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May 26, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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NEW ZEALAND MUSIC MONTH – “GREAT CONCEPT, BAD EXECUTION

Sophie Barclay, Salient Music Co-Editor

I’m of two minds about New Zealand music month. I think it’s fantastic that we have an initiative to support New Zealand bands and musicians, because god knows it’s really hard to make a living out of music; the funding is not amazing, and there is so much local talent that sometimes it’s hard to get to a point where you can live off your music.

Having said that, someone pointed out to me that New Zealand Music Month is very “Auckland-ised” which I would have to agree with. It’s hugely promoted, and celebrated, in Auckland with heaps of events, from bFM’s ‘NZ Music Week’, to showcases at the King’s Arms and Sky City Theatre. The New Zealand Music Month website shows 86 gigs in Auckland, from now to the end of the month, versus 28 in Wellington. This illustrates the sheer amount of gigs and venues in Auckland. Or maybe it just shows how people here just don’t want to advertise on the NZ Music Month website, or haven’t. It seems that it’s not as big a deal here in Wellington, and why should it be? We have New Zealand Month every month! We have great local bands that play every week, and every weekend. Down here, no one takes much notice of it, and it seems to be perceived as a once-a-year promo tool for those bands that have already ‘made’ it. NZMM definitely has its merits; it has certainly helped bring New Zealand music to the mainstream attention, and led to useful legislation such as the NZ music quota guideline for radios. It is also a useful promotional and marketing tool for bands, and a great excuse to get together a bunch of new, smaller bands, play some wicked shows, and get people to come along and support NZ music in the flesh. However, I think we should be celebrating and promoting New Zealand music all the time, not just in May. Then bands will stop fucking off to Europe and the States. And people will stop buying lame black shirts with stove tops on them from Hallensteins (probably made by exploited workers in China).

Joel Cosgrove, VUWSA President
What does it mean? I think the idea of it is weird and muddied, is New Zealand music a genre? Are we building up an empty bubble? As long as we try view music as some sort of export earner I think we’ll continually fall behind the 8-ball. When we’re comfortable enough to just let people do what they want to do and support that, then maybe NZ music month might be a good idea? How has NZ music month helped Flight of the Concords? Fat Freddies Drop? Liam Finn? Nathan Haines? Those are some of our biggest acts and they have worked “outside” the mainstream “industry”. I think year by year it is losing its novelty factor. Fashion/taste is cyclical, we need to look for something that is less superficial than a once a year promo act.

Stephanie Cairns, Salient Music Contributor
NZ Music Month – great concept, bad execution. The same old criticisms that are aimed at it every year still apply. It’s a month set aside for promoting big name bands that get plenty of promotion in the other 11 months of the year anyway. Shihad, The Datsuns, Fat Freddy’s, Hollie Smith and co – many of them are plenty talented, and sure they deserve recognition, but they don’t need a whole month designated for furthering their careers when they’re already successful.

I guess if you don’t go to many local gigs, listen to Kiwi Fm, Radio Active, the VBC or any other station that actually plays interesting music, or if you watch a lot of C4, even the big name New Zealand groups might seem kind of… alternative. Edgy. Rootsy, even. If, however, you’re not a total moron, you’ll realise that there’s plenty of lesser known local talent that could actually use a leg up.

People who are still playing gigs on Wednesday nights with a $5 door charge, who make absolutely no money out of their hard work (and it is fucking hard work, trust me), get ignored when May comes around and it’s time to pat ourselves on the back for supporting the artists with whole teams of marketing and promotional staff on their side.

New Zealand Music Month smells suspiciously like one of those government-sponsored cultural thingies where they congratulate the people who have already basically made it in their chosen field by giving them an award or something and then sit around feeling all smug because they’re supporting ’emerging’ artists and ‘local culture’. Like when Warren Maxwell got given an Arts Foundation prize in 2006 for ‘young emerging artists’. Where have these people been? Did they miss the whole Trinity Roots era? Warren emerged frickin’ ages ago!

I guess no one wants to be seen giving support to someone who might fail later on. Bollocks I say. NZ Music Month is a great idea, but let’s make it about paying attention to the bands and artists who actually need it.

Sarah Taane, Salient Music Contributor
NZ Music month…I think it has gotten too commercial over the years. I’m all up for supporting local bands, but I don’t think necessarily you need a whole month purely dedicated to it. It should be constantly throughout the year. I think a wider range of NZ artists should be more recognised as well not just your Opshop’s or Brooke Fraser’s.

Christopher Gilbert, Salient Music Contributor
New Zealand Music Month is a two-faced celebration for while it has done good things for the strength of the New Zealand Music Industry it is selective in the ‘New Zealand’ music it supports, often showcasing large internationally and locally successful acts like Bic Runga and Brooke Fraser while ignoring the important undercurrents of NZ Music.

Some points to begin:
1. New Zealand Music Month was a stroke of genius by the NZ Music Commission to boost mainstream support for locally produced music, and get New Zealand’s music industry out of the dark ages.
2. It was in our life times that New Zealand had very little music industry at all; ‘New Zealand Music’, until very recently, simply didn’t exist.
3. Since New Zealand Months launched in 2001, kiwi content on the radio has grown from 10% in 2000 to almost 23% in 2005 (Stats New Zealand fails to point out the 30% quota placed by the government), and sales of New Zealand made records grew from 5.45% to 10%.

Great stats, but there is little good to say about New Zealand Music Month anymore. It used to be a decent reason at first for the Labour government to say what a bang-up job its doing at promoting kiwi talent, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t. It promotes kiwi music that sells. It promotes kiwi music that’s going to help shape pretty statistics like the ones mentioned above. New Zealand Music Month is marketed as being about just that, all New Zealand music. But there are many bands, acts and genres that often get excluded from brand ‘New Zealand’. Whatever selection criteria the NZ Music Commission has established contains cracks through which decent still largely unknown kiwi acts fall. A good example: Amy Racecar, an incredibly talented synth-punk band from Hamilton that was infamous throughout the city (and in some cases the North Island) that has now sadly moved overseas to Melbourne. Had they perhaps been included in the same ‘New Zealand Music’ class that includes Disasteradio, Brooke Fraser, and Goodnight Nurse, they wouldn’t have felt the need to find success overseas, and would be another potential success story for the government.

But New Zealand Music Month doesn’t look that far below the surface. It looks to what the sedated minds of New Zealand youth can be swayed into liking. If it truly is ‘New Zealand Music’ that is being promoted then why don’t I see indigenous Maori ensembles on C4? Why isn’t the folk quartet of bum-fuck Southland currently experiencing a surge in popularity?

I say, Fuck New Zealand Music Month. Nobody can possibly support all the music that can be branded “New Zealand”, and if you do you’re a total fuckwit. I’m glad New Zealand Music Month has been good for our music industry, but now perhaps we can stop wearing those stupid target t-shirts, and stop sucking the cock of everything that is “NZ Made” and develop some taste of our own, because most of what New Zealand Music Month supports is derivative of overseas acts anyway. Great, New Zealand has a strong music industry; now let’s start being critical again so untalented fuck ups like the Ruby Suns never achieve the undeserved popularity they’re enjoying.

Benjamin Wakely, Salient Music Contributor
Definitely a good idea no matter what way you look at it. Personally I am not too fussed with many of the Bands that claim title to the upper echelons of the NZ Music hierarchy at the moment (with exceptions like Hollie Smith and the Phoneix Foundation). We still seem to be recovering from the influx of the NZ dub wave, but there is no doubt that there is potential, and there are scores of great underground bands waiting to be discovered!!! NZ has a unique songwriting contingent and the more we publicly acknowledge that potential through things like NZ music month the better off our
scene will be because of this.

Michael Cleary, Salient Music Contributor
Undecided. It seems strange to promote music simply because it comes from here, rather than other (better) music. It just seems a bit nauseating and patriotic. But local artists do find it hard to make a living, and if we can help them, by supporting them, then they better not fuck off overseas. If Music month does work, and justifies the swarms of schmucks in those t-shirts all month, and more great bands come from here, that gives us all a better chance to see them live for cheaper. So maybe it could be a good thing…

Lucy Von Sturmer, Salient Music Contributor
I was having this conversation with somebody the other day. They told me that they thought NZ month has a stupid idea. Now I thought this was a little odd coming from somebody who was involved in the NZ music industry and promoted a kiwi band. However, they informed me that they were sick of the mediocre mentality that came with it. The ‘Yay! We’re kiwis and we’re making music and isn’t that so cool!’ vibe. In their view what was cool was good NZ music, not any NZ music and we didn’t need a month to remind us that we’ve got good shit here too.

I disagree. Yes, people do have the tendency to jump on the old ‘good on ya! You’re doing something’ band wagon. Who cares? A little over indulgent support never did anyone any harm and why shouldn’t bands get a chance to promote what they’re up to? NZ music month may be a little ‘lame’ to hard core music lovers who know what’s what regardless of where it comes from. For the rest of us, its great time to see some of our favourite acts and discover a few new ones. So yes, I think it does promote NZ artists….

Rodney Parnell, Salient Music Contributor
New Zealand music month is an embarrassing annual ritual of jingoistic, aural flagellation, which only endeavours to sell a few more Feelers albums, and leave the consumer with that same greasy aftertaste that the last Kiwi burger gave them.

The Best New Zealand Songs Ever, by the VBC DJs. (Interestingly, most of the songs come from bands who probably weren’t promoted during NZMM)

Murdoch Stephens – Breakfast host (7-10a.m Weekdays) – “Traditional New Zealand Folk Song”, by Greg Malcolm (Trust Only This Face).

Matthew David and Matthew McDonald-George – Saturday Whimsy (2-6p.m Saturday) – “Fall”, by Hell is Other People.

Georgie Ormond – Tuesday Drive (4-7p.m) – “Buddy” by Snapper.

James and Miriam Malthus – Suburban Wonderland (1p.m Thursdays) – “Polyester
Meets Acetate” by The Brunettes (Mars loves Venus).

Other Top Tracks:

Upper Hutt Posse – E Tu (Te Reo Remix)
Alastair Galbraith – Song to the Third
The Gordons – Adults and Children
Snapper – Buddy
Cassette – handbag
HDU – Lull
Looma – Double Park
The Clean – Twist Top
Pumice – Rift
The Subliminals – Speed of Sound
Superette – Touch Me
Chris Knox – Statement of Intent
Survivor – Rua Kenana

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Comments (5)

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  1. Stella says:

    Rodney Parnell, you said it! I’m going to talk about Brooke Fraser here, because to me this revolting woman symbolises all that is wrong with NZMM. For starters, there’s nothing especially Kiwi about her music. It’s a cheap knock-off of crappy American bubblegum pop, yet we are promoting it as a superior homegrown product. And of course, having already made it, she doesn’t need to be soaking up limelight and funding that other artists desperately need to kickstart their own careers.
    Not all the artists promoted by NZMM are shite, but the sad fact is that by focusing on artists who have made it, NZMM diverts our attention and money away from those who are beginning their careers and could benefit most from some exposure. These artists get pushed to one side during May and because May is Music Month they get ignored the rest of the year as well. We have been conditioned to think of NZ music as a certain group of artists, to the point where we don’t know what is really out there. Until they hit the big time overseas.

  2. SATAN says:

    “It promotes kiwi music that sells. It promotes kiwi music that’s going to help shape pretty statistics like the ones mentioned above. New Zealand Music Month is marketed as being about just that, all New Zealand music. But there are many bands, acts and genres that often get excluded from brand ‘New Zealand’”

    bang on mate – anything that is a little unconservative or different is ignored. Where are the wacky jazz bands? Akaname is off to Oz what a bummer? Those guys are so talented, and they were left to their own devices so boring shit can be played on C4 all night. And where is the fucking metal? There are some great metal acts around these days. We’re sick of being labelled as just moron drunks. We smoke weed as well.

  3. Spiffy says:

    “untalented fuck ups”?
    Did Ryan steal your girlfriend or something, Chris?
    Also, swearing just to prove a point doesn’t make you cool. Have you even listened to ‘Sea Lion’?

  4. Chris says:

    You’re right, I’m just cool anyway.

    Yes, I have listened to Sea Lion, many times. Otherwise I wouldn’t comment on it.

    Thank you though.

  5. WANKER says:

    I just wish all you whining kiwi rock legends would shut up and upload as much of your fine derivative, commercial, pop, off-shore-influenced New Zealand content as you can for me to listen to, in freely available MP3 format preferably.
    Christ, I thought you culturally anal dickheads had lost all this precious kiwiana revery…..didn’t the 90’s teach you anything ???

    Dear God how hard can this be….?

    PLAY….just fucking PLAY !…..and be happy – this seems to work for the rest of the world.

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