How to fix Australia’s chart problem? Start buying Australian music

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Why rock fans should care that Australian pop music is struggling.

I have a personal belief system that very few of my friends share. I don’t do piracy.

I don’t do torrents, I do Netflix and Stan. I don’t use Livestream, I go to the pub. I hope like hell iTunes will let me watch my favourite TV show at the same time as the US when it returns in October (no, I’m not watching the leaked episodes). It’s not always convenient, but it’s what I do.

If our charts are going to be full of 'shit' pop music, it might as well be 'shit' Australian pop music.

While I’m vehemently anti-piracy, I’m also a realist. I know my unwillingness to flout the law is most likely at odds with the consumption habits of the general populace.

Frankly, I do not really care that people are watching movies, TV shows and NBA games without ponying up cash to do so. But I draw the line at Australian music. It’s time the rest of the country did as well.

The Australian music industry is starting to get very concerned about the state of our pop charts. There are no Australian songs in the top 20 this week, with Sydney singer William Singe’s guest vocal on ‘Mama’, by UK DJ Jonas Blue, the only local talent in the whole list.

That’s not good.

And while there are countless complex issues that contribute to this lacklustre commercial reality, you can also break it down pretty simply. We’re not buying enough Australian music.

Look, the pop charts will probably always be a bit shit. I’m a bit of a pop apologist, but I understand if the glossy, sometimes vacuous, often unimaginative fodder that features in the pointy end of the weekly ARIA charts isn’t your thing.

But my belief is, if the charts are full of ‘shit’ pop music, it might as well be shit Australian pop music.

If Australian pop music doesn’t chart, it means it’s probably not making much money. If it’s not making much money, it will die. Any Australian music lover has a vested interest in the success of Australian artists. If a major label isn’t making money from their big artists, they don’t have the resources to develop the smaller ones.

Remember when Silverchair became the biggest band in the world and, all of a sudden, any kid with scruffy hair had a shot at a record deal, a guitar endorsement and a chance to ditch the dole queue for a while?

Remember how an injection of money and attention meant that we actually had a ton of great bands emerge from garages around the country?

Whether you liked Silverchair or not, their impact on Australian music as a whole was immense. And it happened because people paid for their music.

This could happen again. But it won’t happen without your support.

If you pirate Australian music, stop it. If you’re not seeking out new Australian music, start doing so. I guarantee you there is plenty out there you will love.

If your kids, your nephews and nieces, your siblings, your parents or your friends are pop music lovers, try and steer them towards Australian talent. This could be a good place to start. And convince them to pay for it.

If you’re streaming music, slip a few Aussie tracks into your regular playlists, or subscribe to some that feature Australian tracks. Since streaming figures counted in the ARIA charts, artists with large international profiles (who are on big international playlists) have benefited more so than locals still fighting for international recognition.

These small steps won’t fix the problem. There’s a deep-seated issue within the Australian psyche that devalues art, particularly contemporary music, and cultural cringe still lingers despite decades of high quality output from so many Australian musicians. There are also complex structural issues that hopefully people with more power than you and I can start to address that one day. 

But if we all throw a few bucks at Australian music, it will make a difference.

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