Of the 100 biggest-selling songs in Australia in 2013, just 13 were from Australian artists. That’s perhaps a marginal improvement on 2012, but it still suggests a difficult future for Australian acts (and labels) in the digital music era.
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Local industry body ARIA today released its official top 100 charts for 2013 for both singles and albums. The biggest-selling track of the year was Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, while Pink’s ‘The Truth About Love’ topped the album rankings for the second year running.
Australian artists didn’t do quite so well. The top-selling Australian single was Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’, which came in at #12. While ARIA’s announcement noted that there were more Australian artists in the top 100 this year than last (13 versus 11), it didn’t point out that ‘Riptide’ was the only Australian track in the entire top 20. (Last year there were three.) There were only four Australian artists in the top 50: Vance Joy, Birds of Tokyo, Matt Corby and Guy Sebastian.
As we noted when looking at the 2012 figures last year, single sales are arguably more significant than albums these days, since in an era when digital sales dominate, many people cherry-pick individual tracks rather than buying entire albums.
On the album side of the equation, there were 27 acts in the top 100, the same number as last year. While there wasn’t such a gap at the top of the charts, there is a disturbing pattern evident in the five releases that made the top 20 (Flume, The 12th Man, Human Nature, Dami Im and Taylor Henderson). Flume’s self-titled album was the only one to feature original material — the others are compilations of greatest hits, X Factor covers or Christmas tunes. As a nation, our appetite for purchasing music that was actually composed by Australians seems extremely low.
Having spent time in the past looking at Australian chart records going back to the 1970s, I know that the proportion of Australian artists in these end-of-year lists varies over time. But the trend of ignoring our local acts seems more and more locked in over recent years. Increasingly, our musical tastes are mass-market and driven by the US (and to a somewhat lesser extent, the UK).
One innovation from ARIA this year is a Top 100 Streaming chart, reflecting the increasing use of subscription streaming music services such as Spotify and Rdio. Australian artists don’t do much better here, though at least Flume joins Vance Joy in the top 20. However, given the minimal income artists receive, that doesn’t yet suggest the basis of a healthy industry anyway. Making a living as a musician has never been easy, and right now in Australia it looks especially tough.
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