Youth Radio Ratings Smashed In Bad Day For Triple J, CADA

18 April 2024 | 3:51 pm | Stephen Green

The music industry's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month spreads to radio.

triple j

triple j (Source: Supplied)

The second GFK radio ratings for 2024 were released today, with grim news all round for youth-targeting stations. triple j had a reasonable start to the year, with Hottest 100 holding up a strong first survey last month, but worryingly the station is down right across the country in its core 18-24 demographic as we hit survey two.

It’s not unusual to see a dip from the ‘hottest 100 highs’ in survey two each year, but already coming from a fairly low 18-24 base historically, triple j’s Sydney numbers were disturbing, with the station shedding 1.1 points. They are now being beaten soundly in demo by WSFM and Smooth. Its cumulative audience was also down, but it’s average audience of just 2,000 18-24s at any one time in Australia’s largest market is a concern for a music industry trying to get new songs heard by young people.

Melbourne was a bloodbath for the station, shedding more than half its audience in the demo with market leader Fox now boasting more than five times the 18-24 listeners of the youth network and the Js down to an average audience of just 1000 young people.

The news doesn’t get any better in Brisbane (with a 1.7 point share drop and an average 18-24 listenership of 2000), Adelaide (1.8 point drop and an audience below the threshold of calculation) and Perth (2 point drop and 2000 listeners in the demo).

With statistics out this week showing just 27% of young people now going to music festivals, compared with 41% pre-COVID, the rushing for the musical exits is all the more concerning as the music industry tries to grapple with the chicken or the egg. Are young radio listeners tuning out because they aren’t interested in music or are they less interested in music because they’re tuning out? Or are they simply getting their music elsewhere?

Ordinarily you’d see a lift in other stations with drops like that in a ‘down book’ for triple j, but over at their commercial counterparts, the results are even worse.

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It seems that the CADA experiment is not in a good place, with the station letting its big-name hosts including Flex & Froomes go at the end of 2023 in a cost-cutting drive. It would seem that the cuts have hit deep, with the station losing more than 40% of its Sydney digital radio audience in one survey, going from runaway market leader to third in digital behind Kiis 90s and iHeart Australia. It is worth noting that CADA has gone up slightly in other markets, albeit from a far smaller base than they had in Sydney.

TikTok Trending has also dropped around 40% of its audience in Sydney, so it seems there’s a music swing on rather than just a station on the nose. So where did the audience go? Are they getting their music elsewhere? Or are their tastes changing? According to average audience figues in Sydney there are actually 41,000 listeners between the age of 18-24, up from 37,000 last survey. They have just decided to switch to Smooth, Kiis, Nova and Triple M. Five years ago (Survey 2, 2019), the number was 40,000, suggesting an inconvenient truth that they are not switching off radio, they are just switching off new music.

The upside (if there is one) is that they are still listening to the radio and available to win back if a station (or the music industry more generally) gets the proposition right.