January 2014 Archives

January 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

The Trouble With Whiny Bitch Musicians

It must be hard being the national 'yoof' radio network, triple j.

A few years ago (holy shit- it was 10 years ago) I wrote an article about the national broadcaster called "The Trouble With triple j" in which I whined and bitched (although I am certainly no musician) about how triple j had lost its way, it wasn't spending its tax payer dollars the right way blahdey blah blah blah. 

Of course I was a bit pleased with myself at the time because my article was quite widely read but it turns out bashing triple j is a perennial favorite on the blogosphere and a low hanging fruit when journalists and bloggers are looking to kick up a bit of controvesy because the blogosphere it is currently all lit up with talk of triple j having lost its way after a report from The Age newspaper claimed that their study showed that young up and coming musicians were tailoring their music to what they term "the triple j sound" to improve their chance of being played on the network and that this was leading to the homogenisation of Australian music. Presumably if triple j is the villain of the story, it must follow naturally that Channel 10, 9, 7 and Austereo must be the heros of the story the way they so vigorously promote a diverse Australian music scene (wait, what?).

The fact that my commentary 10 years ago seems as relevant today as it was 10 years ago leads me to suspect that, unknown to me at the time and somewhat paradoxically, perhaps triple j has ALWAYS been this way and my commentary was as trite and predictable as the criticisms being bandied about now. triple j has always held out the tantalising prospect to young artists that perhaps all that matters is their art, but that has never quite worked out. triple j is paid for with other peoples money and mass appeal does matter to triple j. It always has done unfortunately. 

Stakes were raised when Melbourne based singer/song writer Whitley got involved via a series of status updates from his Facebook page. You can read about it on this post at music blog, Tone deaf. Whitley, who I had never heard of before, was apparently an unearthed artist from a few years back. His full back catalog of songs seems to be available on Spotify if you want to go listen.

Or you can watch the best song from his latest album on Youtube.

Whitley, known to his friends as Lawrence Greenwood, wrote:

whitley.jpg

Because JJJ didn't play any of Even The Stars Are a Mess. JJJ has an excruciatingly narrow-minded playlist that caters for the lowest common denominator. In my opinion they've failed as a tax-payer funded radio station that is supposed to challenge and present new ideas for the youth of Australia. I find them barely distinguishable from a commercial radio station, which is why I listen to, and support, community radio such as RRR, FBi, PBS and university radio stations.

While I appreciate the airplay JJJ gave me, and recognise their role getting me started, as a tax-paying Australian, I reserve the right to criticise the changes in JJJ over the last decade, which I see as detrimental to the expansion and nourishment of young minds of limitless potential.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. This was sent to me by my friend this week:

http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/music/calling-the-tune-20140111-30nmk.html

I have had a listen and it is not really my thing and I can see why Triple J would be in no rush to add his new album to general rotation. It is not very good. I mean it is fairly good. It is better than I could do. It is quite nice to listen to. But it is not so amazingly awesome that it is some kind of crime against radio for triple j to not want to play it.

However Whitley does make some good compelling points in amongst the exageration and hyperbole.

whitley.jpg

Maybe the final post on this before I dedide to live back in the jungle.

Let's say that somehow, I don't know myself well enough to know that this isn't sour grapes. Also, let's say that somehow we can categorically prove that it is, in fact, the most sour grapes that have ever been eaten by a man in the history of the world.

So, even though I feel this to be untrue, in this hypothetical situation, we establish that I am one seriously ticked off dude and I'm on a rant to change JJJ.

Why would that even matter?

If a man was walking down the street and he was mugged, and he felt that he'd been let down by the safety of his community, then surely it is okay for him to say that he expected more from his local government when he considers himself to be a victim of it. Isn't it?

Well, if you applied your logic, just because an individual has been involved on the wrong side of the issue in discussion, any victim of anything should be at the very least treated with suspicion and concern of 'sour grapes', including our friend who got mugged.

It's not the point. It's a fantastically dull way of dissecting and processing the argument and I expect more from people so we can at least change the world a little bit for the better.

Also, on the side, It's been many years since I've held this view.

In 2010, backstage at Foals (I think) at Splendour In The Grass, I had a conversation with Zan Rowe about my concerns with the JJJ play list after I found out she was a fan of Seagull, a friend's band. Seagull is far too obtuse for the average JJJ listener, but it kind of made me think...'Hold up...if Zan Rowe is so into Seagull...why can't she spin it?' To which she replied something along the lines of 'I think that the kids need something a little less challenging.' Now, she could have been being facetious, but even so, isn't this a case of truth spoken in jest? I think it indicates the problem with JJJ.

Now, I really like Zan Rowe a lot, but I disagree with that...I think someone aged 16-24 is capable of liking just about anything, and that her view at that time was a direct result of the internal culture of a form of unimaginative and conservative programming that JJJ are unintentionally holding themselves back with. The minds of young people are primed to learn and shape the world ahead, they're shaping my world too, so I'm concerned that they are listening to the same music played over and over and over and over and over and over and over. I'm also concerned that they are involved with festivals that then profit from, and cater to, that market by only playing those bands live on stage.

Also, in 2010, - ON JJJ WHILE MY MUSIC WAS BEING PLAYED IN HIGH ROTATION - I expressed - not clearly enough - that I was concerned about the commercial nature of my environment during an interview by Richard Kingsmill. Now, I think Richard Kingsmill is a bloody asset to the ABC and a great music journalist. What I don't think is that he should be in this job and I disagree with the repeat play lists that JJJ employ. I think there is a lot more room for a variety of interesting music that reflects a balance between the current play list and one that is brave and shows people new ideas.

Now, I'm not saying I haven't been played a lot on JJJ, I'm not saying I haven't played the festivals in question. If anything, that would give me more experience to make a more informed opinion rather than guessing.

For the record, I think JJJ need more funding from the government that is currently running this country, not less. I think that this discussion is a great avenue by all people, no matter what view you hold on the JJJ 'sound' to pressure the Abbott government into funding the ABC more, not less.

I would hate to see Richard leave the ABC. He's a worthwhile music journalist who is very well read, and very well spoken. I disagree with him, but that doesn't matter, it's not the effing point. The point is the way that the radio station is run. This is our station as young Australians, and it's important that we are able to express opinions without being shot down, it's all too typical of an older, conservative Australian culture and I think we are moving past that shit to encourage a new Australia that values the arts. So don't say 'start your own radio station' because it is OUR radio station. We've already got one. We've all paid for it. I'm allowed to comment on it all day long because I'm happy that it's there and I'm saying something because I think it's underselling and misrepresenting some people.

Where are the shows that introduce us to new ideas? With the exception of Hack, which is the golden jewel in an otherwise uninteresting crown, there are no shows that really introduce people to radically new things. Young people can handle it! Why not have an unearthed show every day? That would be fantastically interesting and give young bands support.

Why don't DJ's have power to play from their own tastes? Isn't the point of having a DJ to be shown new things that they know? Aren't they chosen for their job because of their unique and enlightening opinions? I'd bloody hope so if I was a DJ. Where's the spontaneity?

Why is the play list restricted to just a handful of bands? Isn't this just slamming the same old crap, of which I include my music of past, over and over and over again? What impact do JJJ think that will have on the even distribution of power and attention amongst Australian musicians? For a left-leaning, progressive radio station, that structure is suspiciously conservative and lacks a sense of progressive individuality.

Are ratings more important than variety of music? Sure, JJJ would lose ratings if they started playing a greater variety, but it's all about finding a balance. At the moment, I feel it's too much gluttony and not enough gourmet. We need to protect JJJ from the claws of the Liberal government by putting pressure on them whenever they even hint about doing anything other than increasing the ABC's budget.

Why are older people calling the shots on what the youth should have? Why isn't there a rotating roster of young Australians in charge of choosing the music? I think they should come from different socio-economic backgrounds that give a true representation to Australian youth culture. I think I'm a tiny minority of that culture.

What do you think is going to happen if JJJ keep allowing themselves to cater to the same audience over and over again? They're already caught in a feedback loop of having to serve the boring culture they're creating. It will take an unpopular set of ideas to stop that from happening.

I dread the day when Australian youth are all huddled under one giant festival tent in the desert, drinking cans of phenomenally expensive beer, yelling 'YOLO!' over the few bands that are played 24 hours a day, while the world outside goes to shit.

This is not growing a culture of difference, it's growing a culture of homogenised thinking and narrow-mindedness through a narrow selection of music, and historically speaking, that doesn't tend to work out too well for people.

YOLO, Lawrence.

Maybe Triple J has always been the way it is right now and we are all getting a little too carried away. JJJ has always been better than the commercial stations, yet as a commercial station of sorts it has never, will never, live up the hopes held for it by the successive generations of young people that love it dearly and then grow up and out of the target demographic.

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