Triple M is not the most repetitive radio station in Australia

The music on Triple M has always bothered me, not because of type of music they play, but because of how repetitive it seems. In the early 2000s I won ten or so CDs for phoning into Triple M — Matchbox 20, Lenny Kravitz, The Living End etc. — and I’m always surprised at how regularly certain tracks from these albums are still played today. In fact, if I hear Are you gonna go my way one more time, I may just vomit.

So you probably knew this already: Australian radio is super repetitive, but I wanted to know how repetitive it is, and if Triple M is the most repetitive station (spoiler: it’s not).

More infomation on how I obtained these results is available, but in summary: I analysed the tracks played on five radio stations for nine days, and this is what I found.

Median year

First, I wondered how recent the music played on each station was. Looking at the year each track was released, and taking the median for each station we get:

Station Track year (median)
Triple M 2000
Nova 2013
2Day FM 2013
triple j 2013
Triple R 2006

Triple M’s result surprised me a little here, I honestly thought it would be worse than this. Most of the tracks I hear when I tune in are from the late 80s and early 90s, but they must be playing enough more recent music to counter this. Nova, 2Day FM, and triple j seem to play fairly recent music, and this data is consistent with that.

Most frequently played artist

Here’s where it gets more interesting. The top five artists for each station and the number of times their songs are played are:

Station Top artists Plays % of total airplay
Triple M Pearl Jam 43 2.15%
Foo Fighters 41 2.05%
Red Hot Chili Peppers 39 1.95%
Green Day 36 1.80%
Kings of Leon 32 1.60%
Nova Pharrell Williams 80 2.96%
Avicii 75 2.77%
Calvin Harris 74 2.66%
Jason Derülo 72 2.59%
David Guetta Feat. Skylar Grey 68 2.44%
2Day FM Pharrell Williams 83 2.86%
Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne 71 2.44%
5 Seconds Of Summer 67 2.31%
Calvin Harris 65 2.24%
Jason Derülo 65 2.24%
triple j Chet Faker 54 1.86%
Ball Park Music 31 1.07%
Lorde 29 1.07%
Dustin Tebbutt 26 0.90%
Thundamentals 25 0.90%
Triple R Various Artists 21 1.01%
Pixies 15 0.07%
Dan Sultan 13 0.06%
Tiny Ruins 12 0.06%
Myron & E 11 0.05%

In terms of raw numbers, Triple M is actually less repetitive than triple j, but raw numbers probably aren’t a fair comparison as triple j plays 33% more (detectable) music than Triple M. Totalling the top five artists for each station we get:

Station Top 5 artists, no. of plays Top 5 artists, % of total airplay
Triple M 191 9.6%
Nova 359* 13.3%
2Day FM 351 12.1%
triple j 165 5.7%
Triple R 72 0.1%

Nova and 2Day FM are both looking pretty bad here: you’ve got a one in ten chance or greater of hearing one of the top five artists. Triple M is not far behind, but does a little better.

Most frequently played track

The top five tracks, and the numbers of plays these tracks get across each station are:

Station Artist Track Plays
Triple M The John Butler Trio Only One 17
Coldplay Magic 14
Kings Of Leon Temple 14
American Authors Best Day Of My Life 13
Placebo Loud Like Love 13
Nova Calvin Harris Summer 74*
David Guetta Feat. … Shot Me Down 68
Clean Bandit Feat. … Rather Be 64
5 Seconds Of Summer She Looks So Perfect 63
Tinie Tempah Tsunami (Jump) 54
2Day FM Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne Rather Be 70
5 Seconds Of Summer She Looks So Perfect 67
Calvin Harris Summer 65
David Guetta Feat. Skylar Grey Shot Me Down 63
Cash Cash Feat. Bebe Rexha Take Me Home 58
triple j Dustin Tebbutt Bones 26
Thundamentals Something I Said 25
Plague Vendor Black Sap Scriptures 19
Zhu Faded 19
Chet Faker 1998 18
Triple R Tiny Ruins Me At The Museum … 11
Pixies Here Comes Your Man 10
Myron & E Broadway 10
Deep Purple April 8
Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane April Fool 6

One thing’s pretty clear here: 2Day FM and Nova are leaders in repetitive radio. Playing a single track 70 times in just over a week is incredible, as they must be playing some of these tracks 8-9 times a day. I couldn’t believe it at first, so confirmation on the frequency of Calvin Harris is in my notes.

The most repetitive radio station is…

Based on the analysis of the nine days of data collected, I’ll have to give it to Nova, just beating 2Day FM. Both these stations are around a third more repetitive than Triple M, and nearly three times as repetitive as triple j. Keep reading for why Triple M may win this title over the long term.

Other interesting data

Triple M tracks released before 2000

Back to Triple M: what gives here? Lenny Kravitz or The Living End weren’t even in the top ten played artists. In fact, we have to go a lot further down the list to find out what’s going on. Here are the top fifteen tracks Triple M plays which were released before 2000:

Artist Track Plays Release year
Billy Joel Easy Money 8 1983
Fuel Shimmer 8 1998
The Bloodhound Gang The Bad Touch 8 1999
CAKE The Distance 8 1996
Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit 7 1991
All Torn Down The Living End 7 1998
Third Eye Blind Semi-Charmed Life 7 1997
The Cranberries Zombie 6 1994
The Cruel Sea The Honeymoon Is Over 6 1993
Everclear Santa Monica 6 1995
Live Lightning Crashes 6 1995
Blur Song 2 6 1997
The Screaming Jets Shivers 6 1992
Nirvana On A Plain 6 1993
Lenny Kravitz Are You Gonna Go My Way 6 1993

And there we have it: this is what irks me about Triple M so much. While they’re not as repetitive as other stations overall, this particular set of tracks combined is played more frequently than the most frequent track on the other stations (yes, even more than Calvin Harris), and most are played at least once a day. All of these tracks — Are You Gonna Vomit My Way included — were once chart-topping hits, but do we really need to hear them every day for the rest of our lives?

Australian artists :(

Australian artists get far less play time than others it would seem. Looking at the top ten artists for each radio station:

Station Australian artists in the top ten most played
Triple M 2/10
Nova 1/10
2Day FM 1/10
triple j 5/10 (Various Artists not counted as Australian)
Triple R 4/10 (Various Artists not counted as Australian)

While this isn’t the complete picture (a large number of Australian artists may get a small number of plays) it looks pretty sad if you’re an Australian artist.

Notes: method

To test how repetitive Australia radio is, I analysed five radio stations for 9 days (April 2 - April 11, 2014):

During this period, I gathered this data:

Station Samples Tracks detected
Triple M 6,895 1,997
Nova 6,406 2,783
2Day FM 6,907 2,904
triple j 6,911 2,905
Triple R 6,193 2,080

I can’t determine exactly why the number of tracks detected is different on every station, but it comes down to:

  1. Each station plays its own number of tracks versus other content like ads, discussions, news etc.
  2. I used an audio fingerprinting service which has a large but incomplete library. This may account for the lower number of tracks detected on Triple R, as they’re more likely to play independent, and perhaps, unsigned artists.
  3. Live music is unlikely to be detected, unless it was released as an album.
  4. Portions of a song may be played for promo purposes, see my notes on Calvin Harris - Summer below.

Notes: Calvin Harris - Summer

This track was played so often, I had to confirm the data to believe it. Here are the times this track was played on Nova Brisbane for April 4:

  • 2014-04-04 00:47 (promo only)
  • 2014-04-04 01:51
  • 2014-04-04 04:22
  • 2014-04-04 08:59
  • 2014-04-04 11:31
  • 2014-04-04 14:31
  • 2014-04-04 19:07
  • 2014-04-04 21:39 (promo only)
  • 2014-04-04 22:05 (promo only)
  • 2014-04-04 22:46

As it turned out, Nova was running on promo on this song where they would play the song for a few seconds when promoting another product. I’ve manually reduced the number of track plays on the top five artists by ten to account for this (Calvin Harris would then become the equal sixteenth most played artist on Nova, but Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne would be in position number five instead, with a net difference of only 10).