Will 2022 be the year for Classic Hits?

Opinion from Jen Seyderhelm

I was in my car at the lights next to a tradesman in his early 20s. He was in the car by himself, window down and Dire Straits’ Walk of Life was blaring from his speakers.

I thought this guy might have been listening to Spotify but I turned on my radio station, 2CA, and discovered that we were in unison.

I wound down my passenger window, turned up my Dire Straits, we smiled and nodded to each other and then the lights turned green and we walked out of each other’s lives.

My nephew is 23. He’s bought himself a record player and is also massively into Dire Straits and Cold Chisel.

My 15-year-old counts Earth, Wind and Fire’s September in his top five favourite songs.

The 12-year-old daughter of my best friend hangs out wearing the Guns N Roses top and socks I bought her and did her big Year 6 assignment on Classic Bands You Should Know, and Why.

I’ve been a Classic Hits girl since I was the same age as my best friend’s daughter but, during my teenage and young adult years, I would always change to a more “appropriate” station to my demographic when my peers were in my house or car.

That was the tail end of the 80s, the greatest era for Australian music in my opinion and the start of the grunge laden 90s. The music was new, fresh and exciting. But then we all think the era we grew up in has the best music.

In the generation between my children and I, so much has changed. I don’t think most under 35s will fight you about the music coming out now being the best ever. Rather, you might share a great track and they’ll add it to their Spotify likes, and visa versa.

Spotify means music is on demand, largely ad free and will provide you with alternatives similar to the types of music you are listening to. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons but it’s kind of like going to different pizza joints and always ordering ham and pineapple.

The last ten years has seen a move from excess, greed and disposable lifestyles to sustainable, recyclable and reusable. Nostalgia and heritage are marketable commodities as they make us feel safe and yearn for places far away and people no longer with us. Sale of vinyl records outstrips supply. Modern artists are releasing new music on vinyl and sometimes cassette too. All the music I purchased in 2021, if not via a streaming supplier, was on vinyl.

Most modern radio stations offer an online or digital way of tuning in, plus catch-up podcasts and social media tie-ins. The bushfires, floods and then pandemic drove listeners back to community and regional radio and specifically to the ABC and talk radio to keep us safe and up to date. We were and are literally saturated with information.

That brings me to 2022, and what I feel will be reflected in this year’s radio ratings and podcast rankings.

Towards the end of 2021 Grant Broadcasters sold their stations to ARN. Due to regulations about how many stations Networks can own in one market my classic hits station 2CA was bought outright by the Blyton Group and ARN’s Brisbane classic hits station, 4KQ, will also have to be offloaded.

In the highly competitive Brisbane market, 4KQ rates No 1 in Breakfast, mornings and (I’ll come back to this) on weekends. Cruise 1323 is right up there in Adelaide, Gold 104.3 is second to 3AW in Melbourne across all day parts as is Smooth behind the ABC and 2GB in Sydney. 

From the start of 2021 to now, classic hits stations across Australia are punching well above their weight.

I was reminded this morning that 2022 is an election year.

It is my belief that across the last couple of years people have been turning on their radios to get the latest news and information. When that becomes too much they switch over to music that makes them feel good, safe and nostalgic.

Classic Hits stations are like the New Zealand Cricket Team, everyone’s second favourite, we all have a sweet spot for them. On weekends, when the alternatives are sports or news, a cracking solid gold weekend can be on in the background and then turned up when they play Elton, ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Bowie or Queen.

Like how an election can be determined by a two-party preferred vote, I feel that at some point across day parts and weekends people are choosing classic hits as, or to accompany, their main listening habit.

People of all ages.

As this pandemic has drawn on and on, we’re enjoying listening to music stations for longer. That enjoyment word is very important.

Savvy advertisers are realizing that classic hits stations reach an audience far more diverse than meal plans, funeral homes and gut health. Listeners are investing in products that make them again feel good, safe, nostalgic (and hungry).

4KQ, 2CA and indeed most of the Australian true Classic Hits stations remain on AM and are als0 available on DAB. AM is seen as the daggy uncle to their FM counterparts, but the daggy uncle may be getting a new image.

Here’s another stat that further shows that it doesn’t matter the location on the dial. In 2021 community station Sunshine FM (a classic hits station I always listen to when I’m visiting the QLD Sunshine Coast) came out on top of the McNair listener survey. Not just with listeners over 40 (where they’re miles ahead) but all listeners over 15.

I’m clearly not impartial to this conversation, working for such a station myself.

I feel 2022 is the year of Classic Hits format. 

ARN may regret losing 4KQ. We might just quietly see Gold and Smooth formats, like the New Zealand Cricket Team, win some major trophies. No one will really mind because the Classic Hits stations and people are just so nice and easy to be around. 

A heads up though to major networks and stations; this could represent a fundamental shift in ratings away from what it is assumed an under 35 audience chooses to listen to.


About the Author
Jen Seyderhelm is a Breakfast Announcer at Forever Classic 2CA, a Podcast and Voiceover educator, and she is currently counting down the greatest one hit wonders of all time in Australia.
Contact: LinkedIn

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