Help boost Australian music in the charts

The IFPI’s Digital Music in 2014 report had an interesting table on page 15. It’s a top 10 of non-English language speaking countries whose local charts contained the most local repertoire in record sales for 2013. Here it is:

ipfi Chart
Top 10 Local Repertoire Album Sales in non-English Speaking Countries

This chart, made up of non-English speaking countries, naturally will choose their own their local language artists. That makes sense.  But what if we could stimulate a nationalistic response to supporting local artists and local music locally?

In many respects Australian music has never been better in Australia for local artists. Triple J has a huge amount of new, Australian content – it also has unearthed to find more of it. VMusic is doing its bit too (sadly the AO music show is no longer). The live scene is pretty upbeat for bands.

It just hasn’t translated into sales for Australian artists on a similar level as in non-English speaking countries. The top 10 of albums sold in Australia during 2013 were by international artists, though Flume was just outside the top 10 at number 11. How do we change that? Surely not by removing English as our national language!

Australian radio has Australian content quotas for commercial radio of 25% locally performed content which are helpful, but is it perhaps time to redefine those to exclude some back catalogue or ‘gold’ rotation? Should the quotas overall by increased and maybe weighted in favour of new music? If so, does Commercial Radio Australia still object to that (thought it was never clear if that was about supporting content or feeling disadvantaged by different rules for digital content providers).

The IFPI report shows on page 12 that large acts, backed by massive marketing budgets sold the most records worldwide in 2013. An Australian act with a world-beating budget? That’s a tough ask and big risk in the Australian market, because the money it takes to launch that type of artist is huge. It would need to compete with the international artists and I can’t see a record company taking that risk locally.

Maybe Australian acts needs to do what INXS did – tour, tour and tour. INXS’ songs by the time the top-selling Kick album was launched had a mass market appeal about them (whether written that way intentionally or not). The success was widely appealing songs that were taken to the masses.

Taking appealing songs to the world has been historically successful for Australia. Silverchair, Bee Gees… the Wiggles all come to mind (who else?). The commonality is that: no matter the genre of music, the songs had wide appeal and were toured. Yet that alone, didn’t always translate to solid Australian sales, Tina Arena possibly and perhaps some of Kylie Minogue’s earlier catalogue.

This isn’t all doom and gloom for Australia as this IFPI case study about Australia shows. Australia had a stellar 2013 in music with digital sales passing physical sales for the first time.

We just need to figure out how to sell more Australian music to Australians when the main competition from the US and the UK all speak English, all have appealing songs to a wide audience and all the international artists tour Australia.

Please share and add your ideas and comments below.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

One thought on “Help boost Australian music in the charts

  1. Brett, I won’t even pretend to know a thing about the Australian music scene and hell, I don’t even know that much about the UK music scene. But I think it’s got to be a case of organisations (or even government agencies) realising that they can give a helping hand at each level. It’s a case of giving musicians a fighting chance to actually create something good.

    Touring is an expensive proposition in the UK and mainland Europe, let alone somewhere like Australia. For the tiddlers, it’s a case of being fortunate to break even, let alone earning a proper wage to reinvest into equipment/recording time. Arts Council funding isn’t ideal (and is wildly subjective) but it can give musicians time to actually hone their tracks and “do another INXS“, to use your example. And a small levy on digital downloads might help.

    Regional hubs are also key. The idea of “think global, act local“ is probably the easiest way of summing up my view on things. Musicians have co-operatives (such as rehearsal rooms or recording studios), bands look after one another when organising gigs so that everyone gets a cut of the door fee (and it’s not just a case of petrol money), and knowledge is kept within the local scene. It’s not about writing the best songs anymore, it’s a case of writing the best songs and having the know how to market, to exploit, and to run things like a business. I know one or two organisations in my home town that take young, talented musicians and not only give them a place to perform but also teach them about IP exploitation, contracts, everything you need to know.

    Sending guys out to SXSW? Great. Having radio quotas? Great. But for every breakout band, there’s a thousand also-rans who had the raw talent but just didn’t have the opportunity.

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