In this blog the early music industry in Australia was analysed in great detail (The Early Record Industry in Australia – part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6). In a four part series on the Australian music business I would like to highlight the recent economic situation of the Australian music industry. In the first part of this series the charts of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) are analysed to understand the consumers’ taste downunder especially in respect to the Australian national repertoire. In the second part the question is answered, which labels benefited from the chart successes of international and domestic artists. In a third part the development of the recorded music sales in Australia from 2000 to 2011 is analysed to give an explanation for the ups and downs in the observed period. In the fourth and last part of the series the economic role of collecting societies in Australia is highlighted especially from the licensing income’s perspective.
However, in the following the question is answered what artists were appreciated most by Australian music consumers and thus benefited by successes in the ARIA charts.
Australian Musicians in the ARIA Charts, 1988-2011
Before analysing the relevance of Australian music in the ARIA singles and albums charts we have to define ‘Australian’ music. In ARIA terms all releases in which musicians with an Australian but also New Zealand origin count for the national ‘Australian’ repertoire. If the Bee Gees release a new “Best of” album in the US it is counted as national ‘Australian’ repertoire as well as releases by the indie rock band Evermore, which is originally from from Feilding, New Zealand, but is now based in Melbourne. Similarily Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton-John, and AC/DC are counted as Australians even if their records were produced and initially released outside Australia. It is questionable if such a broad definition is useful. From an economic perspective it would make more sense to include only those releases in the national repertoire which were mainly produced in Australia. However, from a consumers’ perspective the origin of the artist might be a motivation to buy a record. Therefore, we still rely on the ARIA definition of national Australian repertoire for the further analysis, but we have to keep in mind that in some case the only ‘Australian’ aspect of a record is the artist’s Australian origin or his/her Australian background.
We initially look at the chart performance of Australian acts o measure their “success” of in the ARIA charts. Therefore, we differentiate between singles and albums charts and have to take in mind that only the top 50 singles and albums were listed from 1988 to 1996. The list was extended to the top-100 titles since 1997. The timeline starts with the most successful year for Australian artists in the albums chart. In 1988, the new wave rock band from Sydney INXS had their heyday with the sixth studio album “Kick” topping the ARIA albums chart and gaining worldwide popularity. “Kick” outperformed the very popular “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack and the “Freight Train Heart” album of the former Cold Chisel bandmate Jimmy Barnes. Further six albums by Australians charted in the top 20: the Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced debut album “Kylie” of the later pop-icon Kylie Minogue (# 17), “Whispering Jack” by John Farnham (# 10), which held the number one position in the albums chart for twenty-five weeks in 1986 to 1987 , another Farnham album – “Age Of Reason” (# 13) – and “Temple of Low Men” by the Melbourne indie rockers Crowded House. Twelve other albums by Australian acts charted in the top 50 and completed the most successful year for Australians in the albums chart history. In total, 38 percent of the fifty best-selling albums in 1988 were contributed by Australian musicians. However, in the same year Australian artists performed less successful in the singles chart. 18 percent of the top 50 singles can be assigned to Australian acts. Kylie Minogue, John Farnham and Crowded House entered the top 10 with their single releases. Kylie Minogue also charted on #18 with “Got Be Certain” from her album debut. Further the short-lived pop group Chantoozies had a hit with “Wanna Be Up” (#22) and the Sydney hard rock band The Choirboys charted with their single “Run To Paradise” on #25. The three remaining Australian acts in the top 50 are: the rock band Big Pig with “Breakaway” (#37), the Melbourne based rock band 1927 with “That’s When I Think Of You” (#40) and the singer/songwriter and rock musician James Reyne with “Motor’s Too Fast” (#48).
In 1989, the national album share sharply dropped to 20 percent. Just ten Australian artist entered the top-50. The Melbourne rock band 1927 had their heyday with the multi-platinum album “…ish”, which climbed to the second chart position after The Traveling Wilburys’ “Number One” album. Another two Australian acts, the former “King of Australian Pop”, Daryl Braithwaite, had a comback with his second studio album “Edge” (# 5) and the US-born but Australian raised Johnny Diesel and his band charted on #7 with their eponymous debut album “Johnny Diesel & the Injectors”. The Black Sorrows (“Hold On To Me”, #14), Kate Ceberano (“Brave”, #20), Ian Moss (“Matchbook”, #22), Jenny Morris (“Shiver”, #30), John Williamson (“Warragul”, #33), James Reyne (“Hard Reyne”, #34) and Jimmy Barnes (“Barnestorming”, #38) completed the list of charting Australian album artists of 1989. While the Australian album share significantly dropped from 1988 to 1989, the single share rose from 18 to 22 percent. Although only Kate Ceberano (“Bedroom Eyes”, #7) entered the top-10, ten other Australian acts were in the top 50. Kylie Minogue had two chart entries with “Especially For You” (#17) and “Hand on Your Heart” (#49). The album chart success of 1927 (“If I Could”, #21), Daryl Braithwaite (“One Summer”, #45), Ian Moss (“Tuckers Daughter”, #15), Jenny Morris (“She Has To Be Loved”, #39) and The Black Sorrows (“Chained to the Wheel”, #50) is also reflected in their singles’ sales. Further Colette, Mental As Anything and Paul Norton had minor single chart entries in 1989.
In 1990, the Australians were back in the albums chart. John Farnham outperformed the Three Tenors – Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti – with “Chain Reaction” as the best-selling album of the year. The progressive rock band Midnight Oil from Sydney ranked third with “Blue Sky Mining” and were directly followed by former Cold Chisel member Jimmy Barnes with “Two Fires” on #4. Twelve other Australian acts entered to top 50 too: AC/DC (“The Razor’s Edge”, #17), INXS (“X”, #29), John Williamson (“JW’s Family Album”, #42) and 1927 with their second studio album “The Other Side” (#50). However, in the singles chart Australian musicians were far less successful. Eleven songs by Australians were ranked in the top 50. The actor and singer/songwriter Craig McLachlan ranked highest on #15 with the Bo Diddley cover-version of “Mona”. Midnight Oil (“Blue Sky Mine”, #35), INXS (“Suicide Blonde”, #42), AC/DC (“Thunderstruck”, #43), John Farnham (“Chain Reaction”, #44) could not meet their album chart success in the singles chart. Singer/songwriter Tina Arena “I Need Your Body” (#17) and the former Rockmelon’s lead singer Peter Blakeley (“Crying In The Chapel”, #18) as well as Jimmy Barnes, The Skyhooks, Mark Williams and Absent Friends had also singles chart entries.
In 1991, four albums of Australian artists re-entered the album charts – Jimmy Barnes “Two Fires” (#5), John Farnham’s “Chain Reaction” (#19), INXS’ “X” (#39) and AC/DC’s “The Razor’s Edge” (#41). Jimmy Barnes had a second album in the chart with “Soul Deep”on #33. However, the most successful Australian musician was Daryl Braithwaite with his “Rise” album which topped the year’s-end-chart of 1991. Apart from The Black Sorrows (“Harley and Rose”, #21) and the Southern Sons (“Southern Sons”, #22), who ranked relatively high, most of the other albums of Australian artists could be only found at the chart’s end – in the last ten chart ranks we can find eight releases by Australian artists. However, with an Australian album share of 30 percent 1991 was as much as successful for Australian than the year before. The singles chart of 1991 mainly reflects the albums chart. Six songs of successful albums could be found in the top-50. Most successful was the Sydney indie rock band Ratcat with two chart entries – “Tingles” (#2) and “Don’t Go Now” (#32). Daryl Braithwaite with “The Horses” (#4), the Divinyls with their only no.1 hit “I Touch Myself” (#15), the Screaming Jets with “Better” (#20) and Jimmy Barnes with “When Your Love Is Gone” (#38) charted with single releases from their successful albums. Just three Australian acts had sole success in the singles charts: Melissa with “Read My Lips” (#6), Youthu Yindi with “Treaty” (#29) and Roxus with “Where Are You Now” (#39).
In 1992, the national album share dropped significantly to 22 percent. Nevertheless the first four chart ranks were occupied by Australian acts. The number on position was captured by the Australian cast of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” – with John Farnham in the title role of Jesus and Kate Ceberano as Mary Magdalene. The second position was occupied by the hard rock band Baby Animals from Perth with their eponymous debut album. Jimmy Barnes followed with his fifth studio album “Soul Deep”, which already charted the year before. And Johnny Diesel completed the top 4 with his new album “Hepfidelity”. However, only seven additional albums by Australians could enter the top-50. The mixed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi ranked #15 with “The Tribal Voice Album”. The dance and R&B group The Rockmelons charted on #21 with “From One Planet”. The Australian country singer James Blundell charted the first time with his third studio album “This Road” (#28). The Canadian born but Australian based singer/songwriter Wendy Matthews ranked #33 with her third album “Lily”. The hard rockers from Sydney Noiseworks had their fourth top 10 album with “The Greatest Hits” (#34). Midnight Oil ranked #42 with “Scream In Blue” and Girlfriend with “Make It Come True” (#43). In contrast to the modest success of Australian acts in the albums chart, they were very successful in the singles chart with a national share of 30 percent. Among the fifteen songs that charted, we can find several titles of afore mentioned albums such as Wendy Matthews (“The Days You Went Away, #8), Girlfriend (“Take It From Me”, #18), James Blundell & James Reyne (“Way Out West”, #22) and “Everything’s Alright” (from “Jesus Christ Superstar”, #40) by John Farnham, Kate Ceberano & Jon Stevens. However, twelve other titles had no relation to a successfully charting album such as “Ordinary Angels” (#20) and “Accidentally Kelly Street” (#29) by the alternative rock band Frente, “Love You Right” (#24) by the dance music trio Euphoria as well as “Not A Day Goes By” and “Heaven Knows” by Brisbane singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rick Price.
In 1993, the Australian album share remained stable at 22 percent. The most successful Australian album act of 1993 was John Farnham with his fifteenth album “Then Again … And More” on #8. Jimmy Barnes followed on #15 with his hard rock effort “Heat”, who also charted with “Flesh And Wood”, an unplugged album together with his former Cold Chisel bandmate Don Walker. On #21 ranked the “The Silver Jubilee Album” of the folk pop group the Seekers, who reunited in 1992 for the 25-Year Silver Jubilee Reunion Celebration tour in Australia, New Zealand and in the UK. “Still The 12th Man”, a comedy production by Australian satirist Billy Birmingham charted on #23. As in the year before Wendy Matthews’ album “Lily” re-entered the top-50 on #26. Midnight Oil (“Earth And Sun And Moon”, #36), The Cruel Sea (“The Honeymoon Is Over”, #40), The Black Sorrows (“The Chosen One, #41), Company Of Strangers (“Company Of Strangers”, #44) and Rick Price (“Heaven Knows”, #45) completed the list of Australian artists in the top 50. Whereas the national album share was relatively high, the national single share dramatically dropped to only 6 percent. Only three songs by Australian artist could enter the chart: “Gimme Little Sign” by Peter Andre (#12), “Stone Cold” by Jimmy Barnes (#22) and “This Is It” by Kylie Minogue’s younger sister Dannii Minogue.
In 1994 and 1995, the albums chart followed the negative trend of the singles chart. The national album share dropped to 18 percent in 1994 and even to 10 percent in 1995. In 1994, nine Australian acts entered the top 50. The 12th Man (aka parodist Billy Birmingham) was most successful on #8 with “Wired Worlds Of Sports II”. The Melbourne based band Badloves reached #16 with their debut album “Get On Board”. Except the Melbourne rock band Chocolate Starfish with their eponymous debut album (#34), only well-known Australian artists charted in the top 50: Jimmy Barnes (“Flesh And Wood”, #21), INXS (“Greatest Hits”, #22), The Cruel Sea (“The Honeymoon Is Over”, #39), Screaming Jets (“Tear Of Thought”, #44) and The Black Sorrows (“The Chosen One”, #50). In 1995, the number of Australian acts in the albums chart shrinked to only five. The only positive aspect was that the singer/songwriter and musical theatre actress Tina Arena topped the albums chart with her comeback album “Don’t Ask”, which was certified ten times platinum in Australia. Apart from Tina Arena, the 1992 formed Newcastle (NSW) based grunge band Silverchair charted with their debut album “Frogstomp” and the Melbourne singer/songwriter Merril Bainbridge ranked #27 with his debut “The Garden”. Further The Cruel Sea (“Three Legged Dog”, #40) and AC/DC (“Ballbreaker”, #47) also entered to top50. In 1994, the single charts reflected the negative trend for national repertoire. As in the year before only three songs by Australians charted: Silverchair with “Tomorrow” (#9), Kylie Minogue with “Confide In Me” (#22) and Tina Arena with “Chains” (#30). In 1995, the number of Australian acts in the singles chart rose to eight. It is striking that mainly newcomers saved the Australian honor. The Melbourne singer/songwriter Merril Bainbridge ranked best on #4 with her hit “Mouth” and with “Under The Water”, she had a second chart entry on #24. The Australian R&B and dance group CDB, which was formed 1991 and signed 1994 by Sony Australia, had a hit with “Let’s Groove” on #8 of the year’s-end-singles-chart. Silverchair charted twice with “Tomorrow” (#19) and “Pure Massacre” (#31). The Queensland pop singer Peter Andre started his international career with his smash hit “Mysterious Girl” (#23) and the former “Jesus Christ Superstar” cast member, Dani Hines, had her first success with “It’s Allright” (#42) after determing her collaboration with the R&B and dance group The Rockmelons.
It seems to be that 1995 was the water-shed year for the Australian music business. New acts appeared on the scene and replaced well-known and established acts. The only “old” Australian artists that entered the single charts in 1995 were Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue with “Where The Wild Roses Grow” for Cave’s “Murder Ballads” album of 1996.
In period from 1996 to 1999 the national album share steadily increased from 14 percent to 30 percent. However, we had to consider that ARIA expanded the singles as well as the albums charts from the top 50 best-selling releases to a top 100 list in 1997. This improved the chances for Australian artists to enter the charts. In 1996 – the last year of the top 50 charts – three out of seven Australian acts, which ranked in the albums chart, were more or less newcomers: Silverchair charted again with “Frogstomp” (#36) and the Brisbane based alternative rock band Powderfinger had their first commercial success with their second studio album “Double Allergic” (#44). The orchestral project ENZSO, which was initiated by keybordist Eddie Raynor in collaboration with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand Youth Choir, charted on #33. The rest of charting Austalian artists were established ones: Crowded House (“Recurring Dream – The Very Best Of”, #6), John Farnham (“Romeo’s Heart”, #10), Jimmy Barnes (“Hits”, #12) and Tina Arena (“Don’t Ask, #19). Whereas the national album inceased in 1996, the national single share dropped to 8 percent. However, all four charting songs were from newcomers: The Auckland (New Zealand) based band OMC with their smash hit “How Bizarre” (#4), the Brisbane rock performance and songwriting duo, Darren Hayes & Daniel Jones, better known as Savage Garden had their first number one hit with “I Want You” (#12), the Brisbane dance singer Gina G had an international hit with “Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit” (#23) and Peter Andre charted with “Get Down On It” (#43).
In 1997, the national share of the top 50 albums increased to 20 percent as well as of the top 50 singles to 12 percent. Twenty-one Australian artists entered the brand new top 100 album list and ten Australians acts even charted in the top 50. Four acts were newcomers and the other six ones were more or less established. The newcomers of the year Savage Garden topped the albums chart with their self-titled debut album. Human Nature, a vocal group from Sydney, ranked also high on #11 with their debut “Telling Everybody”. Silverchair reached #14 with their second studio album “Freak Show” and the alternative rock band Spiderbait had their first commercial success with thier third album ” Ivy and the Big Apples” (#37), which was certified two times platinum. The established acts that charted in the top 50 were Tina Arena (“In Deep”, #8), Paul Kelly (“Songs From The South – The Very Best Of”, #10), John Farnham (“Anthology 1”, #13), the comedian The 12th Man (“Bill Lawry … This Is Your Life”, #17), Crowded House (“Recurring Dream – The Very Best Of”, #22) and Midnight Oil (“20,000 Watt RSL – The Midnight Oil Collection”, #28). Beyond the top-50 mark, we can find two other albums of John Farnham (“Anthology 2” and “Anthology 3”), the “Hits” album of Jimmy Barnes and “Pipe Dream” of John Williamson, but also newcomer albums from the Brisbane rock band Regurgitator (“Unit”, #93), from the post-grunge band Grinspoon (“Grinspoon’s Guide To Better Living”, #94) and by the Sydney indie rockers The Whitlams (“Eternal Nightcap”, #97), who all had major chart successes in the following years. The singles chart of 1997 reflected more or less the albums chart. Savage Garden charted with three songs from their debut album: “Truely, Madly, Deeply” (#7), “To The Moon & Back” (#17) and “Break Me Shake Me” (#55). Human Nature had also three top 100 entries: “Everytime You Cry” with John Farnham, #28), “Don’t Say Goodbye” (#57) and “Wishes” (#94). Silverchair charted with two songs on #20 (“Freak”) and on #77 (“Cemetary”). Further we can find Tina Arena, the Bee Gees, Leonardo’s Bride, Danii Minogue and Spiderbait among the top 100 best-selling hits of 1997.
In 1998, the national album share in the top 50 slightly decreased to 18 percent and remained stable in 1999. In 1998, twenty-five “Australian” albums entered the top 100 and nine charted in the top-50. After the breakthrough with her international hit “Torn” Natalie Imbruglia charted with her debut album “Left Of The Middle” in several countries, not least in Australia, where she ranked #5 in the year’s-end-albums-chart. The concert album of the “The Main Event Tour” by John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John and Anthony Warlow also ranked high on #8. The newcomer bands Regurgitator (“Unit”, #20), The Whitlams (“Eternal Nightcap”, #23), The Living End (“The Living End”, #29) and The Superjesus (“SUMO”, #37) all charted in the top 50 and marked generation shift in the Australian music life. Apart from these newcomers, only Cold Chisel (“The Last Wave Of Summer”, #21), Kylie Minogue (“Impossible Princess”, #31) and the pop veteran from New Zealand, Neil Finn (“Try Whistling This”, #44) had considerable chart successes. Whereas the national share in the albums chart showed signs of recovery, the Australian share in the singles chart dropped to 8 percent. Just four songs by Australians – “Second Solution/Prisoner of Society” (#6) by The Living End, “Buses And Trains” (#29) by Bachelor Girl, “Torn” (#37) and “Big Mistake” by Natalie Imbruglia were among the top 50 best-selling singles.
In 1999, the national top 50 album share remained the same as in the year before at 18 percent. Seventeen Australian acts entered the top 100 and nine the top 50. Again the new generation of bands such as Savage Garden (“Affirmation”, #4), The Living End (“The Living End”, #13), Silverchair (“Neon Ballroom”, #16), Powderfinger (“Intenationalist”, #17) and Human Nature (“Counting Down”, #29) outperformed established acts such as John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John and Anthony Warlow with their “The Main Event” album (#24), Kate Ceberano (“True Romantic – The Best Of”, #40) and Wendy Matthews (“Stepping Stones – The Best Of”, #44). The Australian share in the singles top 50 chart increased to 14 percent in the same year. Sixteen Australian artists charted in the single chart, whereas seven enteren even the top 50. As in the album charts, we can find high ranking songs from newcomers. Savage Garden charted twice in the top 50 with “The Animal Song” (#18) and “I Knew I Loved You” (#27). Silverchair succeeded with the “Anthem For The Year 2000” (#29) and with “Ana’s Song (Open Fire)” (#85). Three songs from the new Human Nature album – “Eternal Flame/Shake You Outta My Head” (#58), “Don’t Cry” (#81) and “Last To Know” (#88) – also entered the singles chart. In 1999, however, the most successful singles’ act of Australia was the house music duo from Melbourne Madison Avenue with their techno hit “Don’t Call Me Baby” on #7. Also relatively high ranked the song “Sister” (#28) by the sisters of Maltese origin, Christine and Sharon Muscat, who performed under the acronym S2S, which stands for sister-to-sister. Another newcomer band was Killing Heidi, who charted with their song “Weir” on #36. The London born, but Australian raised R&B singer B.Z. (aka Joanne Accom) had a great commercial success with her debut single “Jackie B.Z. Featuring Joanne” (#33). And we have to mention two other newcomers of the year – the alternative rock band Taxiride from Melbourne and the singer/songwriter Vanessa Amorosi –, who both charted with their debut singles in the top 100.
In the year of the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, the national share in the ARIA albums chart jumped from 18 percent to 30 percent. Thus, it is no surprise that the album of the “Opening Ceremony” of the Olympic Games entered the albums chart on #18. In 2000, however, four Australian acts, captured ranks two to five with their albums only ouperformed by the “No. 1s” album by the Beatles. All of them were more or less relatively new on the scene: Powderfinger (“Odyssee Number Five”, #2 and “The Internationalist” #48), Savage Garden (“Affirmation”, #3), Vanessa Amorosi (“The Power”, #4) and Killing Heidi (“Reflector”, #5). And we can find newcomers among the fifty best-selling albums of the year: The female pop group Bardot, which was formed in the Australian reality television series of “Popstars” in 1999 debuted with their eponymous album on #20, Madison Avenue with their debut “The Polyester Ambassy” (#29), the punk rock band 28 Days with their second album “Upstyledown” (#47), the country singer Kasey Chambers with her first album release “The Captain” (#41) and the children’s musical group Hi-5 (“It’s A Party”, #39), who was formed by television producer Helena Harris in 1998. Thus, we can sum up that a new generation of Australian artists ruled the national single charts in 2000. Only John Farnham (“33 1/3” #12), Kylie Minogue (“Light Years”, #17), the country legend Slim Dusty (“Looking Forward Looking Back”) and Jimmy Barnes (“Soul Deeper … Songs From the Deep South”, #43) could compete with the newcomers.
However, in 2001, the national share in the albums and singles charts dropped significantly to 16 percent and 6 percent respectively. An explaination could be that the newcomer bands, which were formed in the mid and late 1990s, did not release new singles and albums. Thus, Powderfinger charted again with “Odyssee Number 5” (#7) as in the year before as well as Vanessa Amorosi with “The Power” (#54) and Savage Garden with “Affirmation” (#71). New releases by Australian artists were contributed by Kylie Minogue with “Fever” on #5, who also charted again with her “Light Years” album on #17. And the parodist, The 12th Man, ranked on #29 with his new comedy album “The Final Dig?”. However, three relatively new acts entered the top 50: Singer/songwriter Alex Lloyd with his second album “Watching Angels Mend”, which went double platinum in 2001, the teenage pop singer from Sydney, Nikki Webster, with her debut album “Follow Your Heart” (#32) and the post-grunge band from Melbourne Something For Kate with their fourth studio album “Echolalia” (#34). Last but not least, the Bee Gees entered the top 50 list with the greatest hits album “The Record” on #42. Just three songs by Australians could enter the top 50 best-selling singles list: “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” (#3) by Kylie Minogue as well as “Me, Myself And I” (#15) and “Strawberry Kisses” by teen idol Nikki Webster (#21). Further only four more national acts – Bardot, Alex Lloyd, paulmac, Vanessa Amorosi – could chart in the top 100.
The period from 2002 to 2007 can be called the “Golden Age of Australian” music. The national to 50 album share steadily increased from 20 percent in 2002 to an historic all-time high of 38 percent in 2005, with a slight drop to 34 percent in 2006 and 2007. In 2002, we can find twenty-one Australian acts in the top-100 and ten in the top 50 of the annual albums chart. The Australian chart entries represented a mix of well-established stars such as Kylie Minogue (“Fever”, #4), John Farnham (“The Last Time”, #26) and The 12th Man (“The Final Dig?”, #19) and more or less younger acts such as Kasey Chambers (“Barricades & Brickwalls”, #3), the rock band George from Brisbane (“Polyserena”, #8), Silverchair (“Diorama”, #18), Alex Lloyd (“Watching Angels Mend”, #27), Grinspoon (“New Detention”, #33) and The Whitlams (“Torch The Moon”, #49). Beyond chart rank 50, we can also find industry veterans such as INXS, Olivia Newton-John and Lee Kernaghan, but also newcomers such as The John Butler Trio, Machine Gun Fellatio, Human Nature, The Vines, Motor Ace and the former Savage Garden member Darren Hayes with his debut solo album “Spin”, which sold two million copies worldwide. In the singles chart of 2002, the success of Australian acts was modest. Six national artists entered the top50: Kasey Chambers (“Not Pretty Enough”, #7), Holy Valance (“Kiss Kiss”, #10), Darren Hayes (“Insatiable”, #27), Taxiride (“Creepin’ Up Slowly”, #30), the former child actress and singer/songwriter from Sydney, Delta Goodrem with her first hit single “Born To Try” (#34) and the two-piece girl group from Cairns (Queensland) Shakaya with their first single release “Stop Calling Me” (#43).
In 2003, the national to 50 album share increased to 22 percent. Eleven Australian acts were listed among the fifty best-selling albums and twenty-three charted in the top 100. Singer/songwriter Delta Goodrem topped the albums chart of 2003 with her debut “Innocent Eyes”. Powderfinger charted also high with their fifth studio album “Vulture Street” (#4) and the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003 Guy Sebastian had great commercial success with his debut album “Just As I Am” (#5). John Farnham had two chart entries in 2003 with “One Voice – The Greatest Hits” (#13) and his eighteenth studio album “The Last Time” (#16). As in the year before, Kasey Chambers charted again with “Barricades & Brickwall” (#39) as well as Silverchair with “Diorama” (#27). The alternative rock newcomer band from Melbourne, Jet, also entered the top 50 with “Get Born” (#48). And the folk rock band from Perth, The Waifs, charted on #40 with their fourth studio album “Up All Night”. Last but not least, two sampling albums also ranked in the top-50: the “Australian Idol – The Final” sampler (#30) and “Music, Live From The Panel” (#47), an album featuring Australian and international artists, who performed in the popular TV talk show “The Panel”. Beyond rank 50, we can find two albums of Kylie Minogue (“Body Language”, #54 and “Fever”, #57), one greatest hits album of INXS and another one by Olivia Newton-John, but also a newcomer album by the New Zealand classical crossover artist Hayley Westenra. The singles chart of 2003 was ruled by Delta Goodrem with five songs from her debut album: “Born To Try” (#4), “Lost Without You” (#7), “Predictable” (#17), “Innocent Eyes” (#18) and “Now Me, Not I” (#20). However, the best-selling single of the year was “Angels Brought Me Here” by Guy Sebastian, reaching four times platinum. Only two other Australian artists, the US-born but Australian raised actress and singer/songwriter Amiel Daemion with her hit “Lovesong” (#34) and the rock formation The Androids with their debut single “Do It With Madonna” (#41), could enter the top 50. To sum up, eight singles from Australians (five by Delta Goodrem) ranked in the top 50 and another eight songs entered the top 100.
In 2004, nearly half of the top 20 best selling albums was contributed by Australian artists. The first three chart ranks were occupied by Australian newcomers: Jet with their debut album “Get Born” topped the chart, followed by the runner-up of the first series of Australian Idol (2003), Shannon Noll, with his debut “That’s What I’m Talking About” and the singer/songwriter from Brisbane, Pete Murray, with his debut album “Feeler”. After Robin Williams’ greatest hits album The John Butler Trio ranked #5 with their third studio album “Sunrise Over Sea”. In addition Delta Goodrem had two chart entries in the top 20 with her second release “Mistaken Identity” (#13) and again with “Innocent Eyes” (#16). The singer/songwriter and actress from Melbourne, Missy Higgins, ranked #15 with her debut album “The Sound Of White” and Guy Sebastian (“Just As I Am”, #19) as well as Kasey Chambers (“Wayward Angel”, #20) completed the top 20. Beyond this mark we can find two albums by Powderfinger (“Vulture Street”, #26 and “Fingerprints – The Best Of”, #29), also two albums by Kylie Minogue (“Ultimate Kylie”, #42 and “Body Language”, #85) and the greatest hits album “One Voice” by John Farnham. However, besides these two pop icons, younger acts charted in the top 100. The alternative rock band from East Fremantle (Western Australia), Eskimo Joe, had a commercial success with their second album “A Song Is A City”, which was later certified double platinum. The Cat Empire, The ska and jazz formation The Cat Empire charted on #37 with their eponymous debut album. We can find further three debut albums in the top 100: “One Determined Heart” (#86) by the R&B singer/songwriter Paulini, who was a contestant of the first Australian Idol series (2003), “The Dissociatives” (#87) by the supergroup of the same name and “For You” by the winner of the second series of Australian Idol (2004), the teenie star Casey Donovan. Spiderbait (“Tonight Allright”, #65), Grinspoon (“Thrills, Kills and Sunday Pills”, #68), The Finn Brothers from New Zealand (“Everyone Is Here”, #72), the multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd (“Solace”, #81) and Human Nature (“Walk The Tightrope”, #98) were the other Australian chart entries in 2004. The national share in the top 50 singles chart of 2004 was also very high with 24 percent. Twenty-five Australian acts entered the top 100 and twelve the top 50. Shannon Noll had the top-selling hit of the year with “What About Me”and a second chart success with “Drive” (#34), Spiderbait followed on #36 with “Black Betty” and the beatboxer, singer/songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer, Joel Turner had a hit with “These Kids” on #8 in the year’s-end-singles-chart. In addition songs from successful albums of the same year by Paulini (“Angel Eyes”, #17), by Delta Goodrem (“Out Of The Blue”, #20 and “Predictable”, #30), by Pete Murray (“So Beautiful”, #21), by Missy Higgins (the EP “Scar”, #22), by Casey Donovan (“Listen To Your Heart”, #25), by Cosima (“When The War Is Over/One Night Without You”, #37) and by Guy Sebastian (“All I Need Is You”, #47) ranked in the top 50.
In 2005, the Australian album share rose to an all-time high since 1988. Thirty albums by Australian entered the top 100 and nineteen the top 50. Missy Higgings’ “The Sound Of White” was the top-seller of the year outperforming Kelly Clarkson, Michael Bublé, Gwen Stefani and the Black Eyed Peas. Although international artists occupied rank 2 to 16, eighteen Australian acts ranked between #17 and #50. Among them several newcomers such as the contestant of the second series of Australian Idol (2004), Anthony Callea, with his self-titled debut album (#17), the former Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning with his solo debut “Tea & Sympathy” (#24), the Sydney rock band Thirsty Merc with their eponymous studio debut, the Brisbane twin sister band The Veronicas with their debut “The Secret Life Of …” (#46) and the Sydney hard rock band Wolfmother with their debut album of the same name. Other recent newcomers also entered the top 50: Pete Murray (“See The Sun”, #18, but also “Feeler”, #74), Delta Goodrem (“Mistaken Identity”, #30), The Cat Empire (“Two Shoes”, #31), Shannon Noll (“Lift”, #33) and Jet (“Get Born”, #35). Some longtime stars such as John Farnham (“I Remember When I Was Young – Songs From the Great Australian Songbook”, #45 and “Together In Concert – John Farnham & Tom Jones, #47), Kylie Minogue (“Ultimate Kylie”, #38), Jimmy Barnes (“Double Happiness”, #41), Human Nature (“Reach Out: The Motown Record, #29) and Powderfinger (“Fingerprints: The Best Of”, #49) als ranked in the top 50. In the ranks beyond chart position 50, we can find some more Australian acts, who charted the first time despite several earlier album releases. The Mebourne electronic group Rogue Traders succeeded with their second album “Here Come The Drums” (#80). The vocal group The Ten Tenors needed six albums to chart the first time in the top 100 with “Tenology – The Best So Far” (#68) and “Be Here” (#57) was Keith Urban’s fifth album, which brought him the first real commercial success. Further The John Butler Trio, Kasey Chambers, Savage Garden, Grinspoon and Spiderbait made sure that 2005 was the most successful year for Australian artists since 1988. Depite the highest national album share the national single share dropped to 18 percent. Just nine Australian singles could enter the top 50. Most of them were songs from successful albums. Anthony Callea topped the singles chart with “The Prayer” and had another chart entry with “Rain/Bridge Over Troubled Water” (#34). Delta Goodrem ranked #14 with “Almost Here” and The Veronicas with “4ever” on #15. The Rogue Traders followed on #20 with “Voodoo Child” and Shannon Noll with “Shine” (#35) as well as with “Come On Aussie, Come On” (#43). Further Missy Higgins charted with her EP “The Special Two” and the supergroup The Wrights had a modest hit with “Evie, Part 1, 2 & 3”.
2006 was just like 2005 a very successful year for Australian artists with a national album share of 34 percent in the top 50 and thirty-four Australian albums in the top 100. In top 10 alone we can find seven Australian acts. Close behind top-seller James Blunt and P!nk, Human Nature with “Reach Out: The Motown Record”, Wolfmother with their self-titled debut, Damien Leith with “The Winners Journey”, Rogue Traders with “Here Come The Drums” and Eskimo Joe with “Black Fingernails, Red Wine” captured ranks three to seven. The 12th Man (“Boned!”, #9) and The Veronicas (“The Secret Life Of …”, #10) entered also the top 10. Bernard Fanning, Pete Murray, Shannon Noll and Kylie Minogue charted with their albums again in the top 50 as in the year before. Human Nature had a second hit album with “Dancing In The Streets: The Songs Of Motown II” (#14) and The Young Divas charted the first time on #38 with their eponymous debut album. The New Zealand indie rock band Evermore had a chart success with their second studio album “Real Life” (#43) as well as the cross-over performer from Adelaide David Campbell with his fourth album “The Swing Sessions” (#48) and Jet with their second album “Shine On” (#50). Apart from well-known names – INXS, Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers, Guy Sebastian, Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Marcia Hines and Ben Lee – some more newcomers ranked with their albums in the top 100. The third winner of Australian Idol (2005), Kate De Araugo with her debut album “A Place I’ve Never Been” (#90), the actress and singer Stephanie McIntosh with her debut “Tightrope” (#92) and the alternative metal band from Brisbane The Butterfly Effect with their second studio album “Imago” (#94). After a weaker previous year, the national single share increased to 30 percent in 2006. Fifteen Australian acts ranked in the top 50. Most successful was the dance music duo from Melbourne, TV Rock, who had the second best-selling single of the year. The dance girl group of former Australian Idol contestants The Young Divas ranked #8 with “This Time I Know It’s For Real”. They were followed by the Youth Group with “Forever Young” on #9 and by Lee Harding with “Wasabi” on #10. The winner of Australian Idol 2006, Damien Leith charted #11 with his hit single “Night Of My Life”. Eskimo Joe entered the top 50 with the title song of his album “”Black Fingernails, Red Wine” (#18) and Stephanie McIntosh charted with “Mistaken” (#22) from her 2006 hit album. In the ranks 37 to 49 we can find eight hit singles from six other Australian acts: Rogue Traders, Evermore (two songs), Delta Goodrem, The Veronicas (two songs), Shannon Noll and Kate DeAraugo. Some of them had also a second hit in the top 100.
2007 was the last one of the “Golden Years of Australian music”, with a national album share of 34 percent in the top 50. Seventeen releases by Australian artist ranked among the fifty top-selling albums and thirty-seven in the top 100 – the highest number in the observed period. Except one album – “Sneaky Sound System” by the eponymous dance band from Sydney – all other albums that ranked in the top 50 were no debuts. Missy Higgins charted highest on #3 with her second studio album “On A Clear Night”. Powderfinger ranked #6 with their sixth studio album “Dream Days At The Hotel Existence”, followed on #7 by John Butler Trio’s fourth album “Grand National”. Silverchair had a chart success with their fifth and for the present last studio album “Young Modern”on #9. Also the third and last studio album “Delta” by Delta Goodrem charted on #13. On #22 ranked Guy Sebastian’s fourth studio album “The Memphis Album” and The Veronicas’ second album “Hook Me Up” was on #28. In the top 50 we can find Human Nature’s seventh album “Get Ready” (#30), David Campbell’s fifth album “The Swing Sessions II” (#33), Tina Arena’s fifth solo album “Songs Of Love And Loss” (#38), Damien Leith’s “Where We Land”, which already charted in the year before, Crowded House’s fifth studio album “Time On Earth” (#45), Eskimo Joe’s third album “Black Fingernails, Red Wine” (#47) and last but not least Kylie Minogue’s tenth album “X” (#49). Beyond rank fifty we can identify only two newcomers – out of twenty Australian artists that charted between #51 and #100: Natalie Gauci, a participant of Australian Idol 2007 with her debut “The Winner’s Journey” (#70) and the Choir of Hard Knocks consisting of homeless and disadvantaged people formed in Melbourne with their album “Choir Of Hard Knocks” (#89). All other acts were more or less established ones in 2007.
The few newcomers in the the album chart of 2007 may be indicate a decreasing degree of innovativeness of the Australian music industry. If we calculate the average and median age of the ten top-charting Australian artists – measured in years from their first record release – we can observe that from 2002 to 2005 the median age of the charting Australian acts decrease from seven to three years. The average age of the ten top charting Austalian artists also significantly drop from 10.5 to 3.7 years. However, in 2007 the median age increased to nine years and the average age to 7.5 years respectively. Thus, we can identify a close relationship between the national album share and the average and median age of Australian acts that entered the album charts from 2002 to 2007.
The single chart of 2007 foreshadowed too the decrease of the national share in the following years. Just eight songs by Australians ranked in the top 50, which account for a national share of 16 percent. We can find almost established acts, except Sneaky Sound System with their single “Ufo” from the self-titled debut album on #29. Silverchair charted on #4 with “Straight Lines”. Delta Goodram’s “In This Life” ranked #15, followed by Thirsty Merc’s “20 Good Reasons” on #20. The Veronicas with “Hook Me Up”, (#22), the contestant of the first and second series of Australian Idol, Ricki-Lee Coulter, with “Can’t Touch It” (#28) from her second album “Brand New Day”, Evermore (“Light Surrounding You”, #36) and TV Rock (“The Others”, #49) ranked in the top 50. Only three other newcomers were able to enter the top 100 singles chart of 2007: The four piece Irish-Australian electro-house and dance music group Potbelleez with their debut single “Don’t Hold Back” (#63), the Gold Coast pop band Operator Please with “Just A Song About Ping Pong” (#73) of their debut album and the South African singer and actor Dean Geyer, who moved to Australia as a teenager and participated in the fourth series of Australian Idol in 2006, with his debut single “If You Don’t Mean It” (#88).
In the period from 2008 to 2011, the national album share in the top 50 continously decreased from 24 percent to 18 percent, which marks the end of the “Golden Age of Australian music” and a new generation. However, heavy metal legend AC/DC had the best-selling album with their fifteenth studio release “Black Ice”, which was certified multi-platinum in eight countries and got platinum status in twelve other countries. The electronic duo from Sydney, The Presets, achieved the no. 8 position in the year’s-end-albums-chart with their second studio album “Apocalypso”and became the first electronic act to win ARIA’s “Album of the Year”. The most successful newcomer in 2008 was the Sydney singer/songwriter of Italian-Albanian descant Gabriella Cilmi. Her debut album “Lessons To Be Learned” ranked #13 in the albums chart and she earned six ARIA awards in 2008. An unexpected success was Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s debut album “Gurrumul” on #21. Yunupingu is a blind, indigenous Australian musician from the Elcho Island, who sings in the Yolngu language. He plays drums, keyboards, guitar and didgeridoo and interprets all his songs by himself. In 2008, he won two ARIA awards for “Best World Music Album” and “Best Independent Release”. On #22 ranked another newcomer act, the comedian duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee with their debut album “Hamish & Andy” from the eponymous popular Australian radio show. Apart from these three newcomers, we can only find established acts in the the top 50: The Veronicas (“Hook Me Up”, #17), Pete Murray (“Summer At Eureka”, #26), Kasey Chambers (“Rattlin’ Bones”, #31), Damien Leith (“Catch The Wind: Songs Of A Generation”, #41), Human Nature (“A Symphony Of Hits”, #42), The Living End (“White Noise”, #45) and the soundtrack of the Australian television series “Packed To the Rafters” (#49). However, three newcomers ranked in the top 100: The folk-duo Angus & Julia Stone with their debut album “A Book Like This” on #60, the electronic duo “Empire Of The Sun” with their first album release “Walking On A Dream” on #88 and the former Young Divas’ member and runner-up of the fourth series of Australian Idol, Jessica Mauboy, with her solo studio debut “Been Waiting” (#96). The singles chart of 2008 reflected more or less the albums’ chart successes. Gabriella Cilmi ranked #3 with “Sweet About Me”. The Veronicas were successful with “Untouched” from their 2007 hit album “Hook Me Up”. Jessica Mauboy had a hit with “Running Back” (#29) from her debut album and Vanessa Amorosi followed on #35 with “Perfect” from her third album. “My People” of the The Presets’ second album entered the single chart on #41. Apart from these single releases from charting albums, Sam Sparro charted with his second single “Black And Gold” (#19) and the winner of the sixth Australian Idol series, Wes Carr, debuted with “You” on #43 in the year’s-end-chart. Further The Potbelleez (“Don’t Hold Back”, #43) and the Sydney alternative rock band Faker (“This Heart Attack”, #46) also charted in the top 50. Thus, nine Australian artists had single hits in the top 50, which meant a national single share of 18 percent.
In the 2009, the Australian album share remained stable at 24 percent. Twelve Australian albums entered the top 50 and twenty-nine the top 100. The debut albums of The Empire Of The Sun (“Walking On A Dream”, #18) and of Jessica Mauboy (“Been Waiting”, #20) re-entered the albums chart. The only real newcomer album that charted in the top 50 was “My Dream – Mio Visione” by the tenor Mark Vincent. Among the other albums in the top 50 list we cannot find any other debut album. The hip hoppers from Adelaide, The Hilltop Hoods, charted with their fifth studio album “State of the Art” on #12. The Brisbane singer/songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke had a chart success (#28) with her second studio album “Curiouser”. The seventh studio album of Powderfinger “Golden Rule” ranked on #30 and Jimmy Barnes’ re-entered the charts with his thirteenth studio album “The Rhythm And The Blues” on #36. AC/DC’s “Black Ice” charted again – as in the year before – on #37 as well as the Presets with “Apocalypso” on #48. The Sydney singer/songwriter Sarah Blasko had her commercial breakthrough with her third album “As Day Follows Night” on #39. Eskimo Joe charted with their fourth studio album “Inshalla” on #45 and country singer Keith Urban ranked #50 with his fifth studio album “Defying Gravity”. However, we can find some more newcomers from rank 51 to 100 of the 2009 albums chart. The England-born but Australian raised singer/songwriter Lisa Mitchell with her debut “Wonder” (#56), the actress and former Rogue Trader lead singer, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, with her solo debut album “1000 Stars” (#57), the Māori Australian and winner of the seventh and last season of Australian Idol, Stan Walker with “Introducing … Stan Walker” (#58), the New Zealand singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ladyhawke (aka Phillipa Margaret Brown) with her self-titled solo debut and the Melbourne indie rock band The Temper Trap with their debut album “Conditions” (#89). Despite several successful newcomer albums, we can only find two hit songs by youngsters in the singles top 50: Ladyhawke’s “Delirium” on #41 and Stan Walker’s “Black Box” on #50. All other chart entrants were more or less establised: Guy Sebastian (“Like It Like That”, #6), Kate Miller-Heidke (“The Last Day On Earth”, #10), Vanessa Amorosi (“This Is Who I Am”, #30), Evermore (“Hey Boys And Girls”, #35), Hilltop Hoods “Chase That Feeling”, #42) and Jessica Mauboy (“Burn”, #43). In the top 100, there was only one real single debut with “Like It Loud” by the singer/songwriter and record producer from Perth, Cassie Davis.
Although twenty-nine albums by Australian acts appeared in the top 100 in 2010, only ten could enter the top 50, which results in a national album share of 20 percent. The folk siblings Angus & Julia Stone had the highest chart entry with their second album “Down The Way” on #7. The winner of the second season of “The X Factor Australia” in 2010, Altiyan Childs (aka Altjian Juric), charted with his self-titled bedut album on #19, directly followed by The John Butler Trio’s fifth studio album “April Uprising” on # 20. The alternative rock band from Perth Birds Of Tokyo with their self-titled third studio album ranked #24. Guy Sebastian achieved the no. 27 position in the year’s-end-albums-chart with his two disc retrospective album “Twenty Ten”. The Temper Trap (“Conditions”, #28) and Powderfinger (“Golden Rule”, #32) re-entered the albums chart after their success in 2009. After a gold certification for their third album “Flying Colours” in 2008, the Sydney based hip hop band Bliss n Eso had their definite commercial success with their platinum certified fourth studio album “Running On Air” (#37). The Papua New Guinea born but Australian raised singer/songwriter Megan Washington charted on #43 with her debut “I Believe You Liar”. AC/DC directly followed on #44 with the soundtrack to “Iron Man 2”. Actually we can find only one another newcomer album in the top 100. The psychedelic rock project Tame Impala entered with their debut album “Innerspeaker” the year’s-end-albums-chart on #97. In the singles chart of 2010, the Australian acts performed a good deal worse than in the albums chart. The first time since 1988, no Australian artist could enter the top 30 and just four songs by Australian could be found in the top 50: Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup with the international sampling hit “We No Speak Americano” (#34), Guy Sebastian (“Who’s That Girl”, #42), The Birds Of Tokyo with “Plans” (#47) and the Irish singer/songwriter but Australian based Brian McFadden with “Just Say So” (#48). And among the rest of other eight acts in the top 100, we cannot find any Australian artist that charted with a debut single.
It seems that currently the Australian music business is in a stage of creative stagnation. Well-established acts rule the charts and if newcomers enter the chart their survival rate is very low. This impression can be supported by analysing the singles and albums charts of 2011. Just nine albums by Australians ranked in the top 50 – a national share of 18 percent. The Belgian-Australian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gotye (aka Wouter De Backer) had his first commercial success with his third studio album “Making Mirrors” on #4. In 2011, the most successfull newcomer was Reece Mastin, winner of the third season of “The X Factor (Australia)” with his self-titled debut album on #15, which was certified two times platinum in Australia. Cold Chisel followed with their “The Best Of Cold Chisel – All For You” on #17. Damien Leith’s fourth studio album “Roy – a tribute to Roy Orbison – charted on #21. The second newcomers of the year were the Sydney indie rock-folk band Boy & Bear with their debut album “Moonfire” (#23). The Torrent Strait Islander Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu again had a chart success with his second album “Rrakala” on #30 and Angus & Julia Stone re-entered the albums chart with their second album “Down The Way” on #32. The indie rock supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper debuted on #38 with their self-titled album. The last Australian act in the top 50 was the Western Australian rapper Drapth with his fourth studio album “The Life Of Riley” on #42. Except three newcomers – the alternative rock band from Sydney The Jezabels (“Prisoner”, #72), the winner of the fifth season of Australia’s Got Talent, Jack Vidgen (“Yes I Am”, #80) and the pop duo Gypsy & The Cat (“Gilgamesh”, #90) – all other Australian acts were more or less established ones such as Icehouse, Birds Of Tokyo, Guy Sebastian, Pete Murray, Crowded House and Jessica Mauboy. In the singles chart of 2011 Gotye prevented the Australian artists from a flop as in the year before with the ARIA single of the year “Somebody That I Used To Know”, which charted second only outperformed by LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”. Just three other Australian acts could enter the top 50 in the singles chart: Reece Mastin (“Good Night”, #27), the Melbourne female DJ and dancer Havana Brown (aka Angelique Meunier) with her debut single “We Run The Night” (#40) and Guy Sebastan’s hit “Who’s That Girl” (#47). Since there is only another one newcomer in the top 100 – the Sydney hip hop formation Justice Crew with their second hit single “Friday To Sunday” (#85) – it is rather questionable if the period of low national single and album shares will be over soon. Instead we can observe a highly competitive environment for Australian artists who have not any guarantee for a sustainable commercial success with longterm chart successes.
In a longterm perspective we can now identify four periods of chart success by Australian musicians (see figure 1).
Figure 1: The national share in the single and album charts, 1988-2011
The period from 1988 to 1995 was dominated by Australian superstars such as John Farnham, Kylie Minogue, INXS, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, Jimmy Barnes and AC/DC with high national single and album shares until 1992 before dropping significantly in 1993 for singles and 1995 for albums respectively. We can call this period, therefore, “the era of Australian superstars”. The years from 1996 to 2002 marked a period of transistion, in which new well-selling acts such as Powderfinger, Silverchair, Grinspoon, Savage Garden, Kasey Chambers, Vanessa Amorosi, Human Nature, The John Butler Trio and others had their chart successes. These and other artists provided the basis for the “Golden Age of Australian music” with exceptional high national single and album shares as well as great chart successes. In the years from 2002 to 2007 the Australian charts were fueled on the one hand by contestants of “Australian Idol” such as Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Anthony Callea, Casey Donovan and Damien Leith but also by “self-made” newcomers such as Jet, Delta Goodrem, Pete Murray, Missy Higgins, Thirsty Merc, The Veronicas and Wolfmother. However, the last two Australian Idol series and subsequent casting show such as “The X Factor” and “Australia’s Got Talent” created only a few charting artists, who were not that successful than their forerunners. Further other newcomer acts needed more than one hit single and even more than a debut album to enter the charts. And if they charted the success was not sustainable in the most cases. Thus, the “golden age” ended in 2008, when the national shares started to decrease. Just a few acts had repeated chart success such as Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Angus & Julia Stone and Jessica Mauboy. The lack of sustainably successful newcomer acts could be interpreted as a new period of transition – similar to the years from 1996 to 2001 –, which maybe marks a new generation shift. The future will tell us if in the new digital music business we can experience a revival of Australian popular music.
To refine the analysis we have to consider that it makes a difference if Australian acts ranked in the top 10 or only in the last third of the charts. Further an analysis should take into account the change from a top 50 to a top 100 chart list in 1997. Therefore an index for national albums’ and singles’ chart success was calculated by valuing chart position no. 1 with 50 points until 1996 and with 100 points respectively from 1997 onwards and the last chart position with 1 point. If all chart ranks are occupied by Australian titles this would result in an index of 100. If no Australian title is in the top list the index equals zero. Thus, we have a measure for realative chart success of Australian repertoire. In 2011, e.g. twenty-two Australian titles were ranked in the top 100 albums chart. Adding up the different ranks makes up 1,017 points out of a maximum of 5,050 points. 1,017 divided by 5,050 and multiplied with 100 results in an index of 20.14 for the national repertoire in 2011. On this basis we got a modified picture of the national share in the single and album charts as pointed out in figure 2.
Figure 2: The indexed national repertoire in the album and single charts, 1988-2011
Compared to the pure national share calculation, the index shows an historic all-time high in 1998 but with a similar downturn until 1995. A modest recovery followed from 1996 to 2001, which let to a steady increase of the national repertoire index from 2002 to 2007. However, from 2008 the index significantly decreased to a lower level – similar to the mid-1990s. Apart from some minor differences, the index analysis confirms the overall picture by the national share calculation. Thus, we can identify four periods of chart success by Australian artist from 1988 to 2011.
1988 to 1995: The era of Australian superstars
1996 to 2001: The period of the first generation shift (period of transition)
2001 to 2007: The “Golden Age of Australian music”
2008 to 2011: The second period of transition (a second generation shift?)
Finally, the index method also helps us to measure the longterm chart success of Australian artists. In table 1 the top 30 Australian singles and albums artists are mapped.
Table 1: List of the top 30 Australian singles and albums artists, 1988-2011
Comparing the singles and albums chart indexes, half of the top 30 singles artists also chart in top 30 albums list. While Kylie Minogue is (unsurprisingly) the most successful singles artist, John Farnham is by far the top Australian albums act. However, Kylie Minogue ranks also high (#4) in the albums chart, whereas John Farnham was less successful with his single releases (#10). Another acts that had high singles (#3) and albums ranks (#6) is the Newcastle based grunge band Silverchair. Relatively successful in both chart categories are the Sydney pop vocal group Human Nature (singles: #9 and albums: #7), the singer/songwriter Delta Goodrem (singles: #2 and albums: #15), former Cold Chisel bandmate Jimmy Barnes (singles: #14 and albums: #2), Melbourne R&B and soul singer Tina Arena and Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian (singles: #5 and albums: #13). Apart from these act, the other ones are either singles or albums artists. For example the Brisbane alternative rock band Powderfinger that ranks #3 according to the albums’ index, but #87 in the singles’ index list. Other “pure” album artists are INXS (albums’ index rank: 8, singles’ index rank: 126), Crowded House (albums’ index rank: 9, singles’ index rank: 32), AC/DC (albums’ index rank: 10, singles’ index rank: 133), Kasey Chambers (albums’ index rank: 11, singles’ index rank: 38), Midnight Oil (albums’ index rank: 14, singles’ index rank: 95) and The John Butler Trio (albums’ index rank: 17, singles’ index rank: 162). On the other hand we can also identify “pure” singles artists such as the Melbourne singer/songwriter Vanessa Amorosi (singles’ index rank: 8, albums’ index rank: 34), the English-Australian musician from the Gold Coast Peter Andre (singles’ index rank: 11, no album chart entry), the pop music singer from Melbourne Merril Bainbridge (singles’ index rank: 12, albums’ index rank: 86) and the Sydney indie rock band Ratcat (singles’ index rank: 15, albums’ index rank: 112) It is striking that contestants of casting shows tend to be singles rather than albums artists. For example Shannon Noll, who ranks #7 according to the singles’ chart index, but ranks #26 in the albums’ index list as well as Anthony Callea (singles’ index rank: 24, albums’ index rank: 95) and Jessica Mauboy (singles’ index rank: 16, albums’ index rank: 77).
The comparison of the singles’ and albums’ indexes also highlights that all top 10 albums acts had their heydays either in the superstar era or in the first transition period from 1996 to 2002, whereas in the list of the top 10 singles artists we can find several acts that charted high in Australia’s “Golden Age of music” such as Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, The Veronicas, Shannon Noll and Vanessa Amorosi. This could be an evidence for the hypothesis that in the digital revolution, which has been affected the music industry since the millenium, the album driven market turned into a single’s market, since the music consumers now have the choice to cherry pick individual digital songs instead of buying relatively expensive albums with mainly unwanted filling tracks.
In part 2 of the series on the Australian music business, the role of the labels in the ARIA charts are highlighted.