Culture

Here Are The Important Stats That Were Missing From Triple J’s Hottest 100 Round-Up

They may have told us the gender of the voters, but what about the artists?

With the total shitstorm that was #Tay4Hottest100 now over, it’s safe to say that triple j has battled through their toughest Hottest 100 ever.

After already facing criticism earlier in the year for their “narrow-minded playlists” and limiting genre tastes, the last two weeks have seen them drowned in thinkpiece after thinkpiece after thinkpiece about the station’s taste in music, belligerence and cultural elitism.

And now, before you’ve entirely recovered from either your physical and mental hangovers from the whole thing, another issue has sprung up to take its place. Yesterday, following the conclusion of the countdown, triple j posted their annual infographic online. And something was definitely missing.

Though they took the care to break down the numbers of votes, cover songs, and newbie artists — they even had a look at how many songs mentioned parts of the human body — there was no mention given to the gender of the musicians included.

This question seems especially pertinent in a year where the top artists were a white dude crooning about his darling, a male duo who spent their crucial on-air interview talking about the “boosies” and “tits” on show at their celebratory beach party, and an all-male group whose big hit was regretfully named after an alleged sex offender.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that a solo female artist has never, ever, not even once topped the countdown.

So, where were all the ladies?

Last night, Adelaide-based broadcaster and maths student Casey Briggs took triple j’s logic a little further, broadening the scope to include a detailed look at gender. His blog post detailing the findings, ‘The 2014 Hottest 100, by the numbers’, quickly circulated on social media, and his Tweets on the issue soon saw him trending in Sydney.

“Listening to the Hottest 100 countdown yesterday I felt like it was overwhelmingly filled with men, and I wanted to see just how bad the disparity is,” he told us. “Lack of diversity in the Hottest 100 and at triple j is not a new complaint, but I was hoping that by 2015 we’d have seen a markedly more diverse list than the one we heard yesterday. From the reaction I’ve had to my post, I don’t think I’m alone on that.”

Due to Casey’s handiwork we now know that of the 273 musicians featured in the countdown, only 34 were women.

The figures look slightly better when you count the number of bands instead of singular artists.

But it all seems pretty dismal no matter which way you frame it.

“That is representation only slightly better than Tony Abbott’s cabinet,” Casey said. Which means that, by association, the Hottest 100 now has a comparable gender ratio to a Zoo Weekly staff meeting, the Afghan government cabinet, the Supreme Court, the Mad Men writers’ room and Muammar Gaddafi’s old personal guard. Great!

Any other unsettling things we should know about?

There’s nothing particularly unusual about these kind of statistics. In 2013, Casey took a look at the results of the Hottest 100 Of The Past 20 Years and found that women made up just 5.4 percent of the musicians included in the list. Out of a total 367 musicians, just 20 were female.

women

The most upsetting pie in the world.

Worse than that, in the Hottest 100 Of All Time in 2009, ZERO solo female artist made the cut — and only six women were included in various other acts. If that’s the kind of precedent we have to contend with, the latest stats actually look pretty good.

Even the dismal numbers of people of colour included in this year’s list look better than that.

But hey, that’s a whole other conversation.

What can we do about this?

There’s no question that solving problems like this are much, much harder than simply pointing them out. As Victoria Birch wrote for Faster Louder, the increasing amount of evidence piling up on this suggests it’s far from being a simple anomaly; there are a load of worthy women making great alternative music, and nothing is changing.

This isn’t a basic problem of demographics. There has always been a relatively even divide of men and women in triple j’s listeners; in this year’s Hottest 100, 48 percent of voters were female. But even if that weren’t the case, it wouldn’t necessarily dictate a divide in tastes. Either women aren’t making as much music as men, it’s not being received as well as men’s music, or it’s not reaching the same number of people. Most likely, the triple j playlist reflects a feedback loop that involves all three.

It’s worth nothing that only four of the previous 17 feature albums on triple j were from bands with female members. And, if that’s indicative of a larger trend across the year, there’s a sound argument to be made that the station are contributing to a larger trend of audiences favouring male musicians. Casey Briggs suggests this is something that the triple j should address through better monitoring what they put to air. “Through their playlist, triple j have a large amount of influence over what makes the Hottest 100 countdown,” he said. “I hope that triple j recognise that this is an issue, and take action to improve diversity in their playlist.”

It’s not the first time the idea of quotas has been raised. In 2013, Junkee‘s Eliza Sarlos argued that triple j’s commitment to playing 40 percent Australian music could pave the way for a similar system about gender. “Since no one has come up with a better way forward, it may just be worth a try,” she wrote.

For their part, triple j maintain this is something they’re already sufficiently committed to. “Triple j works really hard on diversity across a whole range of areas, including gender, race, country/state of origin and genre,” triple j Manager Chris Scaddan said in a statement. “We prioritise and champion countless female artists on triple j, whether it’s playing Lorde eight months before commercial radio caught on, or Unearthing unique Australian artists like Tkay Maidza, The Preatures or Airling.”

“Approximately 29 percent of the music you hear week to week on triple j features female lead vocals. As a comparison, recent APRA figures show that 21.6 percent of their songwriting membership is women.”

It’s statistics like this that suggest larger institutional and cultural problems beyond the Hottest 100, and beyond triple j. There may well be broader problems in the music industry at large that need to be addressed; problems that become further amplified when seen through the lens of the smaller alternative sector of triple j. More numbers need to be crunched. More women in the industry need to have their say.

But until then, acknowledging this kind of inequality has to be the first step to fixing it.

Meg Watson is Junkee’s staff writer.