Australian music is important.
Australian voices, songs and stories are POWERFUL knowledge systems — they have been since before colonisation.
Songlines are a way Aboriginal peoples shared culture and knowledge about living in the Australian environment. More recently songs by artists including Gurrumul, AB Original and Emily Wurrumarra retain, and reclaim, culture.
I believe Australian songs deserve to heard by all Australians. As cultural historian Catriona Elder (2007:201–202) explains:
Music is understood as a place where Australians can hear their own accent and so, reinforce their sense of Australian-ness.
Today in 2018 — the Australian cultural landscape is alarmingly dominated by global playlists and non-Australian music and artists.
Tsunami sized waves of content created overseas are passively consumed by more and more Australian Spotify users every week.
This is no exaggeration. One historian descibes a ‘CULTURAL BATTLE’ in this new world order of online socialising and sharing. (Dijck, 2013 : 65)
It is time to demand conscious engagement in the curation of playlists.
Participate and feed your own personal algorithm with Australian music.
As consumers it is one way we can push back — we can help our Australian artists and songwriters be heard and get paid.
I am Generation X and as I wrote on this blog in August 2014:
I turned 14 and the world opened up before me. . . it was 1985. Countdown, Smash Hits, Dolly, FM104 — all devoured with religious fervour.
1985 also began my lifelong obsession with AUSTRALIAN music that reflected my own lived experiences as a teenager in Brisbane in the 1980’s. Historian Kurt Iveson (1997:41) explained:
One of the great things about the bands emerging in the 1970’s and 1980’s was the way in which they challenged the dominance of American and British Music.
In the 1980’s and 90’s it was nothing for me to spend $60-$100 a fortnight from my basic wage working in retail on buying CD’s — Frente, You Am I, Regurgitator etc etc.
The consumption of Australian music was social.
As twenty-somethings we were fiercely proud of our Australian artists. We’d buy their recorded music and tickets for their shows and music festivals.
By 2001 I had bought my first iPod and was madly ripping my music collection and selling my CD’s to Cash Converters.
In 2012 I was one of the reported “tens of thousands” that had registered interest online ahead of Spotify’s Australian launch.
Paying for music is in my Gen X DNA. Although a ‘freemium” subscription was offered, I immediately upgraded to the $8.99 a month for the ad-free, mobile phone-based option. A BARGAIN!
In the early days it was mandatory to have Spotify connected through your Facebook account. I followed my friends accounts and delighted in regularly sharing what I was listening to with my Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Critically reviewing this change in my own behaviour, I now see I was participating in a new, interactive media culture.
A refreshing paradigm that felt super-empowering.
It doesn’t come without a price though — made clear by Carah and Louw (2015: 51)
Watching and managing audiences is critical to the process of making and distributing content.
The algorithms created by allowing Spotify to collect our meta-data and ‘watch’ us are welded to the new distribution model of music.
This interests me mostly in the way two Spotify lists are curated especially for ME.
Discover Weekly and Release Radar.
I actively feed the algorithm for these lists through my weekly habit of listening to the Spotify curated New Music Friday AUNZ list.
Perhaps, by adopting my attitude and habit, ALL Australian Spotify users COULD choose to actively support Australian music?
My weekly Friday habit is to queue up the New Music Friday AUNZ list and click play.
If I don’t like a track, I will just skip to the next — to let Spotify know I am NOT a fan.
When I hear a track I DO like, I move it to my own public list of current music.
I curate my own lists by season, for example “Spring 2018”. I find over a few months I end up with 30–40 Australian songs I play on regular rotation — after a few months I get bored. I move a few favourites to my “2018 Favourites” list and start a new list example “Summer 2018”.
I intentionally make my lists public and I have 100+ Spotify followers.
If a track REALLY grabs me, I go to Facebook and like the band page, tell my 1100+ Facebook friends and share with my 2100+ Twitter followers. I am also sure to tag the Australian artist!
Over the past 6 years of consistently doing this, I can now clearly see that my Spotify curated lists are averaging 60% Australian artist content.
Playing my Discover Weekly list in the background today — I heard Electric Fields “Nina” and added it to my “Spring 2018” list and shared this music discovery with my friends and followers.
I hope my habit of ‘feeding’ the algorithm demonstrates how one person can kick back against the passive consumption of globally curated playlists.
These lists, for example ‘Rap Caviar’, are notoriously hard for Australian artists to be added to. Millions of listeners, including too many Australians, passively use these lists to consume music — dominated by American music and artists.
This is a serious problem for Australian artists and the music industry.
So much so that there is currently an Australian Government federal inquiry into: Factors contributing to the growth and sustainability of the Australian music industry.
So, we can wait for the magic ‘powers that be’ to force quotas, policies and regulation on to the global streaming giant Spotify OR
Every Australian using Spotify could power up New Music Friday AUNZ once a week and skip what they don’t like, create a list of what they do like and feed the algorithm their love for Australian music.
If we all participate in this new interactive media era — we have the collective power to support Australian artists to be heard and get paid.
Australian played IS Australian paid*.
*NB Spotify is NOT licensed for public peformance in Australia. This article reflects my personal consumption of music with Spotify. For more information on getting Australian artists played and paid from streaming in public venues, locations and spaces please go here.
Carah, N., Louw, P. E., & Steele, M. (2015). Media & society : production, content & participation: Los Angeles : Sage.
Dijck, J. v. (2013). The culture of connectivity a critical history of social media: New York : Oxford University Press.
Elder, C. (2007). Being Australian : narratives of national identity / Catriona Elder. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin.
Iveson, K. (1997). PARTYING, POLITICS AND GETTING PAID. Overland, 0(147), 39.