Category Archives: politics

Triple J Was Right to Deny Taylor Swift

Look. I understand that Triple J’s Hottest 100 is sold as “the world’s biggest music democracy”. I understand that women were severely underrepresented in this year’s poll. And I also understand, that like me, you think that there was a lot of crap in this year’s Hottest 100. Well, none of that matters! Triple J did the right thing by excluding Taylor Swift, and though I hope they’re not forced to do it again, I hope they do.

I don’t vote in the Hottest 100. Why? Because I don’t listen to the station. This is despite the fact that I’m well aware of many of the songs that are listed on the Hottest 100 website. Hell, I would have probably even put Chet Faker down as my number one; the guy is a boss and writes some awesome tracks. But my overall favourite songs mostly don’t get played on Triple J, therefore I don’t listen to the station. Sure, the Hottest 100 is supposed to be a democracy, but America is a democracy and I don’t have a right to partake in any of their democratic rights. If you thought that Taylor Swift had the number one song of 2014 that’s fine, I have no problem with that, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone who has Taylor Swift as No.1 is not a citizen of Triple J.

Taylor Swift is massive. And I’m talking superstar massive. She released her first album when she was 16 and it sold 5.5 million copies. She’s now 26 and has just released her fifth studio album which to date has sold nearly 5 million copies, which is a massive achievement given that pretty much no one is buying music anymore. If you want any more proof of just how massive Taylor Swift is, just go to the Billboard website and check out their news section. The first thing you notice is that there a disproportionate amount of news about Taylor Swift (although nothing about Triple J). For example, Taylor Swift is headed back to number 1, Taylor Swift’s Twitter got hacked, Taylor Swift is playing the Superbowl. WTF! Taylor Swift is playing the Superbowl! She’s about to get the biggest gig that any pop artist can possible get and yet her Aussie fans are complaining that Triple J excluded her! The whole purpose of Triple J is to give a leg up to fringe bands, to Aussie bands, to alternative bands, to bands that aren’t going find airplay on many other stations around Australia. By allowing Taylor Swift onto that chart, Triple J would have gone against its very purpose.

Ok sure, there has been some pretty embarrassing tracks in the Hottest 100. U2 got a go one year and they’re in that category of artist that’s supermassive stupid big. Pretty Fly For a White Guy by The Offspring was an embarrassing song that should never have been played on Triple J. But the major difference is that Triple J did play their music. This made them eligible. Alternatively, Taylor Swift never got played, not even once. This makes gives her the same amount of eligibility as the crummy ass rock band that rehearses down the street from me.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that the gender inequality is a problem in music. Sia was the only female artist in the top 10, and only 37 songs had some resemblance of female involvement. But including Taylor Swift in the Hottest 100 for this reason does nothing to address the fact that this is a problem that exists categorically across all areas of music performance. Females are severely underrepresented and have been for a long time. And whilst there needs to be more encouragement and promotion of strong female artists such as Taylor Swift, this was not the right forum. What’s more, Swift’s inclusion at number 12 would have excluded Tkay Maidza, which would have made no difference to the proportion of female artists, but excluded someone who is much more worthy and appropriate of inclusion in the poll of Triple J listeners.

Triple J is not perfect. It doesn’t always get its music selection right. It often misses what is actually happening. It can be annoying and embarrassing to listen to. But it’s there, and it serves a purpose. Not always perfectly, but always with good intention. Including Taylor Swift in the Hottest 100 would not have helped this purpose, in fact, it would have made it harder to achieve. The consequences in the long run could have been devastating. The vast majority of Australian bands who are played on Triple J are just ordinary run of the mill musos – quality musos – but far from the heights and crossover success that Taylor Swift has managed to achieve. Let’s let Triple J do its job, the Taylor Swift’s of the world do not need them.



Where’s the Racial Equality in the Music Industry?

The majority of us listen to music that has its roots some way or another entrenched in African American culture. And whilst we see racial diversity within the ranks of performers, it seems the higher up the corporate ladder you head, the less likely you are to come across someone other than a white male.

This was highlighted to me by a post in Digital Music News showing this exact problem.

Top Executives at Pandora

Top Executives at Live Nation Entertainment

Top Executives at Spotify

Top Executives at Universal Music Group

Some further research revealed to me that whilst this is a problem which is largely ignored, it hasn’t gone undiscussed.

Dennis McDougal noted that almost every person holding a position of power within the recording industry is white. This is despite over a quarter sales coming from black artists.

This is further pointed out by Vick Bain who wrote an essay on this issue in the United Kingdom. She highlights that in May 2011 77% of artists in the UK top 40 charts where from non-white backgrounds, whilst 92% of the “behind the scenes workforce” are white (p.9).

Johnny Roberts notes that historically, even when what was known as “race music” became popular in the 60’s and  70’s, the styles “quickly came under the control of the white-led majors”. Black executives were then shuffled across to “in-house black music departments.”

Furthermore, Every Person is a Philosopher noted how whites have managed to break into black dominated genres such as hip-hip, blues and RnB.  But at the same time, blacks are basically non-existent in white dominated genres such as country, rock and electronica.

This last point is part the frustration felt by Q-Tip and Azealia Banks when they attacked Iggy Azalea over her silence on Ferguson. Whilst whites do have a history of breaking into black genres, there seems to be an ignorance over the origins of these genres – hip-hop originated in the civil rights movement, the blues’ history is firmly entrenched in slavery. And whilst Iggy Azalea reacted wrong, she is potentially bearing criticism which should be directly universally to the white musicians. After all, how many white musicians came out in support of Ferguson protesters?

Music has many inclusive elements. Most musicians just like playing with good players – they care little for age, race or background (although gender has been highlighted as a problem). So isn’t it time we see true equality is all areas of the music industry? Perhaps the solution to the business model problems the music industry is facing is within the mind of a non-white male.

Ferguson, White Privilege, and the Enemy of Silence.

I’ve been uncomfortably silent with regard to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Whilst I did follow the story closely, part of my silence came from reading protest notes to non-blacks asking that black voices be heard; part came from not wanting to say the wrong thing; and part came from not wanting to treat #blacklivesmatter as a trivial social media campaign, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge or #kony2012.

I was wrong. I realise that now in light of the Twitter exchanges between Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks and Q-Tip. And the more I read and think about this, the more I realise this to be true.

Firstly, I want to acknowledged that white privilege exists (before you argue this assertion please take the time to read this and this). The sooner this is widely acknowledge amongst the white community, the sooner we can come to tackling problems associated with it.

Denying its existence, being colour blind, or arguing that white privilege doesn’t apply to you does however perpetuate it. Just like not speaking up about your work colleague’s “I’m not being racist but…” comment actually being racist, not acknowledging white privilege perpetuates its existence: This is because, by default, those perpetuating the problem will assume you’re on their side.

There also needs to be real life, day-to-day, exposure of systemic racism. As this video illustrates, the flow on effect can be remarkable.

Also, more minority voices need to be heard, particularly in the mainstream media. From an Australian perspective, when was the last time you saw an Indigenous Australian on television talking about solutions to Indigenous inequality? Personally I can’t remember ever seeing this happen. But when this does happen (and it should be happening) there needs to be a show of support to give these voices traction. Being silent in response to these voices, on the contrary, only lends support to those who would rather tell than listen.

Silence is the enemy here, I now see that. Whilst I didn’t want to take away from the voices that needed to be heard, by saying nothing in support of those voices I was, by default, supporting an establishment that I am only incidentally part of. Whilst I grit my teeth a few months back at the foolishness of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I saw its effectiveness for raising awareness. However, I did nothing to raise awareness and show support for #blacklivesmatter.

We still live in a world where racial inequality is rife – the facts and figures continually back this up. Whilst I can never truly understand what it’s like to be treated in this way, I for one think enough is enough. This is not a problem that is simply going to go away, it needs to be tackled head on. Saying nothing is tantamount to sweeping it under the carpet and ignoring its existence. Only when we all speak up in support of equality, will inequality and prejudice be effectively tackled.

Some suggested reading:
12 things white people can do now because Ferguson
12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision

More on Peter Garrett

I think The Chaser have summed up exactly what I’m trying to say about Peter Garrett.

Why Every Musician and Music Fan should Despise Peter Garrett

Firstly it should be said that I am what is otherwise known as a Left Wing, Socialist Pinkie. I think that health care and education should be free, that refugees shouldn’t be locked up, and that uranium should stay in the ground. So when Peter Garret became Mark Latham’s star recruit for the ALP in 2004 there was a cautious amount of optimism on my part, unfortunately this optimism has turned into despise and disappointment.

The Two Faces of Peter Garrett

The Two Faces of Peter Garrett

Firstly a short history; Peter Garrett was originally lead singer and weird dancer of Aussie Pub Rock band Midnight Oil. To an audience of VB drinking bogans he would sing songs about how we shouldn’t be mining uranium, how we should be compensating Australian Aboriginals, and how we need to be careful of an absolute alliance with the United States. At the same time Peter Garrett ran for state and federal senate seats for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, was president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, became international board member of Greenpeace, and was a founding member of the Surfrider Foundation. At this point if you’re anything like me you’ll be going “respect”, he obviously sung the lyrics (Rob Hurst wrote a lot of the Midnight Oil tunes), but he also truly believed what he was saying.

Then in 2004 Garrett was seduced by the ALP as Mark Latham’s star recruit and only lasting legacy.  Since then Garret has;

So there you have it Peter Garrett is a hypocrite; either that or he has a do-gooding, left wing twin brother. But why does this grip me so much? Because it undermines every musician who uses music to share a point of view on social issues. Music can be a persuasive medium capable of reaching a large audience. I have no doubt that fans of Midnight Oil at the very least gave thought to some of the issues that Garrett was singing about. These issues are important; they are issues that they vote on and perhaps previously hadn’t taken into consideration when choosing a leader. By Garrett changing his stripes it gives the opportunity for every VB swigging pub rock fan to think that the person pouring their heart out on stage is just ‘acting’ because that helps you sell records, and as soon as an opportunity for real power comes along, such as a front bench ALP seat, then those values and passions will go to the $2 bargain bin at JB HI FI.