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OPINION: Adrian Buckley talks Triple J promotion

Adrian Buckley is the promoter of the Wollombi Music Festival, Folk In Broke, Wollombi Classic Film Festival, Flicks on The Green & Hunter Hoedown. A recent Facebook post from one of Australia’s leading authorities on local and international music culture, Tone Deaf got Adrian thinking. He submitted the following post…

So recently I was on FB & a post came up on Tone Deaf where jjj presenter Matt Okine ripped into jjj haters & said that social media had given everyone a sense of ‘entitlement’ & in essence those who were critical of the J’s could go & get f%&*d. I listen to jjj, I’m definitely no hater, but I have questions about the influence the station has on the wider music industry & it’s public responsibility to broaden its level of support & promotion. It is after all a public station.

So I posed the question, that I’d love to know Matt’s opinion on what jjj do for small to medium sized festivals/events across the land, because from where I sit our dominant indie radio station (in the main) dishes out a whole lot of nudda in that direction. My post seemed to get quite a bit of traction. One fellow poster however, took a little umbrage at the suggestion that the J’s could do more to support this sector of the industry & asked me something along the lines of, “so how do you know that?” well my reply was something like, “because I run a few of them”.

So yes I declare I have a vested interest, I am one of the promoters of Wollombi Music Festival, festival director of Folk In Broke & am soon to launch a new (much smaller) version of Narara Music Festival. Context people not a plug!

Over the last 7 years of giving the events thing a crack I have been lucky to run mostly successful festivals that work & everyone gets paid, including me (because yes I want it to be something like a proper job), but during this time I have basically struggled to get any exposure for any of my events. Even when I have had Triple J unearthed winners & now fairly prominent artists on jjj programming play at some of the events.

Which brings me to the most glaringly obvious example of jjj promotion, that being the massive coverage given to Splendour in The Grass – an event that just sold out in about an hour!!

The conundrum that is ‘jjj presents’ is probably never so noticeable as when Splendour rolls into town. To put it bluntly Splendour doesn’t NEED the level of coverage they get, they pretty much sell out year after year, within a very comfortable time frame for the promoters, they make a huge amount of profit & ultimately Splendour is a commercial & private enterprise.

So what’s the deal with the whole publicly funded radio station & commercial enterprise relationship?!

How can a publicly funded radio station basically bankroll blanket promotion of a commercial event that returns massive profits back to the event owners??

I 100% get the synergy between jjj & Splendour, it’s obvious, but here’s the rub & a version of these these words were told to me directly when questions were asked about promoting grassroots music & obviously in turn small to medium sized events.

“triple j puts a lot of time & effort into events & in a competitive marketplace wants those events to generate listenership & enhance triple j’s brand”.

So in a nutshell, events that jjj think are going to keep it up in the radio rankings ARE presentable & promotable, but those that aren’t going to either hold their market or increase their market share are pretty much left to their own devices. That’s the reason why small to medium sized events hardly get any coverage & potentially why some small to medium sized events fold across the nation over & over again. Many deserve recognition & promotion (not all) but they’re too ‘small fry’ for the big end of town that IS basically jjj. Without some level of support from them it’s hard to even get medium fry.

But I don’t want to be hung out to dry here & thankfully Peter Noble of the behemoth Bluesfest came out at Face The Music & said something similar. Phew!

He said…

I think that festivals that specialise & just do triple j programmed artists get ‘presents on triple j’ & I think that that’s fine, but we’re going to find more & more in the future that festivals need to be a little bit more diverse & it would be great if triple j would see that festivals do have large contemporary components of their events & get a bit of that incredible nation-wide FREE marketing that triple j gives to those events that specialise & only present within what triple j programs. I mean, why wouldn’t triple j be presenting an event that’s got Kendrick Lamar & D’Angelo & The National – I could keep going on.

“I’m not knocking triple j in any way, I just think that there’s a whole lot of opportunities missed there”

I think he was actually knocking jjj!!!

Oh, they are interested in Kendrick Lamar…but they’re not presenting us putting on Kendrick Lamar. And that’s where it gets a little like, “oh guys, maybe you should be reviewing this a little bit.” I’m not trying to say what you’re doing is not great but maybe there’s always room for change on the planet & reviewing what you do.

Support from triple j would mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of free marketing, on a radio station that is up to number three in some urban markets. You can’t buy ads, it’s that simple, and you can sell an event out just on that alone – jjj marketing. It becomes very hard for other events to compete with events who receive that much free marketing on radio. It’s kind of that simple.

I’m not trying to reach around or throw shit at triple j but I think they should consider all those things because I think I’m not the only one who is asking that question. When I said something the other day, which was kind of misreported a little bit, what I said at Face The Music. I wasn’t being overly critical about them – I was just saying, ask them to review it. I couldn’t believe how many people in the media said to me, “you know what, it’s time stuff like this was being said more.” Major people in media saying that to me – people in street press and radio, because triple j is a very very very powerful arm of the government. It is paid for by the taxpayers; that includes me and everyone else that pays tax. Well, we should have every right to look at what they do, and maybe make comment about it and perhaps they shouldn’t sit there and not respond to that comment. They are public servants, in the end – even if they don’t see themselves as that.

So Splendour looks awesome, I’m dying to see Sigur Ros if I can get an overpriced scalpers ticket , but I for one would be happier if the marketing power of jjj was spread across a broader level of the industry than what WE ARE paying for now.

I mean I’m sure Splendour is getting a truckload of cash from Snapchat & other corporate sponsors right?? Perhaps some of that huge expenditure could be spread out along a larger base of events.


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  1. I tend to agree that as a publicly funded broadcaster in an (usually) dominant position, there is some responsibility to take a broader perspective. If the J’s was a normal commercial station their behaviour would be fine and dandy, but they’re not, and that IS actually a problem they have to deal with.

  2. I think any call for people to move their eyes from what pays to what is actually right and fair is a good call. Our culture too often sees making money as making it right and good.

    But government (being therefore by definition for the people and by the people in a democracy) should not only take a financial interest and view in their decision making but be prepared to make decisions for the greater good. It is my experience in life that often the right thing costs rather than makes money. In the long term choices for what is fair and right give better social return than decisions made on dollar considerations only.

    This is where government funded media outlets, such as JJJ and ABC have a heavier social burden than privately funded competition. It would simply be the right thing to do to have a look at the issue and see what can be done to promote smaller events and ensure their support of Australian Original music is not dictated by where the money comes from.

    And perhaps that is the crux of the issue, that these “Government Funded” media outlets are no longer receiving the full support of the government and are having to take a more commercial view to stay viable. Perhaps this needs to be investigated as well. JJJ are a fantastic supporter of Australian Live music and should be given enormous credit for what they do. Perhaps we need to be looking at ensuring they are well supported enough not to be swayed by financial interests.

    Then they will be able to support a wider (and less lucrative) range of musicians and events without fear or favour.

  3. Great article Adrian,

    I have never been a JJJ fan, as I have always been a commercial music person and they take them selves way too seriously. I guess you need to start looking at alternative Public relations such as tourism bureaus who can see these local events help jobs for local people. I know that you do but you need to create your own success and then jjj will come on board. There also need to be more public out cry .but who listen jjj anyway not me only people who think they are so into their music ………..give me justin bieber or Taylor swift any day prince ……… as soon as jjj is playing those guys I might listen to it

  4. A great opinion piece, and I have had the same concern for some time now.

    I think essentially the problem stems from the fact that JJJ have a monopoly over music festival success. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing (I love music on triple J and I love going to Splendour, Falls and Laneway – which all get JJJ endorsements). I am concerned however about people who are the the relevant demographic of the JJJ audience but don’t necessarily subscribe to JJJ music and therefore not having a reliable venue to see live music through. For a publicly-funded organisation that supposes to represent and support music for youth, this is a problem.

    Another problem is that the target group that this issue concerns are mostly JJJ/Splendour die-hards. One look at the facebook comments on posts relating to this Opinion (such as on fasterlouder) demonstrates the favorable lens through which this group see JJJ and Splendour. Unfortunately, for this reason, the debate will not progress anymore than this. Not unless a polly gets involved, and you can bet you cringe-worthy Matt&Alex legionnaire hats that they won’t!

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