Some years ago I spoke to a gentleman by the name of Stuart Coupe, who is the owner and proprietor of Laughing Outlaw Records in Lewisham, NSW. I had occasion to drop in there on my way to classes at Uni at one stage.
One of things that has stuck with me from those times in the small shop when we spoke was a point that Stuart made about commercial radio in this country:
"...Australians don't buy British sounding records...".
In context he was saying that the record he was spruiking would not be getting airplay on the station because it sounded too "British".
I have thought about this for many years. I find it laughable that such a statement needs to be said; however, the evidence is there to back up his claims.
Staunchly British bands such as Madness, The Jam and Blur have barely sold a record in this country. Ditto The Smiths, Joy Division, Suede and plenty of others. Paul Weller formed The Style Council after dissolving The Jam and turned his music into a more American styled soul sound and was quite popular here for a few years. Oasis did well despite there being far better Brit-pop bands around.
So why is this the case? I have a few theories.
1. Radio dictates the public's taste.
Radio panders to its advertisers, so it tailors its playlists to suit. By limiting the field of reference (i.e. the scope of the music, narrowing the playlist) you reduce the risk of being eclectic, and thus alienating people. You can then play something within that narrow range of music and everyone is happy...almost.
2. Most Listeners only consume what they are fed, rarely going and actively seeking out new music under their own steam.
The listeners will often attach themselves to a station over long periods. Once loyalty is established and a reputation for playing a similar style of music, radio can play anything they want and the audience will lap it up. Even if a new song is complete rubbish, by continual repetition the song will get into the listeners heads and it will be a hit.
I still don't think that covers all the bases, but it's a start. I may be wrong. Discuss...