Why Taylor Swift Makes the Hottest 100 Hotter
Social media is awash with news of the Taylor Swift voting campaign “threatening” to push the pop starlet into Australia’s biggest alternative music poll, the triple j Hottest 100.
Hipsters are looking on in horror as one of Australia’s most important musical institutions is threatened from the mainstream, while haters rub their hands together. Will the station ban the song from appearing because it hasn’t been played? Will Peking Duck or Milky Chance have to settle for #2 (both of which have been flogged on commercial radio too)? If they ban it, does it prove that triple j has a “sound”?
What we’re really seeing is a convergence of a number of phenomena.
- Taylor Swift.
This is the biggest pop movement we’ve seen in years. Here’s an artist who can single-handedly reverse the trend of collapse in the purchase of albums. And not just that, but when she takes a stand against Spotify, the mere focus she gives to the service gives it a big month on month bump on subscriptions. The whole world is singing “Shake it Off”.
- triple j Turns 40
As the increase in triple j‘s media happens around their anniversary, so does the rise in critics and trolls slamming the station for “having a sound” (or more accurately “not playing my band”). There’s not just Taylor fans, but triple j haters looking at this as a great way to jump on the bandwagon and hijack the process. This isn’t new. The UK Christmas number one is now an annual institution. Various radio stations in Australia have tried hijacking the ARIA charts in a similar fashion. In fact triple j is one of those stations.
- The Rise of triple j
If triple j WASN’T actually a cultural institution then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Over the last five years we’ve seen a steady increase in listenership. It’s generally assumed that triple j have a “hottest 100 spike” in the first couple of surveys each year. If this is correct, then coupled with the station’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, then they may be in for a stellar 2015. They end 2014 ALREADY holding the mantle of #1 station in Sydney and Melbourne in 25-39s, #1 in Perth for 18-24s and #2 for 25-39s and #2 in Brisbane for both 18-24s and 25-39s. These are spectacular numbers, which means that more than ever before, the station has attracted what would usually be considered “mainstream” listeners who, while they may not be big Taylor Swift fans, may not have a major problem with her either, so the discussion is open slather where a decade ago the mainstream may have needed an explanation as to what Hottest 100 was.
- The Social Media Echo Chamber
In the same way that Ben Elton’s Live on Planet Earth collective vomit or the Serial Podcast had “the whole country talking”, the Tay Tay Hottest 100 revolution will pass a lot of the country by while those glued to Twitter and Facebook will assume the whole country is talking about it. For 24 hours it will be a huge story because of media feeding on media. It will be fascinating to see whether this is a real wave of support. The only people right now that know how many votes are flowing in are triple j.
If I was over at triple j, I’d be currently wringing my hands in delight. They are doing exactly the right thing by not commenting at all. The commentary about “will she” or “won’t she” be allowed in the countdown will only enhance the switch-on from both Taylor lovers and Taylor haters and the last thing the station needs is to worry about the result.
Is there a chance Taylor will make it in based on votes? Well yes. The biggest risk is if her international fan base mobilizes. All triple j needs to do is only count Australian votes then they will probably not need to lose sleep. Those in commercial radio know just how many people actually vote or request songs as well as anyone. Hottest 100 has over a million votes. Assuming most vote for 10 songs, that’s well over 100,000 individuals voting, so a significant number would be needed to upset the apple cart. And remember, the song isn’t listed in the voting so while possible, it’s only going to get protest votes. And let’s say it gets to number one. The outrage of normal listeners will not be focused on the station. And if it gets in the countdown but not at #1, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and get on with their lives.
Hottest 100s are no stranger to non-triple j tracks. U2 songs continued to be voted into the end of year list years after triple j stopped playing their new tracks. Commercial hits like N-Trance’s “Stayin’ Alive”, Shaggy’s “Boombastic”, East 17s “Deep” and Culture Beat’s “Mr Vain” all hit the list without being playlist staples.
The wild card is that these were all appearing in a world before social media. So let’s recap the positives and negatives for triple j:
- Will mobilize their rusted on listeners to get their votes in to stem the tide of Taylor votes
- Will introduce the station to a whole generation of young kids who probably never listen to triple j
- Generating an amazing amount of mainstream coverage in the lead up to the countdown…. And handily just when they are introducing a new drive show up against a bunch of new commercial radio drive shifts.
- Will have both sides listening intently to see what happens on Australia Day
- Might have to play Taylor Swift somewhere in the Hottest 100
Sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to me. If I worked at Harris Street I’d be pretty stoked that Christmas has extended into January for them.
About the Author:
SGC Media principal Stephen Green has been working in the music and media industries for over fifteen years providing consulting, PR and marketing services. SGC has worked with artists including Sheppard, Russell Morris, Gurrumul, NEEDTOBREATHE, Mia Dyson and Sticky Fingers with a passion for helping new artists break into the Australian market. A self confessed radio nerd, he was previously instrumental in the rollout of both Play MPE and DMDS to the Australian market, programmed Brisbane’s annual music industry gathering BIGSOUND, programmed and hosted an inflight channel for Canadian Airlines and currently consults for MusicShop.com.au.
Aside from SGC Media’s growing list of clients, he also oversees Title Track, a new company for alternative focused artists, sits on the board of Queensland’s peak contemporary music body Q Music and Brisbane’s Music Industry College providing an alternative secondary education for young people.