For the past several decades, the music industry in the Land Down Under has been underutilized, underrated, and underrepresented on a global scale. Now, thanks to globalization and the help of specialized export companies, Aussie artists are beginning to see their share of the limelight in the international music scene.
Despite the challenges posed by geographic isolation and a relatively small population compared to other music markets, Australia has begun producing many successful artists that are achieving global recognition. According to the 2023 Global Music Report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, Australasia experienced growth of 8.1% in recorded music revenue, an increase on the prior year’s growth rate of +4.7%. Australia remained a top 10 market globally, and New Zealand saw a rise in streaming revenues that pushed the overall market to grow by 8%.
While more established Australian popstars like Sia and 5 Seconds of Summer may account for the majority of global stream counts, many emerging Aussies have found their success by straying away from the mainstream. With influences ranging from psychedelia to surf-rock, international fans are more tuned to the country's unique soundscape than ever before.
Australian Electropop and EDM
Arguably one of the strongest sounds to emerge from Australia in recent years has derived from the electronic genre. Spanning from house DJs to indietronica groups, the EDM scene has evolved so heavily in the area that it has created several of its own sub-genres, including Australian electropop and Australian house.
Volt.fm describes Australian electropop as:
"a genre of music that combines elements of electronic music with pop music. It typically features synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic instruments, as well as traditional pop elements such as catchy melodies and vocal hooks. It is often characterized by its upbeat, danceable sound and its use of modern production techniques."
Electropop and house exist globally on their own, but when infused with local sounds and styles, they develop even further into a niche genre category. For example, Chartmetric's artist list shows that many of the world’s top electropop artists include major stars like Billie Eilish and Halsey, who center mainly around the pop sphere. Then, after limiting the list to “Australian electropop,” we’re presented with a unique group of artists who lean more towards the region’s electronic influences.
Among well-known acts like RÜFÜS DU SOL and Empire of the Sun, Flume is the highest-ranking Australian electropop artist by Chartmetric score. The alias of electronic musician and producer Harley Edward Streten, Flume makes atmospheric dance music inspired by house and Australian garage. In 2017, he won a Grammy award for Best Dance/Electronic Album and later landed a headline slot at Lollapalooza in 2019. These events reflect Flume’s global rise, as we see increased Wikipedia searches for the artist in 2016, followed by a rapid increase in Spotify monthly listeners in 2019.
Many of our top Australian electropop artists find their top audiences outside of Australia. While the sheer volume of listeners certainly plays a part in these numbers, the United States still presents itself as the top country for Flume, RÜFÜS DU SOL, and Empire of the Sun. Even Empire of the Sun, the longest-active group on the list, sees Australia fall at No. 4 on their listening audience. This suggests that over time, globalized listening continues to grow for Australian groups. Other top countries include Mexico, Germany, Poland, and Brazil, implying that Australian Electropo has not limited itself to English-speaking countries.
Other notable Australian electronic artists stem from the house side of the genre and include legends like FISHER and Shouse, both of who rank within the top 100 DJs worldwide by Chartmetric score. Award-winning DJ Dom Dolla has also been a major topic of conversation in 2023. Following a steady rise to fame since 2015, his latest release, “Rhyme Dust” featuring MK, unintentionally exploded after he teased the track in a TikTok video. Just hours after the video was posted, fans were immediately begging for the track's release.
When the track was eventually cleared for release on March 24, Dolla's Spotify monthly listeners grew from 4M to 7M in just a few weeks, along with a boost of 50K TikTok followers thanks to the teaser. Since then, "Rhyme Dust" has peaked at No. 1 on Beatport, and Dolla now ranks within the top 1K artists worldwide (a 131% growth from the month prior).
Australian Neo-Psychedelic Rock
Psychedelic rock may have planted its roots in the peace-and-love era of the 60s, but Australia has recently found itself on the receiving end of this global influence. With an undying demand for synth-fuelled psychedelia coming from the U.S. and the U.K., Australian bands have capitalized on the highly fertile breeding grounds, with several acts gaining international traction.
Volt.fm describes neo-psychedelic music as:
"a genre of music that draws from the psychedelic rock of the 1960s and 1970s, but with a modern twist. It often incorporates elements of other genres such as indie rock, shoegaze, and dream pop. It is characterized by its use of reverb-drenched guitars, dreamy vocal harmonies, and trippy sound effects."
When analyzing one of the genre’s most popular playlists on Spotify, it’s no surprise that Australia is No. 2 behind the U.S. in terms of artists' countries of origin. Looking at the Chartmetric Artist List, we can also see that 3 out of the top 10 artists by Chartmetric score hail from the Australasia region.
One of the most notable artists from the lineup of psychedelic acts is Tame Impala, an Australian band guided by the musical prowess of Kevin Parker. Many of Tame's early albums were solely driven by psychedelic, guitar-rock sounds, but it wasn’t until they began infusing disco and hip-hop influences into their 2015 album, Currents, that the band found mainstream success. Today, the group is currently Australia's third most popular artist based on Chartmetric score.
When analyzing Tame Impala’s radio airplay map, it’s a clear indicator that the United States has been a huge driving force for the band's international success. Consequently, the band has since completed several full-length tours around the States and headlined dozens of major U.S. music festivals. Most known for their trippy, psychedelic visuals and stunning laser shows, Tame Impala's 2022 "Rushium" tour was one of the top 100 grossing tours of the year according to Billboard, selling a total of 215,313 tickets between 20 tour dates.
Another band making waves in the neo-psychedelic rock scene is King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, hailing from Melbourne. Their music incorporates elements of psychedelic rock, garage rock, and even heavy metal, resulting in a unique and eclectic sound. For both Spotify monthly listening, Instagram following, and YouTube monthly views, cities from the United States and UK account for more than half of King Gizzard's top 10 audiences.
Other notable acts in the scene include Pond, a psychedelic rock band formed by members of Tame Impala, and The Murlocs, a band with a more bluesy take on neo-psychedelia. The neo-psychedelic rock scene in Australia is thriving, with several talented bands pushing the boundaries of the genre and drawing international attention.
Australian Indie Surf-Rock
The independent music scene in Australia is also flourishing, with a wide range of artists and bands leaving their mark outside of the mainstream industry. One of the key factors contributing to this growth is a strong network of independent record labels, venues, and music export companies. Sounds Australia, for example, is a global export company that is growing artists with the help of digital platforms, global marketing strategies, and international talent showcases such as SXSW.
But while the term "indie" has long since morphed into a genre descriptor, it's no wonder that Australia's independent roster contains many vibrant indie-rock and surf-rock bands. For instance, one of Spotify's most popular indie playlists, "Surf Rock Sunshine," shows Australia as No. 2 behind the United States in terms of artist location.
Volt.fm describes indie surf as:
"a genre of music that combines elements of surf rock, indie rock, and garage rock. It typically features reverb-heavy guitar riffs, upbeat tempos, and catchy melodies. The genre often incorporates elements of punk, pop, and psychedelic rock, as well as other genres. Indie Surf is often characterized by its upbeat, energetic sound and its use of vintage instruments and effects."
Currently, the top three Australian indie rock acts by Chartmetric score are Pacific Avenue, Great Gable, and Spacey Jane. When analyzing each group's Spotify growth, the three saw a significant boost in followers between the years 2019 and 2020–around the time that TikTok began making its presence known as a music discovery tool.
TikTok has been massively important in driving the globalization of Australian music. As an industry that has historically struggled with geographic isolation, the app has provided a platform for Australian artists to reach both local and global audiences, collaborate with content creators, and nurture relationships with fans across the world. Niche communities of Australian music fans grow and thrive by sharing music with the help of sound trends. For example, the TikTok sound "aussie bands" encourages users to rank certain indie bands in order of preference and likeability.
Perhaps one of the greatest success stories for Australian bands on TikTok is Indie Rock band Vacations. Earlier this year, Chartmetric chatted with Vacations' label team at Nettwerk Music Group to hear how they have built off a viral TikTok moment that the band experienced in 2020. They explained that TikTok not only allows artists to find these moments of great exposure and virality, but it also gives the opportunity to transform that traction into a dedicated fanbase after the moment has passed. Since 2020, Vacations has gained over 100K Instagram followers, 200K TikTok followers, and nearly 600K Spotify followers.
From Down Under to On Top
Australia's growth in the last decade is nothing short of a well-deserved renaissance. From the electrifying sounds of Australian electropop and EDM to the mind-expanding realm of neo-psychedelic rock, the country is producing a diverse range of talented artists that are capturing the attention of international audiences. As more and more fans around the world discover and embrace the unique soundscape of Australia, the future looks exceedingly bright from Down Under.