Triple J: ABC’s youth radio station is losing TikTok’s target audience to commercial radio

Triple J has lost more than half of its target youth audience since 2015 as zoomers run to TikTok, Spotify and even SmoothFM.

AT YouTube video – titled “Why You Don’t Listen to Triple J Anymore” – Stuart McKay of audio company Nura explained the “failure” of the taxpayer-funded radio station.


“It’s kind of a rite of passage when you’re in your twenties and you start complaining about Triple J’s declining quality,” he said.

“But Triple J is not for you. It is a tax-funded organization with a specific mandate to reach an audience of 18 to 24 years old. So, frankly, Triple J shouldn’t appeal to a 26-year-old dinosaur like me.”

However, over the past seven years, Triple J has lost 55% of that audience—from an average of 22,000 listeners at any given time in 2014 to just 10,000 in 2022, according to a media analyst. Tim Burroughs.


Over the same period, the number of young people listening to radio dropped by 17.5% overall – still a significant drop, but far from a complete drop in Triple J’s audience.


“Now a much larger proportion of this young audience is opting for commercial radio,” Burroughs wrote in his Unmade Media newsletter earlier this year.

“Since the modern study of radio ratings began, there has not been a moment when fewer people aged 18-24 listened to Triple J. Back in 2014, 16.1% of 18-24-year-olds listened to radio in the five Capitals subways were tuned to Triple J. Now that number is 8.8 percent.”


Triple J’s actual audience has always been older than her target audience, and the problem has only gotten worse over time.

In 2014, almost half of the “youth” station’s listeners were between the ages of 25 and 39, and only 22 percent were between the ages of 18 and 24. Since then, that share has dropped to 14 percent.

Triple J sparked widespread backlash last year with a tweet that read, “Did it hurt? When you grow up from a youth radio station.

One popular response read: “Did it hurt? When did you become a carbon copy of a top 40 radio station? When did you become a caricature of yourself? When you lost, what made Triple J unique? When did you just turn your back on the people who support you? Not? I didn’t think so! Look at the people you just pushed away.”



In his YouTube video, McKay claimed that Triple J artists now “all sound the same”.

Like the “Triple J voice” that featured the hottest 100 artists such as Lisa Mitchell, Julia Stone and Sarah Blasco in the late 2000s and early 2010s, today’s “Triple J sound” is “kind of cool guitar band” in the spirit of Spacey. Jane, Ball Park Music or Lime Cordiale.

He noted that a number of unnamed Australian musicians had previously told Age that they would service their songs to pursue airplay on Triple J.

“I don’t think it would be crazy of me to say that maybe Lisa, Julia, Sarah sounded like they had a frog stuck in their throat, because at that time this sound was played on Triple J,” he said .

“But the sad truth is that I don’t think Triple J is more popular to homogenize anything.”

And it’s no surprise that commercial radio is robbing Triple J of its target audience.

“What does it say about the relevance of the Hottest 100 if Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, Billy Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Jack Harlow are in the top ten artists?” he said. “Why would you listen to Triple J when every other station plays the same thing?”

In addition, Zoomers grew up in an era of personalized music recommendations through TikTok, YouTube, and Spotify.

“So by the time that audience gets old with the Triple J demographic, their musical tastes will be fully formed,” he said.

After all, “something has to give”.

“Management seems to be satisfied with Triple J’s plummeting reputation,” he said. “The brand hasn’t changed in 10 years.”

Meanwhile, McKay noted, public radio stations such as Melbourne’s 3RRR and PBS “have better coverage of Australian artists” with a small fraction of Triple J’s budget.

A number of commentators agreed, arguing that Triple J had lost his edge.

“Honestly, it’s embarrassing that artists like Peach PRC have to become big on TikTok before they even look at Triple J,” wrote one user.

“They used to have their finger on the pulse of future artists before they became famous, but these days they seem to be playing catch-up, only giving artists a chance if they’re already successful.”

Another added: “Mostly normal people came for our stuff. You were off the mainstream if you listened to Triple J during my high school days (97-02), but around 2014 it crossed over and it just never felt the same.”

He said Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Commission shop winning the Hottest 100 in 2012 “was like a line in the sand”.

“I explained it by getting older, but perhaps he has become too big, too cool, less boring and more accessible,” he wrote. “This is no longer an alternative station.”

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