PPCA potential access to radio salaries in Fair Pay for Radio Play stoush not a fair reflection of the industry

There is a story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, behind a paywall, saying that as part of the Fair Pay for Radio Play stoush between the radio and music industries the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd (PPCA) could get to be told the salaries of the three highest-paid radio presenters at ARN, Nova and SCA, in the 2022-23 financial year, via the Copyright Tribunal.

This feels infuriating as it’s not comparing apples with apples. This time period is before Kyle and Jackie O’s 10-year ARN contract, but they are still likely to be in the top three. Nova and SCA’s three are also probably Sydney or Melbourne breakfast hosts.

None will be radio ambassadors for Australian music.

I go back to Paul Amos’s, the Managing Director of Xtra Insights, guest Radioinfo article from September last year. In it he showed that breakfast radio plays about half the amount of music as any other day part, and, in the instance of Kyle and Jackie O, music makes up just 1% of their content. They are, very nearly, talk hosts.

I notice that Nine Radio wasn’t included in these potential salary reveals. 2GB’s Ray Hadley would be among the highest paid radio presenters, and would play more music in a week, especially Australian music, if you consider his regular Robertson Brothers contributions and the Country Music Countdown, than most commercial breakfast shows. Indeed he was given a Country Music Capital Award at the 52nd Golden Guitar Awards this year in Tamworth for his service to the Australian country music industry.

It would be more appropriate, if you are going to gather the salaries of radio staff rather than management, for the PPCA to get that of the top ten people in the radio industry that most support Australian music, like Ray, or Triple M’s Matty O’Gorman (pictured) for example. Then you are getting someone who might play 10 Aussie tracks in their shift rather than one, or none.

Spotify have also just released their Annual Music Economics Report which makes for interesting reading.

Royalties generated by Australian artists via Spotify in 2023 was near $275M AUD, up by 10% from 2022. More than 80% of those royalties generated by Australian artists came from listeners outside of Australia. Half of all royalties generated by Australian artists were by independent artists.

It reads to me that Australians listening to Australian music on Spotify generated those artists $20 million or thereabouts in 2023. I wonder what that figure is for Australian artists from radio play? I would wager a bet that it was more.

Spotify Australia Head of Music, Alicia Sbrugnera, said:

“Artists deserve clarity and transparency on the economics of music streaming. There’s more money in the music industry than ever before and the data we shared today from our latest Loud & Clear report shows that more and more artists are sharing in that revenue and building careers. 

The Australian music industry has completely transformed in recent years and Spotify has been a significant and consistent driver of that transformation. We have proudly championed Australian artists for 11 years through editorial programming, best-in-class data and marketing tools, and partnerships for artist education, all driven by our local music team. With nearly $275M AUD in royalty payments in 2023 and a growth of almost 10% since 2022, it is clear that streaming has been a key factor in the Australian music industry becoming bigger than it has ever been.” 

If the tribunal is using the biggest radio salaries to determine any changes to what radio stations have to pay Australian musicians, then it seems a terribly unfair method of judgement. Spotify gets access to the same music at a lower rate per stream with artists needing the presence there because of the global reach. Australian radio, while it may stream online, because of its very local-ness, doesn’t have that opportunity. Radio presenters catch up podcast content is not able to contain any of the scheduled music at all, unless it’s a live performance.

It’s tough times for all concerned in the arts and media worlds. Whatever the outcome of the senate enquiry I just hope it doesn’t lead to less overall music played on stations to compensate for additional costs via an unjustified reflection of the salaries of certain people in the industry.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo.

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