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Lee Tran Lam and the power of community radio

Story Published Tuesday 5 September 2023
Lee Tran Lam - photo by Will Reichelt

Community radio is an essential way for emerging artists to get their music heard

We spoke with community radio presenter Lee Tran Lam, who hosts Local Fidelity on FBi Radio, about the important role of community radio for emerging local artists

Are you an emerging artist? With nearly 5 million weekly listeners across hundreds of stations, community radio is a huge resource for musicians early in their career.

(the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project) - is a free service that distributes music to community radio programmers and hosts. Community radio presenters also use Amrap to discover new Australian music for airplay. Do you have your music on Amrap? If not, why not? It's free!

If you're looking for local music on community radio, FBi is a great place to start with its policy of playing 50% Australian music, half of which has to come from Sydney.

We sat down with Lee Tran Lam, presenter of Local Fidelity, a program on FBi Radio. Local Fidelity has been airing since 2007, and only plays Australian music. How incredible is that! The show has featured memorable moments - from Phantastic Ferniture's Julia Jacklin unveiling her solo project which would culminate in her breakthrough album 'Don't Let the Kids Win’ to interviews with artists such as Lastlings, The Avalanches and Tia Gostelow.

Here, Lee shares her tips for emerging artists to be heard on community radio.

How do you keep up with local/ Australian music?

I listen to FBi (of course!), I stream music podcasts, scan online playlists, I often Shazam music when I’m out and about (or notice an interesting song in the background of a show or movie – so many great Australian acts often make cameos on soundtracks!), I search through Bandcamp, hop on Soundcloud and also look through Amrap every week. I also get emailed lots of music-promo links from record labels and musicians.

What do you think community radio offers to local artists?

Community radio is fantastic because it’s such a fan-led way of discovering music. Presenters aren’t as beholden as commercial DJs, who have to play songs that are already hits. Commercial radio has a long way to go in terms of playing new Australian music – in 2021, there was an online campaign to increase the quota from 25% Australian music, especially as only 6% of that airplay is dedicated to new music.

At FBi, 50% of our music is Australian, and half of that is local. There’s a big focus on new music, so you’re directing the spotlight on upcoming talent and not the same classic acts who’ve been on air for literally decades. Community radio is often presented by people who are music fans first and are excited to share their new music discoveries with you. And their picks are unlikely to be influenced by who has the biggest PR campaign behind their music – you don’t need a fancy bio or following to get heard. Sometimes all it takes is a link through to a song to catch someone’s attention. I’ve definitely discovered many on-air favourites that way.

What is your advice for artists trying to make themselves heard on community radio?

When I started my show back in 2007, I had a stack of physical CDs I listened to every week and could listen to everything in a few hours before my show. Now, the good/bad thing is that the amount of music out there is so vast and unending. Just in my inbox alone, every day, there are countless emails with links to people’s music. The great thing is it’s so accessible to get your music out there.

The tough thing is breaking through, because there is literally so much noise out there. I’d recommend making your music available on as many platforms as possible – don’t assume that Spotify is the primary way people listen to music (it’s not mine); some people look up music on YouTube, I’ve discovered songs via the Soundcloud’s autoplay mechanism, which will roll onto a different track after the song you originally sought out finishes. Bandcamp is fantastic. I’ve been reminded to check out someone’s new record by social media. So, do get your music out there. And also add some key biographical information. I can only play Australian music on my show and sometimes I have to do a lot of detective work to figure out if I can even play a band or producer or singer-songwriter, because they don’t put where they are from in their bio. These small details can make such a big difference!

Who are your favourite recent new musical discoveries, and why?

  • Ghost by Tasuki, I discovered this by seeing the link on AMRAP, literally going ’that sounds like an interesting name, I wonder what their music is like?’ and clicking on it and getting drawn into how haunted and beguiling the song is
  • Mr Taxi Driver by Munan, a Korean-Australian act via Mammal Sounds, which looks after other artists I like (like 44 Ardent, Golden Vessel and 1TBSP)
  • Oscillating In Imaginary Butterflies, the new record for Indonesian-Australian singer-songwriter Matahara

NB: After an incredible 16-year run, Lee's show Local Fidelity had its final episode on Sunday 10 September 2023. We thank Lee for her services in supporting and celebrating local Australian music, and wish her all the best in her future endeavours!

Ghost - Tasuki

Mr Taxi Driver - Munan

Oscillating In Imaginary Butterflies EP - Matahara

You can catch Local Fidelity on Sundays from 7 - 9pm AEST on 94.5FM if you live in Sydney or by streaming it here. You can also find FBi Radio and all the great Australian music championed by community radio on the Community Radio Plus App, which features the diverse range of community radio stations nationwide in one handy spot!