Australian music and radio – no longer a symbiotic relationship

There is an increasingly deep line in the sand being drawn between Australian radio and its music industry, where a relationship once as intertwined as music and lyrics has become amensalistic.

I’ve already commented my thoughts that songs will be replaced increasingly by chat on commercial music stations as the networks are investing their funds in the talent. The Australian music industry is feeling it too, with Stephen Green, CEO of the and SCG Media, saying on LinkedIn:

‘If commercial radio is important to us as an industry, then what is being done to make the relationship work commercially? It’s one thing for triple j to get behind something with government funding, but strong company to company relationships need to be had if we want strong outcomes.”


TheMusic also shared this fascinating article listing some unknown Australian artists getting more than a million streams on Spotify, and they’re right. I knew none of them. That being said, triple j has proved excellent for introducing new talent to radio listeners with Australian acts making up more than 50% of last weekend’s Hottest 100.

It’s just that those acts, and commercial radio favourites like Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy and Rickie-Lee Coulter, all of whom released new music in 2023, are not seeing that airplay translate into sales and streams like they used to.

I’m a stats girl. When the AirCheck National Radio Airplay Chart came through this week, I counted the number of Australian entries (11/40 – about average) and my eye was caught by a song called ‘Paradise’ by Western Australian and NZ band COTERIE. I’d never heard of them and thought I’d give it a play (on my Spotify account) while putting the article together. I thought it was fabulous and promptly shared it to a handful of mates who I thought would like it too. This job, and that chart, is also how I heard Doja Cat’s Hottest 100 No 1 ‘Paint the Town Red’ for the first time too.

It led me to thinking about where I had discovered other new artists and songs in 2023. I wonder if I might encourage you to do the same.

I saw G Flip at Spilt Milk in 2022 and have followed them ever since, so their DRUMMER album discovery was directly due to that gig. Dom Dolla was when ‘Eat Your Man’ (with Nelly Furtado) was played at a cabaret show I saw in Sydney (I really like his music). Billie Eilish’s ‘What Was I Made For?’ was watching the Barbie movie. Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Vampire’ I heard for the first time (properly but of course a censored version) in the supermarket on Coles Radio. ‘Lil Boo Thang’. by Paul Russell, was YouTube via TikTok. ‘Prada’, by Casso, RAYE & D-Block Europe (and my top vote in the Hottest 100) was via triple j when my car’s radio was changed to the station after it was serviced and I left it on on the way home (there’s a marketing message in that). Most recently, ‘Stick Season’ by Noah Kahan was playing in an Uber on Nova on my way home from a job. I liked it immediately, Shazam-ed it (frightening the Uber driver) and, like COTERIE, went home and shared it to a network of friends who I thought would like it too. I also saved to Spotify several songs from the Hottest 100 that I hadn’t heard before, including ‘adore u’ by Fred Again and Obongjayar.

So, there’s a mix of contexts, but relevant here is that when the radio IS on, I do discover and invest in new music I like, plus go back for more of a song I haven’t heard for a while.

How then do we encourage people to not just stumble across music radio stations when they’re shopping, in cars or at work, but stick around?

One way is the music industry putting more of their marketing budget into radio. Stephen Green said in his post:

“Over the last ten years, budgets have been moved from places like commercial radio to Facebook, TikTok and YouTube while we scratch our heads about why the industry doesn’t have the same influence as it once did.”

And music playing commercial radio stations might contemplate the same.

When was the last time you saw a radio station advertised as the key sponsor of an album launch or, for example, a Gold 104.3 digital billboard at one of Chris Isaak’s upcoming Melbourne concerts? I am delighted that Nova’s Red Room will support G Flip in a couple of weeks, but when G Flip returns to their home of Melbourne for that gig, will they be unable to pop into Triple M’s Homegrown with Matty O for a chat because they’re committed to Nova?

At present the impasse is that the Australian music industry wants commercial radio to pay more to play local music while investing their own marketing funds elsewhere. Commercial music radio stations networks are similarly putting their marketing funds into their talent and podcasting, leading to less music across the day.

Perhaps the end result is not amensalistic (Radioinfo – increasing your vocab as well as your music knowledge) but more like a divorce between the two industries after what had been a long and happy marriage.

What are your thoughts?

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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