triple j vs the Brisbane Music Scene Part 2
By Justin Edwards
Originally I started writing this post about triple j’s Feature Albums towards the end of last year but despite having crunched all the numbers, it never got finished. However, I decided to revisit it and finish it as it fitted in well with some of the current discussions on Collapse Board about the music scene in Brisbane, especially questions around whether “there’s just a lack of support and visibility for the things that are happening” in Brisbane.
Coming back to it six months later, the first thing I did was update the data. I expected to find that triple j had added to the list of its Feature Albums since November. What I didn’t expect to find was that although it had added another six months of albums, it was at the expense of the oldest records on the list. Feature Albums from 2011 had been added to triple j’s website, Feature Albums from 2003 had been deleted. It’s almost as if the radio station is so militant about being a ‘youth’ radio station that instead of creating a definitive list of albums it has decided to ‘feature’, it needs to go in and delete its history from public view. Does it not want to admit to featuring albums older than seven-and-a-half years? Would this take it out of its ideal 16–24 demographic? Would it be too embarrassing for triple j to admit to have promoted any albums that someone outside their current youth demographic might have bought/listened to/enjoyed?
Either way I just added the new albums to the bottom of the list I had already compiled and so used a more definitive list of Feature Albums than triple j currently publishes.
Back in November I spent a week listening to Australian radio station triple j and blogged about what I heard in a number of blogs over the week. You can read the summary of the week’s listening here.
One of the comments on my summary of the week was as follows:
Two of the last three Feature Albums (which automatically makes you the most played act in a week) have been from Brisbane. Hungry Kids two weeks ago, John Steel this week. If you did your figures based on this week the result would probably be pretty different, I reckon.
It was a fair comment, in fact a very fair comment and in retrospect I probably should have excluded the number of plays from the week’s Feature Album from the totals. Excluding the 15 plays by Illy that had been added to the number of plays from Melbourne made no difference to the overall breakdown of plays by city and wouldn’t have made any difference to the rankings if they’d been for a feature album from another city; Melbourne was still way out in front, with more than a third of triple j’s Australian playlist between 9 and 5 during the week of 25 October 2010. However, reducing the number of plays allocated to Melbourne from Illy’s feature album made a difference when the data was normalised based on population size, with Perth creeping slightly ahead of Melbourne; 22.30 plays/million population to 22.00 plays/million population. The full revised breakdown for the capital cities (with Melbourne reduced from the originally reported 103 song plays down to 88) is in the following table:
Maybe the real story of spending a week listening to triple j is that Perth leads the way when compared to the other cities, although why is a bit of a mystery. At least it is to me, and maybe the Brisbane music scene needs to look to Perth for tips in how to succeed and punch above your weight when compared to the big guns of Melbourne and Sydney.
But the comment about Feature Albums got me thinking. With John Steel Singers and Hungry Kids Of Hungary both having had Feature Albums on triple j during October 2010– Hungry Kids’ Escapades having the honour during the week of 3 October 2010 and John Steel’s Tangalooma later on in the month, the week of 31 October 2010 – I started thinking about what had been the last Feature Album by a Brisbane act. I couldn’t recall anything from recent time and I don’t know why but I kept thinking about the Grates’ second album, Hearts Won, Teeth Lost. My better half said that was from far too long ago and that there must have been something since then, putting forward Yves Klein Blue’s debut album or maybe something by The Gin Club as possibilities.
As triple j publishes its Feature Albums alphabetically by artist name on its website, that was the first port of call. The data goes all the way back to 2003. I’m not sure if triple j had featured albums before this but it meant that this data, the original data from the site plus the additions from 2011, resulted in eight years of Feature Album data to look at. The data was copied, pasted, crunched in Excel, and as with the previous triple j playlist analysis, the country of origin and, if Australian, the city of origin were manually entered; Google, Myspace and Wikipedia providing those details where needed.
Looking through eight years of triple j’s Feature Albums it’s hard to work out what the Feature Album is meant to stand for; it seems to have little to do with taking an album on its own merits and a lot more to do with history – previous albums, previous success, and previous triple j support. There’s a really odd mix of albums, from albums that most music publications would rank as among the top albums in those eight years to albums that only triple j would love and support. For example, while Pitchfork reviewed Jet’s Shine On with a video of a monkey pissing in its own mouth, triple j somehow found it deserving of Feature Album status in the week of 21 September 2006. Although it’s obvious, the most accurate way you could describe the overall list of albums is it’s very triple j playlist-orientated.