Everyone has their favorite ways to start off the new year. Some make promises to read more, eat less, or sleep (or all three). Others stay up all night to watch fireworks. Top of my list is the Triple J Hottest 100, the world’s largest annual music poll, hosted by the Australian radio station Triple J.
I’ll be honest: I don’t think I am absolutely ready to let go of 2018 just yet. Not because it holds any real sentimental value for me, but more because it was such a full-on insane rollercoaster ride of STUFF that happened. I didn’t really have any moments to pause and appreciate The Year That Was. Usually, I reach the end of the year with a wind-swept hairdo, a big cheesy smile, and a favorite song from the year as an anthem.
It’s now early January 2019, and the only song I can really remember from 2018 is “This Is America” by Childish Gambino. And while that is an amazing song in itself, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about it being my 2018 anthem. Thus, I turn to my trusty Triple J Hottest 100 to help me out of this conundrum.
What Is “Triple J”?
Triple J is a government-funded national radio broadcaster in Australia. They are diverse, inclusive, and often ground-breaking. Oh, and I really like the music. I’m a big fan of Like a Version, where each week an artist or group performs a cover of their chosen song from another artist. It has some pretty good informative sessions too, like Dr. Karl’s Science and Hack (current affairs investigative reporting). And they play a wide range of music, across all genders, nationalities, cultures, and languages.
Diversity in music is a big thing for me. I have family and friends who work in the music industry, and I know it can be brutal. But I also know how rewarding it can be, and how enticing those rewards are. The problem is the selective nature of exposure.
Is All Radio Exposure Created Equally? – NO.
We were discussing this around the virtual water-cooler at GeekMom. (Are water-coolers still a thing? Even virtual ones?) One of my fellow GeekMom’s pointed out a radio station with a policy of not playing two female artists or groups directly after each other, creating a “norm” of more male than female artists. Unfortunately, I can’t find any conclusive data to confirm this particular statement, just the noted observations of many radio listeners who have been commenting on the same thing.
“Finally, Hill cautions against playing too many females. And playing them back to back, he says, is a no-no. ‘If you want to make ratings in Country Radio, take females out.’ – Keith Hill, May 2015”
Unfortunately, this issue did not stop in 2015. Nor was it limited to North America. People around the world have continued to note the restricted exposure given to any artist who does not directly identify as male. In the Netherlands, the best exposure females could hope for in 2016 was about 30%. Across Australian radio stations in 2017, females were played 28% of the time. It was even worse if you were in the United States of America, with a six-year low of 22.4%.
Even my treasured Triple J was not immune to this. While I can proudly vouch they do NOT have the same policy promoted by Keith Hill, the Triple J Hottest 100 doesn’t exactly reflect this. Last year was considered the most diverse year ever for the Triple J Hottest 100, and we still had at least 50% being songs from male artists. The other 50% was divided between female artists, songs by male artists but featuring a female vocalist, and songs by acts with both males and females. Unfortunately, the data didn’t take into consideration non-binary genders, but we’re working on it.
The tricky part here is exposure. It’s hard to gain popularity and enough clout to warrant the airtime if you don’t have the exposure to begin with. Australian artist Missy Higgins was discovered through a Triple J Unearthed competition, specifically looking for undiscovered talent. She went on to place 2nd in the 2004 Triple J Hottest 100. New Zealand artist Lorde was discovered by a music producer after watching a video of her school talent show at age 12. Fortunately, the producers patiently nurtured her innate talent and five years later, she placed 2nd in the 2013 Triple J Hottest 100.
Now, I am as much a contributor to the problem as I am an observer. It’s not like I have been actively asking for more female artists in my playlists. Spotify has a tool to show the percentage of female vs. male musicians you stream. (It’s promoted with Smirnoff.) I am honest enough to know how bad my 2018 will look—not helped by the David Bowie and Queen binge I went through around September, October, and November.
What Can I Do About It? – VOTE.
So, I’m changing my actions. This year, I am making the effort to listen to more female artists and make sure my votes in the Hottest 100 are more balanced. Yes, “This Is America” will still gain a vote, but so does Amy Shark’s “I Said Hi”.
And “Fire” from Peking Duk features a female vocalist. That still goes in the Not-a-Solo-Male-Artist category.
Sidenote: not all music on Triple J is child-friendly, so keep your ears open for the language warnings. Don’t let that stop you from sharing the music with your kids, but be aware. With that in mind, I’m also throwing a vote in for “Friends” by Anne-Marie and Marshmello… Not kid-friendly, so no link. Google it.
Voting in the Triple J Hottest 100 is free to everyone around the world through the Triple J website. Voting closes on Tuesday 22 January 2019 at 9am Australian Daylight Savings Time, with the full list of 100 winners played on Sunday 27 January 2019 from 12 pm. Last year’s winner was Kendrick Lamar with “Humble.” Previous winners have also included Jet’s “Are You Going to Be My Girl?” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
This year, the Triple J Hottest 100 is teaming up with Lifeline Australia, the leading provider of crisis support and suicide prevention in Australia. So if you do join in the voting and the listening and celebrating of new year stuff, consider making a donation to either Lifeline Australia or any support group in your local area. Then you can sit back and chill out with some 2018 tunes for that final closure on The Year That Was.