Five Things I Know: Nick Findlay, triple j Music Director

On Saturday, triple j crowned Australia’s hottest song of 2020. The youth broadcaster’s Music Director Nick Findlay tells NME about the painstaking process of putting together the annual Hottest 100, how voters are getting more omnivorous in their music tastes than ever and more

A lot of work goes into verifying votes – and keeping them secret

One part of launching the Hottest 100 that fans don’t really see is the lengths we go to not only to make sure all of the votes are legitimate, but also to keep the countdown a secret.

Only a handful of the triple j team work on analysing the votes and creating content for the day, locking ourselves away in the office bunker to make sure that it’s a surprise to everyone. That includes the presenters who host the countdown – they find out at the same time as the rest of the world, while they’re on air!

Being privy to those stats is also a music nerd’s dream, because they reveal fascinating trends about the year in music, our audience and where music is heading in the future.

The Hottest 100 generates an overwhelming amount of data

The most unexpectedly difficult thing about running the Hottest 100 is filtering through the massive amount of song data in the short space of time between when voting closes and the countdown begins. It’s always an incredible challenge, with long hours and more work than you’d think was possible in that time frame, but somehow it always seem to get done.

Nick Findlay, triple j Music Director
Nick Findlay, triple j Music Director. Credit: Press

Fans will vote for their favourites even if they’re not eligible

One of the most time-consuming parts of counting the millions of votes we receive each year is going through those which are manually entered and making sure that they’re eligible to be in the countdown.

A frustrating but also very funny thing is seeing how many votes come through for songs that are two, five or 10 years old. They’re obviously songs that those listeners have connected with recently without realising that they’re too old to be eligible. In some cases people are even voting for songs which have placed in previous countdowns – shout out to everyone still voting for ‘Confidence’ by Ocean Alley who won the Hottest 100 in 2018!

The turbulence of 2020 did inform this year’s race – but not entirely

You can definitely see how the collective mood of 2020 has helped shape this year’s Hottest 100 countdown. Saying that, it’s heart-warming to see that while the anxieties and challenges we’ve all been faced with has bled into the results to a degree, it hasn’t stopped people from voting for songs that are just celebrating the principles of timeless, solid songwriting at its finest.

Flume, Toro y Moi
Flume and Toro Y Moi’s ‘The Difference’ came in third on the Hottest 100 2020. Credit: Joyce Kim

Music fans are more omnivorous and adventurous than ever

What stands out to me from recent Hottest 100s is the death of music tribalism and “the guilty pleasure”. Our listeners are voting for songs that span such a wide range of genres and sounds without even batting an eyelid. They’re throwing off the shackles of what in the past may have been deemed as cool vs uncool, mainstream vs alternative.

From a music programmer’s perspective, it’s really refreshing and liberating to see that your audience just wants to hear music that at its core is something they can relate to.

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