Peking Duk On Triple M? How Perth Is Redefining A Radio Brand

13 June 2023 | 10:06 am | Stephen Green

What is going on in Perth when Triple M spins Peking Duk and Swedish House Mafia?

Peking Duk + Triple M

Peking Duk + Triple M (Supplied)

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While most of the radio industry are talking about Kyle and Jackie O's spectacular ratings over on the East Coast, perhaps one of the most innovative radio experiments of the last decade is quietly unfolding over at Triple M Perth

Last year the station re-set after a less than spectacular ratings impact when the station launched in 2020, replacing the previously Hit Network aligned 92.9. Realising that the Perth market was not the same as over East, the Southern Cross Austereo property refocused in 2022 under the tag line of "Perth's Real Alternative". 

The playlist is a curious mix that would be quite foreign to those used to the decades-old history of the East Coast Triple M brand. A glance at the most spun tracks over the last week (6am - midnight) shows an interesting mixed bag of tunes:

1. Sunroof - Nicky Youre & Dazy
2. Stacy's Mum - Fountains of Wayne
3. On Top Of The World - Imagine Dragons
4. Without You - The Kid Laroi
5. Ho Hey - The Lumineers
6. SNAP - Rosa Linn
7. Beggin - Maneskin
8. Under You - Foo Fighters
9. Following The Sun - Super Hi
10. Thrift Shop - Macklemore with Ryan Lewis

There's your traditional Triple M style tunes-- Foo Fighters are spinning heavily across multiple tracks (as you'd expect the week their tickets go on sale) and classics like Fall Out Boy and Nirvana do spin around, but it's clear from even a cursory listen that this is a station rooted in the 2000s, with some 90s sprinkled in for flavour (as opposed to the 80s/90s focus of Triple M more traditionally).... and a far larger genre brief than Triple M has historically played with. 

We caught up with Content Director Tim Arnold to unpack the strategy and figure out whether "rap crap" like The Kid Laroi can now work for a Triple M audience and whether when Thrift Shop spins around, the audience think it's "f*cking awesome". 

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Arnold reiterated that the station was staying true to the Triple M brand, but with a younger target and a station built for Perth's competitive market. 

"The response to the ‘variety’ for want of a better word, has been fantastic," he said. "The audience we’re targeting grew up going not just to concerts where they’d see a single act but going to festivals with multiple zones. From seeing Basement Jaxx in the Boiler Room and then heading to Foo Fighters on the main stage. The acts aren’t the same genre, but they certainly can appeal to the same person. We’re echoing that by building a format based on appeal to our audience, not a genre, which has allowed us to evolve Triple M here in Perth."

The station is focusing younger, given the strength in the Perth market of 96fm which is targeting what could be considered an older 'Triple M style' market. No doubt the historic strength of Triple J in the Perth market also weighted on the mind of programmers, with the station occasionally topping the 25-39 demographic over the last ten years in the West. The relatively late entry of the Triple M brand to the Perth market also gave Arnold some freedom that Eastern states with decades of history and rusted on listeners may have struggled with. 

"Look, we certainly were lucky enough to have a little more freedom to define the brand here in Perth," explained Arnold. "It’s also allowed us to tweak and adjust as we need without burning any ‘Heritage’ value the format would otherwise have in market. We’re targeting an audience that we feel has been getting under-served in Perth up until now. It’s not really a new demographic and it’s not too far removed from our other Triple M’s around the country. Triple M Perth just skews that little bit younger and a little broader."

The station has also embraced localism, with the only locally produced drive show in the market and an noticable on-air celebration of Perth (and more broadly Australian) music. There's plenty of Birds of Tokyo, Spacey Jane and Tame Impala spinning around. 

"Our logs are specifically programmed for Perth by a Perth focussed MD. Based on Perth research. Seizing Perth events. ‘Local’ is important in that sense. However, we’re Perth’s Real Alternative not because we’re playing wall-to-wall alternative music. We’re alternative because we’re doing things differently from other stations, and that includes screaming from the rafters when we play a track made in our own backyard - Which you can’t do if you’re taking a national log. We play songs because they’re great. Not because they’re from Perth. It’s just lucky that the Perth music scene has belted above its weight with its contribution nationally over the decades, so we’re just celebrating that we’re the only ones playing these phenomenal songs from the last 30 years when other stations aren’t."

Despite a rough start to their entry to the market, dipping around 40% of its share across its first year in operation in 2020/2021, the station's new direction is starting to show a real impact in the market. The latest book shows the station lifting 0.7 across the board and more impressively, between 1 and 2 points across the day parts where music plays the biggest part in listening habits. 

"Yeah just 4 books into Perth’s Real Alternative and we’re already starting to see the momentum kick in," said Arnold. "I wouldn’t actually say the song choices are that bold, but that every song in our playlist is a strong song for our target with a proven track record. It just seems bold because no one else is going about getting this audience, in the way that we are right now. When we launched as Perth’s Real Alternative, we built a lot of the universe on gut, as well as consultation with people we know in target. This bridged us for a bit before we could get our first round of research back from market, and when we did, it reinforced that thankfully we were already pretty close to the mark."

The big question, is whether the lead that Perth is setting could be used to reinvigorate the embattled Triple M Sydney and Melbourne, which while still commanding a strong male listenership, are struggling to find demographic leadership in markets with heavy older-skewing competition. 

"Each Triple M is programmed specifically because it is the right format for its audience in its market," says Arnold diplomatically. "Perth’s Real Alternative was crafted because it was the right call for Perth. If the time comes when another market thinks their best strategy is to target an audience similar to ours, then I’d be happy to share what we’ve learnt along the journey here in W.A. But for now, I’d assume each Triple M is playing in the wheelhouse that is right for its market."

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