Choosing Your Audience

Streaming and illegally downloading music are causing major problems in the entertainment industry at the moment. But could it begin to affect the type of music that we begin to see in the marketplace?


Every year the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) announces the highest selling record in Australia. This year has been quite a bumper year for music. Featuring a huge range of highly successful artists bringing out new albums it will be a hard year to pick.

Could it be Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear? One Direction’s Four? Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour? The Frozen Soundtrack? Surely it is Taylor Swift’s tremendously acclaimed 1989? Taylor Swift could take out the gong if her sales numbers continue to go through the roof before New Year’s Eve, but Universal has already been told that it currently has the bestselling album of 2014.

So which one is it?

I’ll give you a hint. The music wasn’t written this year. It wasn’t written in the last decade. In fact, it wasn’t written this side of the century or even in the 90’s.

The record currently in line to be award the best seller for 2014 is INXS’ The Very Best. Surprised? This album was released by the band in 2011 as a compilation album featuring their ‘very best’ hits from their long career in the Australian charts. Interestingly, in the year that it was released it only reached a peak position of #39.

So what happened in the last year that brought this album back into music consumers’ legally downloaded playlists? Channel Seven launched the highly acclaimed documentary INXS: Never Tear Us Apart.

I would like to believe that this brought the music of INXS to a whole new (very young) generation who immediately rushed to iTunes to downloaded their greatest hits. But I find that a bit hard to believe. The generation notorious for illegally downloading music would have had no difficulty finding the music online.

What I would imagine happened is that the love of INXS was reignited in a slightly older age bracket. People who had grown up with the band who are now in their thirties and above. Looking for a way to relive their rebellious INXS-fuelled childhood they turned to repurchasing the music because iTunes doesn’t accept files in a vinyl format. This drove the album back into the #1 position for an enviable few weeks and has resulted in enormous record sales.

But what implications does this have for the future of music?

It doesn’t mean that One Direction are going to disband. It doesn’t mean that Taylor Swift will stop her hit-making songs. But it does mean that record companies may shift their efforts. Rather than trying to bring back a generation who is already heavily embedded in the illegal downloading culture, why not leverage a market who will pay? That means there will be a higher priority on selling the popular bands of yesteryear to audiences who will revel in the nostalgia.

Why not choose the audience who will quite happily pay for their entertainment than try to persist with those difficult consumers?