Big Government crowding out private players: Triple J Edition

Justin Burford, former lead singer of pop-rock act End Of Fashion, has taken a big swipe at Triple J for the demise of his band:

Justin Burford, who fronted Perth band End of Fashion, said Triple J turned on his band after initially being supportive, which spelled the band’s demise. He said “very small group of people” make decisions on whether a band gets Triple J airplay, a factor which can make or break an act.

Fellow Australian musician Whitley says Triple J’s playlist is “excruciatingly narrow-minded”, adding “In my opinion they’ve failed as a taxpayer funded radio station that is supposed to challenge and present new ideas for the youth of Australia.”

And this month an anonymous musician claimed many Australian bands are tailoring their sound to suit the Triple J playlist and therefore get airplay.

Burford said the station’s once-supportive music director Richard Kingsmill went off End of Fashion after initially supporting the band, which made No. 8 in the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2005 with O Yeah.

On his Facebook page Burford said “Triple J ended the career path of End of Fashion, no question.”

“A band that was fully supported by the station, earning a top ten place in a Hottest 100, was dropped like a sack of hot potatoes upon the second album’s release. Our lead single, Fussy was even openly derided on air by Richard Kingsmill as just another pop release’.”

Firstly, you have to ask whether End of Fashion’s follow up was any good. I quite like their first album – it’s a energetic slice of the sort of rock-pop that Perth was doing a good trade in circa 2006 (see also: Eskimo Joe) so I don’t have too many doubts that the follow up would been along similar lines. And given how much crap that gets promoted and lauded by Triple J (*cough Riptide cough*), I doubt it couldn’t cross the low bar that is set for going on high rotation.

But the bigger problem is that Triple J is really the only game in town for alternative radio stations. Yes, there are independent stations like RTR and whatnot but none of them have the sorts of dollars or reach Triple J has, primarily because they don’t get a slice of the ABC’s behemoth budget. If you can’t get airplay on JJJ, you aren’t going to go anywhere fast.

Triple J, like any government creation, skews investment in alternative youth radio stations. Who would be willing to invest serious money to broadcast across Australia when revenue and listeners are fickle and Triple J has a solid, year-in year-out source of revenue and a well established customer base? Even if you managed to create a superior station and draw half their listeners, Triple J won’t lose a dollar, so you can’t even starve your competition of money. This is already on top of the problem that potential listeners have less money to spend (either directly or indirectly through buying the products advertisers sell) on radio stations because the government is taking money away from them through tax.

Existing beneficiaries of the system with mediocre second and third albums might mock but it is a serious problem that you have one government backed player dominating one segment of the radio market. Aside from the problems with Left-wing groupthink at Triple J, the economics of a state-subsidized radio station mean that the Australian alternative music and radio markets will be stifled as long as Triple J is on the taxpayer teat.

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