Commercial radio listeners soar to record numbers + all the biggest industry headlines

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Commercial radio listeners soar to record numbers + all the biggest industry headlines

Words by Christie Eliezer

Police turn the heat up on drill music, Universal restructures, and more!

Been out of the loop with everything that’s been going on in the music industry recently? We don’t blame you. Here’s a wrap-up of all the biggest Aussie music industry news stories from the past fortnight.

The top headlines:

  • Record listeners tune in to commercial radio.
  • Warnings as NSW cops turn heat up on drill music.
  • Briggs Foundation offers grants for music projects.

Keep up to date with the latest industry news here.

Warnings as NSW cops turn heat up on drill music

NSW Police are warned that its plans to pressurise streaming services to drop drill music by Western Sydney acts could work against it.

This week, the Daily Telegraph reported NSW Police believe rap and drill are inciting violence within Sydney gangs, and are moving to have specific songs pulled from social media.

“Drill music and songs (in some cases) are being weaponised to basically inflame a conflict with another side,” said Acting Assistant Commissioner Jason Weinstein.

“We are still seeing that trend where drill rapping is being used to talk about crimes being committed for purposes of antagonising an opposition.”

Six months ago, the New York Police Department began a concerted campaign against drill music, saying it was inflaming the spate of gang gun violence in the city.

This followed the death of rapper TDott Woo who was shot in the head outside his Brooklyn home hours after signing a recording deal (NYPD claimed he was affiliated with the G Stone Crips), Nas Blixky who was shot outside a deli (claimed to be affiliated with Folk Nation), and drill star C Blu who was accused of shooting a cop during a struggle over a stolen gun in the Bronx and accused of being a member of Crips subset Reyway.

NSW Police have their skirmishes with Western Sydney hip-hop artists, claiming some have gang affiliations, stopping OneFour from touring and using the justice system against them, and blowing up a Claymore 406 video shoot.

Following Weinstein’s comments, Professor Murray Lee, a criminologist and Associate Dean at the University of Sydney Law School told the Sydney Morning Herald that attempts to get drill pulled from streaming would accentuate the perception that cops are down on minorities.

“Without taking anything away from the music of OneFour, the NSW police have been the best thing to happen to them from a publicity standpoint,” he said.

“They’ve fed straight into their narrative of being authentic, which in turn has made them more popular, so the police have kicked an own goal there.”

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas told the SMH UK police have been “quite effective” with take-down requests for drill rappers, and such a move “has the capacity to be absolutely shocking”.

New booking agency Cult Artists launches

Long time booking agent Daniel Sant (Harbour Agency, Niche Productions) has created a new booking agency in Sydney called Cult Artists.

It has agents Jess Wust and Kim Ramos, with backing from promoters Secret Sounds and Live Nation.

“I have never been more determined or obsessed with developing our artists’ long-term careers,” Sant said.

The roster launched with 65 acts from Australia, NZ, and Asia, including Genesis Owusu, Parcels, Sticky Fingers, SAFIA, Mia Rodriguez, Furnace & The Fundamentals, and Boo Seeka, and emerging acts Sydney Yungins, Royel Otis, SUMNER, Dante Knows, WILSN, Gold Fang, Elsy Wameyo, Sophiya, and Rum Jungle.

New structure for Universal Music Australia

Universal Music Australia (UMA) unveiled a new senior management team following the sudden exit of joint managing director Darren Aboud.

George Ash, president of Australia & New Zealand, and John O’Donnell, managing director of subsidiary EMI Australia, began putting together a “succession plan” two years ago.

O’Donnell will leave EMI on September 30 after two decades.

A&R GM Mark Holland becomes EMI’s managing director, while GM of marketing and media Alicia Reynolds is promoted to GM.

At Universal, Alisa Lai takes over as head of commercial growth & innovation, Fiona Zamparutti is promoted to senior director of streaming, and Liam Dennis is named GM of catalogue.

Nicole Richards becomes co-managing director of Island Records Australia, from her GM role.

Last August, UMA launched a workplace culture investigation, and in June 2022, the company launched a Culture Task Force, with Universal Music’s Global HR boss, Eric Hutcherson, arriving in Sydney from California to speak to staff.

As part of this, Universal hired Yvette Cachia as its senior vice president of people, inclusion & culture. She was at the NSW Dept. of Education where she was senior vice president of people, inclusion & culture.

Briggs Foundation offers grants for music projects

The Adam Briggs Foundation is offering up to 10 thousand dollars for any First Nations project affected by COVID-19.

Under the rules of the new Barpirdhila grants, the project should have begun already and be finished by end of 2022. Half the grants are ear-marked for female-identifying artists.

The grants are to pay third-party costs, like studios, video directors, publicists, merchandise, and album cover designers and more.

Judges are Briggs, producer Emily Nicol, Sony Music Publishing’s Damian Trotter, Samoan-Australian journalist Sosefina Fuamoli, and frontman of The Deans of Soul, Linc Yow Yeh.

Submissions close midnight AEST on August 1. Apply here. Grant recipients announced on September 1.

Record listeners tune in to commercial radio

A record amount of Australians are listening to commercial radio, the latest survey shows.

In a 7.6 per cent jump over the past 12 months, the sector gained 844 thousand new listeners to reach a cumulative weekly audience of 12 million.

Commercial Radio Australia CEO Ford Ennals reported listening via digital streaming was up 34 per cent from 2021 and via DAB+ up 27 per cent.

The increased listening was across all ages but  “with a solid increase in younger listeners with 79 per cent of 18-24 year olds tuning in weekly. One in five of this age group listened to commercial DAB+ stations during the survey period, up 63 per cent compared to a year ago.”

More trends in Australian commercial radio listening were shown in the sixth Infinite Dial Australia, out in late June by Edison Research.

Those listening to online audio each week climbed by 8 per cent over the past year.

Nearly 15.6 million Australians, or 71 per cent of the population aged 12+, listens to online audio weekly, which was a 66 per cent rise from 2021.

Online audio comprises AM, FM, and DAB+ radio stations listened to online, podcasts, and music streaming services.

The average time spent listening to online audio rose to 13 hours and 31 minutes per week, up from 12 hours and 11 minutes a year ago.

80 per cent of Australians tune in via AM, FM, DAB+, live streaming, and catch-up podcasts, making radio the most popular form of audio.

Australia overtook the US as a podcast market, now at 40 per cent, up from 37 per cent (compared to 38 per cent in the US), while the number of weekly podcast listeners was steady. Nearly one in three people said they had listened to a podcast in-car.

And all that jazz

Submissions have opened for the National Jazz Awards, the winner announced on Saturday October 29 as part of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

This year’s spotlight instrument is the guitar (applicants must be 36 or younger) with the judging panel made up of Stephen Magnusson (Chair), Carl Dewhurst, and Fran Swinn.

Submissions close August 31. The prize pool includes a recording session with Pughouse Studios and $7,000 for the winner with $4,000 for second placegetters and $2,000 for the third.

Head here for more information or to apply.