn’t about us… It’s about what you think! A lot of musicians have opinions on this, we would like to hear them!

Jump onto our socials and get involved 🙂

Until next time!

Shade out!

Current track