The station plugs the hell out of Splendour every year, and Splendour’s artists seem to be consistently cherry-picked from the triple j playlist (just take a look at the festival’s 2016 lineup and try to pick out one artist whose tunes haven’t been spun on the Js).
“So what?” You’re probably thinking. Most punters who go to Splendour also listen to JJJ on the reg and vice versa, so what’s the big dealio?
Well, a local festival promoter reckons there is one.
Adrian Buckley has criticised the relationship between SITG and JJJ, arguing that the taxpayer-funded station is shunning its public mandate to promote smaller local music events by giving priority treatment to one of the country’s biggest commercial festivals.
And before you start firing off your “old man yells at cloud” memes, maybe just take a quick listen to what he has to say first. Look, here’s one we even prepared earlier for you JIC:
“I’m definitely no hater, but I have questions about the influence the station has on the wider music industry & its public responsibility to broaden its level of support & promotion. It is after all a public station,” Buckley wrote in a recent op-ed for Newcastle Live!
Buckley – who promotes the Wollombi Music Festival, Folk In Broke, Hunter Hoedown and more – claims that he struggles to get any exposure for his events on the js, even when past lineups have included Unearthed winners and some “fairly prominent artists” from the the station’s playlist.
“From where I sit our dominant indie radio station (in the main) dishes out a whole lot of nudda in that direction,” he writes.
“The conundrum that is ‘jjj presents’ is probably never so noticeable as when Splendour rolls into town. To put it bluntly Splendour doesn’t NEED the level of coverage they get, they pretty much sell out year after year, within a very comfortable time frame for the promoters, they make a huge amount of profit & ultimately Splendour is a commercial & private enterprise.
“So what’s the deal with the whole publicly funded radio station & commercial enterprise relationship?!” he questions. “How can a publicly funded radio station basically bankroll blanket promotion of a commercial event that returns massive profits back to the event owners??”
And Buckley reckons he has the answer: triple j has begun to operate like a commercial radio station, even though it’s not one.
He claims to have received the following response from JHQ after he queried the station’s level of promotion for small-to-medium sized music events:
“Triple j puts a lot of time & effort into events & in a competitive marketplace wants those events to generate listenership & enhance triple j’s brand”.
“In a nutshell, events that jjj think are going to keep it up in the radio rankings ARE presentable & promotable, but those that aren’t going to either hold their market or increase their market share are pretty much left to their own devices,” Buckley explains.
“That’s the reason why small to medium sized events hardly get any coverage & potentially why some small to medium sized events fold across the nation over & over again. Many deserve recognition & promotion (not all) but they’re too ‘small fry’ for the big end of town that IS basically jjj.”
Now, no matter how much you love triple j, you can’t deny that these are some pretty troubling allegations.
Is the station’s commitment to furthering its own ratings and brand name more important than its public-mandated responsibility to support local music at all levels?
Is it cool for our taxpayer-funded youth broadcaster to spruik J artist-dominated mega-festivals like Splendour, Falls, Laneway and Groovin The Moo while denying the same privileges to smaller, or perhaps less J artist-dominated events like Cherry Rock, Dark Mofo, Legion or Bluesfest?
As Buckley himself has pointed out, Bluesfest boss Peter Noble came out at the most recent Face The Music conference and addressed this very issue, stating:
I think that festivals that specialise & just do triple j programmed artists get ‘presents on triple j’ & I think that that’s fine, but we’re going to find more & more in the future that festivals need to be a little bit more diverse & it would be great if triple j would see that festivals do have large contemporary components of their events & get a bit of that incredible nation-wide FREE marketing that triple j gives to those events that specialise & only present within what triple j programs. I mean, why wouldn’t triple j be presenting an event that’s got Kendrick Lamar & D’Angelo & The National – I could keep going on.
I’m not knocking triple j in any way, I just think that there’s a whole lot of opportunities missed there…
Support from triple j would mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of free marketing, on a radio station that is up to number three in some urban markets. You can’t buy ads, it’s that simple, and you can sell an event out just on that alone – jjj marketing. It becomes very hard for other events to compete with events who receive that much free marketing on radio. It’s kind of that simple.
I’m not trying to reach around or throw shit at triple j but I think they should consider all those things because I think I’m not the only one who is asking that question… Major people in media are saying [this same thing] to me – people in street press and radio, because triple j is a very very very powerful arm of the government. It is paid for by the taxpayers; that includes me and everyone else that pays tax. Well, we should have every right to look at what they do, and maybe make comment about it and perhaps they shouldn’t sit there and not respond to that comment. They are public servants, in the end – even if they don’t see themselves as that.
As the great Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility, and there are many in the industry who feel that triple j is neglecting its responsibility to support quality local music equally.
And not just when it comes to festivals.
Two years ago, the station came under fire for alleged “sound bias” after Fairfax published numerous accounts from anonymous artists who confessed to changing their sound in a bid to court triple j airplay.
Several even revealed that their music had been placed on rotation after they’d altered their sound to something more in line with the station’s privileged genre trends, such as garage rock, EDM or indie pop, while Australian artist Whitley criticised the station’s “excruciatingly narrow-minded playlist”.
It prompted Cherry Bar owner James Young to write an impassioned op-ed about the country’s next generation of rock n’ roll acts who have no avenue for national exposure because triple j simply won’t play their style of music.
“As a local act, to get on major music festivals or score an international support or to be able to tour interstate and have people turn up; you must be played on Triple J. Without Triple J support most bands will struggle to survive. And this is exactly why it is imperative that Triple J supports ALL types of LOCAL talent,” he said at the time.
It’s important to note that none of these commentators are denying the fact that triple j does an incomparably bang-up job in furthering the careers and successes of the quality local artists and events that it chooses to promote.
They are, however, pointing out that this occurs to the detriment of the equally quality local artists and events that it doesn’t choose to promote.
And perhaps this is an issue that we – the fans whose taxes fund triple j’s continued existence – should, at the very least, be talking about.