Bootleg Rascal, on why triple j play isn't essential to be a popular musician in 2020
As conversation remains about triple j's presence as a gate-keeper of Australian music, a band that have flourished without recent play has something to say.
Bootleg Rascal are beginning to find themselves at the cusp of a new peak. The Gold Coast-based duo have been long-time favourites of Australia's musical world for a while now, with their earliest work - dating way back to 2014 - throwing them into the Australian festival circuit from the get-go, from which they've only grown. Everything they've put out since - albums, singles, EPs, remixes, whatever else - has yet to see them falter.
In regards to their albums alone, 2016 debut record Alseep in the Machine became an instant favourite, but their 2018 follow-up Anónimo - despite being a good record - failed to take off, with the trajectory in place for the group plateauing as the struggled to make that transition from a somewhat cult favourite to a commercial success. Early on, triple j was a big part in their take-off, but they didn't get around the second album at all.
Two years later, and Bootleg Rascal still don't get that commercial radio support. However, they're reaching a new peak of popularity, with their new EP Collaborations of Very Isolated Delinquents being one of their most successful releases to date, even amongst the chaos of an ongoing global pandemic. They're proof that radio support isn't always essential, and as people debate whether triple j's gate-keeping is harmful or necessary to a growing music scene, groups like Bootleg Rascal - and plenty of others - prove that it's not even a discussion worth having.
Bootleg Rascal are no doubt grateful of triple j's support in the past don't get us wrong, but when artists are beating themselves up and quitting entirely because one radio station doesn't support them? It's clear something needs to be said.
And so, enter the duo's Jimmy Young, who has penned us a pretty powerful guest-post about why being played on triple j isn't the all and end all. Instead, it's just one way to get to where you need to be, and you can get there even without their endless love.
Take a dive into the post and their latest EP below:
Why getting triple j play isn't the be-all and end-all, by Bootleg Rascal's Jimmy Young:
Every now and again some kook decides to go on a rampage blasting triple j and blaming them for their musical career demise. This is not one of those articles, and just to beat the haters… we’re well aware we suck.
Third-party validation from industry gatekeepers and tastemakers is great. It can open up a world of opportunity, expose your music to the masses and ignite the momentum of your story. One of our country’s biggest institutions for breaking new artists is none other than triple j.
There’s no denying that Bootleg Rascal had a really good run on triple j. Once upon a time, the national youth broadcaster was our main champion and they really opened doors for us, including helping us grow our fan base and getting onto awesome festivals. Combined with a vigorous touring schedule, we attribute a lot of our early success to the station.
However, following on from our debut album Asleep in the Machine, we released a handful of singles, which eventually lead into our sophomore record Anónimo. Unfortunately, Anónimo and most singles from the record didn’t connect as well as we’d hoped at the station. Our management and record label at the time didn’t have a plan beyond banking on success there, and in turn, became really distant from us. We were lucky to have some people on our team who did care though and eventually took over the reins and remain our management to this day.
After the release of Anónimo, we’ve released a series of singles and another EP. Still, the songs don’t seem to be connecting with triple j and real talk – we’re totally ok with that (however, we’d always welcome as much air time as they want to give us haha). We’ve found success via other practices and more importantly, we’re enjoying ourselves more than ever; I’m sure majority of artists didn’t pick up an instrument and set out to prioritise appeasing a radio station (I’d hope not anyway).
So, why is this old hipster flog ranting about triple j so much? Because there’s a common misconception by some artists that getting played by triple j is the be-all and end-all to carving out “success” in your career. I really think that is such an outdated viewpoint and we actually exist in one of the most exciting times for reaching fans via a myriad of different avenues.
I can confidently say that Bootleg Rascal is in the strongest position we’ve ever been as a band. We’ve never felt closer with our fans and pre-COVID-19, we were receiving more festival offers than we ever have. We’re also currently sitting on the highest monthly listenership numbers in our career across streaming, and this is all without major radio support.
Where a lot of other artists would have thrown in the towel, we’ve managed to keep our story moving forward via a series of clever release strategies, solid marketing, engaging content, live touring (when that was a thing) and healthy support through community radio stations and press. Essentially, it’s all a marketing mix that is made up of methods that our management and we have experimented with and taken risks on, to find what works best. It should be said, that you need to be doing/pushing for these things even if you are on high rotation on major radio networks.
Now, I do hear some of you say that’s all well and good when you have access to these resources. Budget and a lack of experience are usually common roadblocks in knowing how best to build and nurture a fanbase. With that aside, I implore up and coming artists to talk to take the time to do some research on conducting case studies of artists in your lane who have had success. See what they’ve done to carve out the road to where they currently are and you’ll start to piece together a better idea of how you may be able to navigate your career there.
Also, talk to people and ask for advice. You’d be surprised how many industry people and more established artists are actually cool with passing the favour on. Our inbox is always open for anyone who has questions and I can vouch our manager offers up the same opportunity.
It sounds cliché, but ultimately persistence and hard work pays off. It’s also important to remember that it’s ok to try things and fail – just make sure you learn from the experience. Lime Cordiale, Ocean Alley and even Ziggie Albertson (lol) flew under the radar of triple j for many years, but still built incredible followings through hard work finding their audiences.
Above all, your fans are the most important people. Just like Tay Tay recently told her fans “You Are the Only Reason the Industry Cares”. Your fans need to be treated just like any other good friendship you have in your life.
Make good music. Be good people. Work hard. Ask Questions. Try shit. Have fun.
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