Will Tones and I top The Hottest 100 this year? Picture: Getty
Will Tones and I top The Hottest 100 this year? Picture: Getty

Secrets behind the Hottest 100

The winner of this year's Triple J Hottest 100 has already been decided.

And less than 10 people know who it is ahead of it being revealed on Saturday night.

Ollie Wards, Triple J's Content Director is one of the inner sanctum.

"The group (of people who know the results) starts as small as possible, we bring people in as they need to know. It's a state secret as far as we're concerned, we keep the security pretty high."

A cagey Wards says while votes had been "insanely" close for the last few weeks and the Top 3 songs had been "shifting around" the No. 1 song has "cemented its lead" after the onslaught of last-minute voting (the final day of voting is always the busiest day in the whole month voting is open).

Since voting closed Wards and his team are now preparing for Saturday - lining up interviews with artists in the poll (who've been sworn to secrecy), checking facts and stats and getting the entire roll out for the world's biggest music poll ready.

Hottest 100 contenders Thelma Plum with Toni Watson (Tones and I). Picture: Britta Campion
Hottest 100 contenders Thelma Plum with Toni Watson (Tones and I). Picture: Britta Campion

"We've set our boardroom up as the cone of silence, we have people who basically live in there this week, crunching numbers. It's kind of like Santa's Workshop before Christmas."

Each year there's some kind of drama around the Hottest 100, which is to be expected when you're the biggest countdown in the country. There was the year KFC tried to infiltrate the poll, the hoo-ha around Taylor Swift's Shake It Off not being eligible (songs must be played on the station in the eligibility window to be able to be voted for) and the ongoing debate about moving the poll from January 26 - a move made by the station after holding a poll which found the majority of their listeners wanted the Hottest 100 aired on a less problematic date.





This year has been relatively controversy-free. This week website Pilerats posted an opinion piece questioning whether cover versions of old songs - such as those heard on Triple J's segment Like a Version (where artists remake songs) should be eligible for the 2019 Hottest 100. It follows website 100 Warm Tunas, which aims to predict votes by tracking votes posted on social media, stating US rapper Denzel Curry's cover of Rage Against the Machine's 1996 song Bulls on Parade is currently favourite to be No. 1, ahead of Billie Eilish, Mallrat and G Flip.

"I can see why people would potentially think it's a bit inside baseball having a performance on Triple J voted into Triple J's Hottest 100," Wards admits. "But I would say the thing with voting is if it's popular then it will get up to that top spot. It is a poll for Triple J's audience to decide on their favourite songs of the year.

"Usually Like a Versions are quite a significant reworking of a song, and reworkings of songs are eligible in the Hottest 100, that includes remixes as well, and in a way it'd be unfair to exclude Like a Versions because the artists put a lot of effort into them, they have a massive impact with our audience and beyond each year. For a Like a Version to get in the countdown speaks to its own popularity."

Triple J content director Ollie Wards is deep in votes but his lips are sealed. Pic: Cole Bennetts
Triple J content director Ollie Wards is deep in votes but his lips are sealed. Pic: Cole Bennetts

100 Warm Tunas currently has Tones And I's Dance Monkey tracking at No.8. Warm Tunas creator Nick Whyte said there is a chance some Triple J listeners have been too "embarrassed" to post their votes for Dance Monkey on social media now the song has spent a record-breaking 24 weeks at No. 1 on the ARIA chart.

There's also the burn-out factor of the song being rinsed on commercial radio - it's now being aired on TV ads for Channel 10's Dancing With the Stars - a long way from Tones And I's beginnings on Triple J Unearthed."



"The song has certainly had its fair share of airtime on many different stations, and there's only so many times you can hear a song before you've had enough," Whyte said. "I personally enjoyed the song initially, but as it became overplayed its appeal wore off."

Wards is tight-lipped about where Dance Monkey is currently ranking.

"Wait and see where it gets in the countdown, that will show how much of a favourite song it has been for Triple J listeners in the last year. It is an amazing song that has broken the ARIA record, it's had so many streams, people should celebrate the success of that song and the artist who has had this incredible rise to fame, that deserves its own shout out whether she wins the Hottest 100 or whether it places elsewhere in the countdown or doesn't. To have a backlash against that success is unnecessary."




There's 3.2 million votes polled this year - up 16.4 per-cent from last year.

Ollie Wards: "You could do some simple maths, but it's hundreds of thousands of people voting this year. We're focusing on the number of votes. The systems we have in place to make sure people only vote once are pretty good. It's not perfect, people may have multiple email addresses or Facebook accounts."


Some voters don't use all 10 slots available to them.

"The average number of votes this year was 9.6 per user. That's a really high amount. Some people only vote for one song. Most people have used up all their spots. Sometimes we joke what if you could donate your blank spots to a friend."


Some people vote for just one song. Who are these people?

"It happens. Some people might be really passionate about one particular song. Most people agonise over the playlists. We can see throughout the voting period there's shortlists people sit on that they don't actually hit the submit button on. Hundreds of thousands of songs get stuck in the purgatory of being in peoples' shortlists." 

Creator of 100 Warm Tunas Nick Whyte is also busy counting votes. Pic: Supplied
Creator of 100 Warm Tunas Nick Whyte is also busy counting votes. Pic: Supplied

The last minute rush is real

"The biggest day was on Monday, it was huge. In the past we've closed voting on a Sunday but giving it that final afternoon push during a work day seems to go hard."


So real, Triple J's servers crashed on Monday afternoon, just before votes closed

"Even though we build up the server to withstand the demand it still faltered a little bit with 15 minutes to go before voting closed. We had to restart the server. There were people on voting with 10 minutes to go who got logged out, so we extended voting for another 30 minutes to get those people through."


More females vote for the Hottest 100 than males - this year 55.5% females, 42.4% males and 2.1% non-binary, unspecificied or other.

"Last year was 53% female, it's slightly higher this year. From the start of the campaign it's much higher than that, women tend to vote early, for the first few weeks the vote is over 60% female, the guys seemingly tend to leave it to the last minute."


45.3% of voters are aged 18-24, 77.5% of voters are under 30.

"We're really happy with that, we're the youth radio station, our target demographic is 18 to 24 year olds, we're unashamedly targeting that age group. So to see the biggest proportion coming from that six year age group is amazing. For the vast majority of the votes to come from people under 30 is so on point for the music we are looking to curate and have people decide on."

Mallrat is one of the Australian acts likely to be in the Hottest 100. Picture: Patrick Gee
Mallrat is one of the Australian acts likely to be in the Hottest 100. Picture: Patrick Gee

And Triple J are wise to campaigns designed to subvert voting in the Hottest 100 - often run on Facebook.

"We keep a pretty close eye on the behaviour of campaigns, artists, labels, any type of promotions of songs encouraging voting. We have guidelines on the sites about that, anything that trolls the poll or offers an incentive for voting we're always quick to act and stamp that out. In the past there's been prizes if you can prove you voted for somebody, we don't allow that. What we want is genuine votes. If there's fans of a group who might be reminding people to post for a particular artist that's usually OK, but if there's some sort of commercial interest behind it we'd take quick action." 


And if you're wondering, Nick Whyte is continuing his Warm Tunas predictions until the Hottest 100 starts, with a website and Spotify playlist. Whyte accurately picked the last two No1s, in 2018 he picked 7 out of the eventual Top 10 and 83 out of the Top 100. He's already counted over 43,000 votes found through social media or sent directly to him on Instagram.

"We are still collecting votes up until midnight on Friday, so plenty of time for people to share their votes and have them counted by 100 Warm Tunas," Whyte says. "Expect the predictions to shuffle around as we collect more data. Additionally I expect to spend Friday tuning the counting algorithm to ensure votes are counted correctly and more accurately."


Triple J's Hottest 100 starts midday Saturday. Monday January 27 hear the Hottest 100, positions 200 - 101 on Triple J from 10am. Double J will play the Hottest 100 of 1999 on Monday January 27 from 10am

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