What if the music industry doesn’t need radio anymore?

If you have ever worked in radio guaranteed you will have heard comments like:

“I was the FIRST to play X artist/Y song on air in Australia you know!”

“X band was on triple j looong before your commercial station.”

And received wonderful emails like:

“About three weeks ago you played a song by a man that had something about a car in it. I really liked it. Can you tell me what was?”

Radio, alongside going to music events and word of mouth, used to be the most important way of discovering new music.

I’ve been following the Radio Fair Play campaign with interest. For those not familiar with what is going on, this petition from the PPCA outlines the radio caps on licensing fees.

If bands and artists are getting less for having their music played on air in Australia than anywhere else, digital, online and otherwise, suddenly, rather than the artists chasing the radio station for airplay, the station begins chasing the artist.

Here’s an interesting case in point. Triple j has long been the youth station introducing new music, which then often leads to commercial radio take up and mainstream success.

VACATIONS are a chill rock band straight out of Newcastle, not all that dissimilar to Silverchair 30 years ago.



In 2016 they released a song “Young” that went viral on TikTok. It has more than 400 million streams on Spotify. “Telephones”, from 2018, has 200 million. I don’t program the triple j music, but with their Tame Impala vibes and Aussie as all get up looks, I cannot believe that it has taken till their latest single “Midwest”, a billion Spotify streams and 38 date tour of the US thank-you-very-much, to make the triple j rotation, and not just be a blip on the Unearthed radar.

Moving from the alternative to pure pop, I read this article from the BBC about how they choose their radio playlists.

In the article, music programmer Al Smith talks about how TikTok and other social media players have caused what he calls the “democratisation of music” meaning stations are under more pressure to reflect what fans, not record companies, the music artists or the programmers themselves, want in their playlists.

Have you heard Kylie’s “Padam Padam”?


It’s a banger.

Totally contradicting the above democratisation, Smith then goes on to address the backlash the BBC received for leaving “Padam Padam” off their playlists.

“Some stations aim younger and it may be the view that Kylie isn’t the right artist for that,” Smith says.

He also says that there are not enough hours in the day to play everything people want, which is fair enough. But as Kylie has now cracked the UK Top 10 and nearly 20 million streams on Spotify, I imagine that public momentum has changed the broadcaster’s mind.

For the record, in researching this story I discovered that “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, Kylie’s most successful Spotify song, has less streams (300+ million) than VACATIONS’ “Young”.

There is one area where radio still excels in the discovery of new music, and its not where you might think.

Below is a text message I received from my 17-year-old son while he was at work.

The song he means, quickly typed when I suspect he shouldn’t have been using his phone, is “I Love it” by Sneaky Sound System from 2006. He’s added it to his Spotify liked tracks.

This sleeper hit was the third single from the Australian dance group’s self-titled debut album, and the first to make the ARIA charts. It only made No 24, but we loved it too. It broke the then record for the greatest number of weeks in the top 100, with 70. Yet you rarely hear it now. Except apparently on Woolworths radio.

As you’ll see I too had heard a song I was unfamiliar with while dropping him off. I reckon I’ve discovered at least 10 new songs at Woolworths since Covid. Coles Radio music I am largely already familiar with.

My point is that radio is introducing Gen Y, Z and alphas new OLD songs. I’ve been waiting for one of the classic hits stations to get savvy to this in their advertising.


“Mum, you should hear this banger “Bohemian Rhapsody”. This band Queen is sick. Did you know they had other hits too? I think they named the song after that Rami Malik movie. Epic.”

While I feel like Spotify, YouTube and TikTok corner the market for youth discovering new artists and music, radio, AM, FM and especially DAB+ in supermarkets, still dominates for the discovery of new old.

What I do love about triple j and CADA is the rotation of stock, to keep with supermarket analogies. Classic Hits stations have increasingly limited supply of sometimes out of date product. It would be nice for them to have greater stock rotation; for us who get sick of the same songs, for the later generations who have never heard them, and for the music artist, who may not have been paid the half a cent, that’s $0.005 per head of population as per the radio licensing cap for the airplay, for quite a while.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer and editor for Radioinfo
Contact: LinkedIn



Tags: | | | | | |