The youth radio station is expanding its greatest product, but may weaken the value of the Hottest 100 brand if it continues adding spinoffs.
Triple J runs the leading music ranking in Australia each year that anchors the summer calendar, having grown the event into a titan across more than 30 years. In 2023 it is running an extra countdown in July with a focus on covers over recent highlights, and is launching a new dedicated radio station.
But this barrage of spinoffs risks diluting the marketing genius of the Hottest 100. Triple J should be wary of altering the components that strengthened its brand.
The Hottest 100 is undoubtedly the jewel in Triple J’s crown, having become what is likely the ultimate event of Australian music.
Its success is no wonder, as stellar design lends tremendous value to Triple J. Audiences have been trained to recognise the event as the primary recap and ranking of the prior year’s art, as longevity and consistency have established its place.
Once, the event even had the strength of association with a public holiday, helping develop a culture of social listening with music fans unlikely to be stuck at work.
In 2022 Marketing sat down with Made in Katana’s co-founder Adam Callen to discover how the company has worked with Triple J to grow the Hottest 100 event since 2015, modernising the voting operations by transitioning to Google Clouds. He celebrated the digital transformation’s improvements on user experience, security and voter focus, but utilising cloud technology also unlocks endless audience insights.
Triple J is constantly challenged by an imperative to target 18 to 24-year-olds, requiring a regular turnover of its listener base. It achieves significantly greater engagement with that demographic through the annual countdown event rather than with regular broadcasting.
According to the ABC, the 2022 Hottest 100 engaged 74 percent of the youth demographic in some way, while Triple J’s regular broadcast only reached 26.4 percent of 18 to 24-year-old radio listeners.
An event that grew up alongside the station
In 1989, the year that Triple J first broadcasted a list of “hot” songs that was topped by Joy Division, the government-funded radio station had yet to expand nationally. Through its early iterations the countdown did not limit itself to songs from the prior year, only morphing into the timely event as it is known today in 1993.
Another defining characteristic of the radio station began in 2004, with the first cover performed live for ‘Like A Version’. “The concept was simple: invite artists to come into the Triple J studios to cover a song they love and one of their own tunes,” a Triple J promotion for its 2023 event states.
In the years since over 800 covers have been produced, and in 2021 a ‘Like A Version’ song topped the countdown for the first time, when The Wiggles mixed one of their signature jingles into Tame Impala’s Elephant.
‘The Hottest 100 of Like A Version’
In 2023 Triple J is running a second countdown midway through the year, this time focusing on its own tunes with a ranking of ‘Like A Version’ songs. Voting closed recently, ahead of the countdown on July 15th.
This is not the first special Hottest 100 that Triple J has organised, having celebrated the music from the first 20 years of its annual format, the best of the 2010s and revisited the “of all time” format multiple times. But it should be the last.
Monopolising the content of a countdown obviously elevates internally produced music as Triple J expands beyond its standard showcase, but weakens the integration of the Hottest 100 into the wider industry.
The station is a respected curator of music, and a perception of bias is not good for a critic.
— Istoph 🆓 (@crk5) May 18, 2023
After building such a strong timeliness factor associated with the main show, this extra event holds a weakened justification for its own existence. 2023 is not a significant anniversary for ‘Like A Version’, and it is not the end of a decade. July seems to fit the bill only as it occurs halfway between regular Hottest 100 countdowns.
It’s now hottest time all the time
To keep the party going on and on after the countdown, Triple J has had another surprise up its sleeve. A Hottest 100 dedicated station launches on 17 July that will play songs from previous countdowns on repeat.
The new Triple J Hottest station seeks to transform the late-summer excitement into year-round engagement, which seems an ambitious undertaking. Blasting Hottest 100 content constantly could well backfire.