As New Zealand Music Month moves into its second decade, it would be a prudent time to assess what exactly it is and/or does, how it works, and what it aims to achieve. While its logo can’t be missed in and around May, and fans of the widely recognisable target have a chance to increase their t-shirt collections, what exactly is it there for and what does it do for New Zealand bands and the music they make? While New Zealand Music Week began in 1997 for the sole purpose of increasing the amount of music produced by New Zealanders in radio during that particular week, it grew into NZ Music Month in 2000, coinciding with the establishment of the New Zealand Music Commission. Brendan Smyth, the music manager of NZ on Air, was a part of the establishment of New Zealand Music Week in 1997 and has been an integral cog in the Music Month wheel.
What were the main goals for NZ Music Month when it was first established?
NZ Music Month started out as NZ Music Week in 1997. It was an initiative of the ‘Kiwi Music Action Group’ which was NZ On Air, the RBA (radio industry), RIANZ (the record companies), APRA (songwriters) and the Musicians Union (performers). It turned into NZ Music Month in 2000 and the original five ‘shareholders’ expanded to include the newly-established NZ Music Commission.
Originally, NZ Music Week/NZ Music Month was all about getting more New Zealand music on the radio. It was originally solely a radio promotion. But since 2000, it has morphed into a community-wide celebration of all things New Zealand music, not just radio and now it is an NZ Music Commission property. They are the hub of the NZ Music Month promotion these days.
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How have those goals been reached?
New Zealand music used to be 2% on commercial radio in the early 1990s. In 1997, when the Kiwi Music Action Group launched NZ Music Week, it was 6.01%. Since then, local music content on commercial radio has steadily (but slowly … !) increased. Now it’s about 19-20%.
That’s the result of a lot of factors – NZ On Air’s work, the Code agreement (the voluntary quota), more savvy musicians and labels, a new generation of radio programmers who love New Zealand music and have replaced old-school cultural cringe, etc – but NZ Music Month is one of the factors. It has raised the profile of New Zealand music everywhere.
However, as I say, NZ Music Month is not just about radio now. It’s much more about live music in the community these days and encouraging everyone to participate in New Zealand music … buy a record, go to a gig, make music, etc.
How important has the quota been for NZ music on radio?
It’s not really a “quota” because it is not compulsory and it is not mandated by law. It’s more like a “voluntary quota” but we call it the NZ Music Code agreement. It’s an agreement between the RBA (Radio Broadcasters Association) on behalf of commercial radio and the Minister of Broadcasting on behalf of the Government whereby the radio industry agreed to work towards 20% New Zealand music over a five-year period from 2002 to 2006.
In fact, radio has delivered 20% in only one of those five years … in 2005 when it got to 20.79% … but there is no doubt that the Code agreement was a breakthrough in the local content campaign because things had plateau-ed at 11-12% before the Code and now things have plateau-ed at 19-20%.