1. Migrants are fuelling Aussie hip-hop’s new wave
Hip-hop just keeps reinventing itself constantly. In Australia, our local scene has exploded in the last six years. I think that’s really been reinforced by a lot of African, Polynesian and Asian families that migrated to Australia in the ’80s and ’90s. Their kids are now in their 20s and have been raised and brought up on hip-hop and R&B. They’re finding each other around the country and actively building communities and scenes together with the mindset of “let’s make this for us”.
It’s getting noticed by the labels, particularly the majors as all of them now have “Urban A&R Teams” or they’re funding development labels who have their ears to the ground. You’re also seeing that sentiment reflected in a lot of festivals around the country who are now focusing on booking a lot more hip-hop to their line-ups. I think the level of talent that we have is undeniably world-class, and that’s why we’ve got artists like The Kid LAROI, Sampa The Great and Genesis Owusu starting to make waves across the rest of the world.
2. Streaming won’t kill the radio star
I think the streaming platforms have changed the face of radio most significantly in the last 10 years. Ten years ago, Spotify was still trying to give everybody free accounts and now they’re kind of running the industry. However, being on the frontline at a community station like FBi for so long, it became apparent to me that people still need a bit of curation in their life, and they need to feel part of something.
How often have we all logged into a streaming platform, whether it’s Spotify or Netflix, and gone, “I don’t even know where to begin looking”? Choice paralysis is definitely a real thing. And I feel this is where we step in: we understand that and share the same experience. This is why people turn to radio: they want someone to choose new music for them and feel a human connection in that process. And you can only do that by hearing a presenter’s voice following their socials and seeing the human behind the music as well. It becomes a relationship based on trust and respect. I think that’s what will always keep radio timeless.
3. Australia needs to back its own talent
Staying nationally relevant is CADA’s biggest challenge and something that we discussed at length prior to launch. The roots of the station have definitely been in Western Sydney, but we’re national now and need to speak to a national audience. The quality of music that’s coming out from around the country is so exciting and vibrant right now. Supporting local music has always been a shortcoming of commercial radio here in Australia and as a result, they’ve missed out on a lot of community engagement, which is why I think a lot of younger listeners usually gravitate towards community stations like FBi in Sydney, RTRFM in Perth, Triple R in Melbourne and so on. It’s always been the case around the world for decades: young people want to hear music being made by other young people from their area.
Broadly my frustration with Australian media is that we aren’t backing our talent as much as we should be, and it forces all of our talent to go overseas to seek bigger opportunities. Everybody that’s made it in the last few years is now living in LA and not coming home, and it’s because there haven’t been enough platforms here to celebrate them. Yes, it’s also a population thing, it’s geography – it’s a range of factors, but there has been a ceiling in our industry for as long as it has been running.
If we valued music half as much as we value sport in Australia, our artists would be able to fill out stadiums every weekend. Picture that world for a minute: it would be glorious and provide so many economic opportunities. But getting to that point requires more than what the music industry can offer alone. It needs real support from Government and especially mainstream media.
This is what got me so excited about CADA. Having one more national media platform that is dedicated to supporting music and local talent is what we need right now.
“You’re going to fuck up. It’s OK. Just make sure you’re carving out the time to learn why”
4. In music, you have to roll with the punches
Working in so many different facets of the industry has given me a good sense of how the whole ecosystem works, from publishing to A&R to booking to management to festival production. It’s been a fantastic experience. I’m constantly learning. There are few artforms that change faster than music, so rolling with those changes and switching up roles has always felt like a healthy practice for me.
We’ve all just gone through a massive change with the pandemic – in 2020, it felt like everything was in absolute freefall. It forced us as an industry to start thinking more broadly, creatively and reactionary. It felt incredibly stressful, but I was also trying to remain optimistic and see that these sorts of challenges force us to think differently and creatively, and that’s a good thing. Every now and again, it’s good to be shaken up and to switch course. That’s pretty much the philosophy I’ve had: just go with the flow. The doors will open up when they’re meant to.
5. Remember to learn from your mistakes
Something I’d tell newcomers to the music industry is don’t be afraid of having a go. You have to be prepared to take risks and make mistakes. Something I’ve only really learned in the last few years is: don’t try to bury your mistakes and not talk about them. Actually put them out on the table, analyse them, look at what went wrong and why. Try to adopt more of a review process, because that’s how you learn and how you make your biggest growth.
We’re all too often in a situation where we’re trying to just move to the next thing and not look back. Unless you pause and review, you don’t really know how to keep going forward in the right direction. So my advice would be: You’re going to fuck up. It’s OK. Just make sure you’re carving out the time to learn why.