Hard News by Russell Brown


Understanding the Audiences

The Radio New Zealand press release announcing its new survey results arrived last Thursday under a very restrained billing: the headline was 'RNZ Radio Research Results'. At the time of writing, the release doesn't even appear on the broadcaster's media releases page.

It fell to the Sunday Star Times to go with the more celebratory Bloody marvellous! John Campbell and Morning Report lead RNZ to a ratings resurgence, and to declare Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking "dethroned" by Morning Report.

It's a very strong result for RNZ, not least because it puts to bed the awkward audience slump of 2014, which saw the cume (ie: weekly cumulative audience) for RNZ National and Concert dip below 500,000 and led CEO Paul Thompson to venture that his strategic changes were generating "speed wobbles".

The new survey has the two stations' cume at an impressive 600,200. But even that recovery had already happened. In January RNZ was able to report a cume of 564,000, or about where it was before Thompson turned up as a change agent. Further, Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Midday Report, The Panel, Checkpoint, Saturday Morning and Sunday Morning are the most popular shows in their respective timeslots, by both cume and share (ie: the share of all radio listening at the time).

Morning Report attracting more listeners than Newstalk ZB Breakfast isn't actually a new thing – in 2012, for example, Morning Report, hosted by Geoff Robinson and Simon Mercep, was found to be the most popular radio show in the country, with an average 342,000 listeners.

The difference is that those earlier figures were in the survey RNZ has long commissioned from Neilsen, and not the same ratings survey by which the commercial stations live or die. That separation, and Radio New Zealand's parsimonious approach in publishing the results (it had more information about individual show performance than it ever released) has often led critics to suppose that RNZ was somehow scared to be compared to commercial broadcasters.

In truth, the commercial stations hated having RNZ in "their" survey much more than RNZ disliked being there – for the simple reason that having the large public radio audience in the mix accordingly reduced their share numbers. But RNZ is in the new survey conducted by the Australian company GfK, which took over the commercial ratings from Research International last year, after a messy period in which there was no overall commercial ratings survey.

And, as Stop Press explained last week, a face-saving agreement has been reached:

The results come a week after the results for the commercial market but was in line with an agreement between the Radio Broadcasters Association and RNZ.

The industry felt a separation would ensure commercial radio results and RNZs results are given the appropriate level of exposure, and there would be no confusion in the market, according to a GfK release.

This is the first set of nationwide results under GfK’s new research methodology that has brought together RNZ and the commercial stations in one rating system.

While it is possible to compare RNZ to its commercial competitors, GfK said the station shares (percentages) cannot be compared. This is because the share results in the commercial radio reports are based on all commercial radio listening and the share results in the RNZ report are based on total New Zealand radio listening.

This produces a contradiction when the numbers are put together. Morning Report has a weekly audience of 385,900 people, which it converts to a 13.8% share of all people listening at that time. Newstalk ZB's Hosking Breakfast show attracts a weekly audience of only 342,000, which it is entitled to state as a 15.6% share.

So the commercial networks get to claim their own station shares, RNZ can truthfully claim to be the clear leader in news radio and The Edge's well-engineered pop fare makes it the most listened-to individual station in the land.


Although GfK was chosen by the Radio Broadcasters Association as the new radio ratings company in part because of its expertise in measuring digital audiences, only conventional broadcast ratings have been published so far. But, by chance I think, NZ On Air published the second round of its intriguing Where are the Audiences? survey last week too.

The first instance of this survey was conducted in 2014 by Colmar Brunton. This year's was carried out by Glasshouse Consulting, but let's assume they're comparable apart from stated changes, which include the addition of questions about devices used to consume media and and "simultanous media consumption" or so-called second-screen use. Use of local and international SVOD (subscriber video on demand) was measured separately this time and there were questions about webseries viewing.

The trends are about what you'd expect: the weekly reach of linear TV (both pay and free-to-air), live radio and newspapers has declined in the past two years. A remarkable 35% of us are using SVOD services weekly, and more than two thirds of that audience is using local services. Online radio listening is up from 12% to 18% and the growth is all local. Time spent watching video on sites such as Facebook and YouTube has more than doubled to 40 minutes a day.

Listening to music on CD or "iPod" (which seems to mean offline listening) is down from 69% to 53% weekly and listening to music on Spotify has nearly doubled to 21%. Music streaming across all services has increased fivefold in two years, with 59% using it on a given day.

There's a nice little nugget buried in there for RNZ: the daily reach of RNZ National has bucked the trends and edged up from 12% to 13% of the population – against a small decline in overall radio listening.

Although linear TV still attracts more consumers than any other medium,  by a large margin – 81% of us watch it on a given day – the biggest differentiator in using alternatives is age. The younger you are, the more online media you're likely to consume.

But ... that doesn't apply to New Zealand-made webseries. One in 10 of us have watched a local webseries, but they're most popular not among the otherwise online-friendly under 25 year-olds, but in the 25-44 demographic, of whom 16% said they'd watched one. There's a problem here and I suspect it's the same one faced by local music – getting noticed amid the vast international offerings.

But it's actually worse in some ways for local webseries, because they're scattered across a range of places (NZME's NZ On Air funded webseries, for example, are exclusive to NZME's WatchMe website). Even if you're watching via TVNZ OnDemand, a low-budget webseries will tend to get lost amid catch-up viewing for flagship TV shows. Given that some of the best creative work is being done in that format, this is going to take some thinking about. NZ On Air may have to look at trying to aggregate the webseries it funds and putting them in as many places as possible – including the SVOD services.

Anyway, there's much more in Where Are the Audiences?, so feel free to dig around that and the GfK site and see what strikes you.


Friday Music: Down at the Crystal Palace

The electricity gods have been angry today, so I'll get straight to the point: Lawrence Arabia is playing at Mt Eden's Crystal Palace theatre this evening, with a string section – and a (solo) SJD in support. There's no way this ain't gonna be great. It's also your last chance to see them before they head off for dates in the UK and France.

And I have a double pass to give away. Just click the email link at the bottom of this post and mail me with "Lawrence Arabia" as the subject line. I'll do a draw at 4pm today, which will leave all the non-winners time to buy a ticket here.


Moana Maniapoto has written a wonderful column remembering Dalvanius Prime. And the comments are really good too. With Tearepa Kahi's Poi E: The Story of Our Song poised for general release, it seems we're paying some overdue atention to a proper legend.

Here's Dalvanius and the Fascinations from 1977. Awww yeah.


Shaft have released their first track in decade and it's everything you'd expect and hope for – just madly, madly tuneful. I was singing along to the chorus the first time I played it.

They're playing with Minisnap, Nakey and others tonight at the Darkroom in Christchurch.

I've been following trippy West Auckland hip hop crew Third3ye for a while now and I think they've gone up a level with their new album 3P. It's conscious and funky like this:

The whole album's only $6 on Bandcamp

Shayne Carter and Don McGlashan are reprising their Auckland Arts Festival team-up and hitting the road for a tour together in October. Their new website – donandshayne.com – has the info, including the news that a live-in-studio CD, recorded at The Lab the day of their arts festival show, will be exclusively on sale at the gigs.

Impressive electronic producer-artist Peach Milk launches her EP Finally tonight at Whammy. Under the Radar has the exclusive on the Soundcloud stream, along with an interview.


Turns out, there's a lost William Burroughs album and it's seeing the light of day now, nearly 20 years after he died. It's Burroughs reading from The Naked Lunch, backed by Bill Frisell and others. You can listen to and read about here.

And if you like that, you'll probably be interested in staring at this one-of-a-kind Sun Ra record that for sale on eBay at the moment.


Thanks to Stuart Page for the heads-up on this YouTube channel of conncerts from New Jersey's Capitol Theatre from 1973 to 1987. Let's be clear: some of them are in very murky black and white and rather a lot of them are Grateful Dead shows – but there are some gems, including Prince, Parliament, Elvis Costello and this 1984 show by REM, which opens with a country-stye cover of 'Pale Blue Eyes':



Aussie two-steppers Cup & String have a new EP out, but I'll do that when it's available more widely and not just on Traxsource. But for now, they've made their remix of the Nightcrawlers 90s club hit 'Push the Feeling On' a free download. I like this.


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


The Unitary Plan and grown-up conversations

News media and interest groups have, of course, been immersed in the contents of the Independent Hearings Panel recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan since their publication yesterday. But perhaps we should also take a moment to consider the meaning of the panel's report. Because it really does change things.

Right up until yesterday, it has been possible to characterise the desire to plan for intensification and provide for growth, as the work of fools, knaves, loons, vandals, nameless planners and Len Brown. Opponents of the Unitary Plan will doubtless continue to wilfully misrepresent the implications of the Unitary Plan, but their job is harder now. The kind of insult salad aspirant Auckland councillor Bill Ralston dished up in March doesn't really work any more.

The imprimateur of a quasi-judicial body has shifted debate on the plan to a different place, not least because the IHP has gone further  than the council itself. Effectively, some grown-ups have looked at it all and come to a conclusion. As flawed as it was in some ways, the government's 2010 super-city legislation laid the ground for that by requiring the oversight of an independent panel rather than council-appointed commissioners.

That doesn't mean the debate is over. The IHP's removal of mana whenua protections will be controversial (it's remarkable how some councillors and commentators seem to believe heritage protections are something only middle-class wote folks get) and there are many other points of contention. But I honestly think the coversation must be more sensible now, whether that suits some people or not.


DNC 2016: Beyond weird, most of the way to scary

Where to even start? As the Democratic Convention gets underway in Philadelphia, crowds of disaffected Sanders delegates – motivated by a dump of Democratic National Committee emails which seem very likely to have been taken in a hack overseen by Russian intelligence agencies who may well be working in the interests of the Trump campaign – seem set on disrupting the event, even though their guy is begging them not to.

In truth, while the emails are awkward for the DNC, they reflect what was a fairly public enmity between the Sanders campaign and the Democratic Party machine at the time they were written. And they do not show that the primary election was "rigged" or that the Sanders campaign was "sabotaged".

Although Pew Research finds that Democratic voters who supported Sanders during the primary now overwhelmingly say they will vote for Clinton, it will be the crowds inside and outside the convention hall who believe Taylor Swift – sorry, Hillary Clinton – is the devil will get all the oxygen.

This is going to be an interesting four days. Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama are lined up to speak. Lord knows where it goes. Would a group hug be out of order?


Friday Music: Back on the K

One of the best things that happened on Karangahape Road last year was Flying Out's The Others Way Festival. The multi-venue event showed that it was possible to present a diverse lineup for a range of demographics and sell the thing out.

It was notable that the early showtimes and adherence to the schedule drew out a lot of people who maybe don't go to that many gigs and it seemed to mesh perfectly with K Road's peculiar sense of community.

Flying Out has announced that it's back on Friday, September 2, and there's an earlybird offer on tickets. Notably, the Las Vegas and the old Samoa House have been added as venues. One day, they'll get to close K Road itself, but this looks great.

Also, Auckland City Limits is back on Saturday, March 11, 2017.


The longlist for the Apra Silver Scrolls is out, and while it's perhaps not quite as jammed with hits as last year's, it's a notably varied list, from Dave Dobbyn's 'Harmony House' and David Dalla's protest song 'Don't Rate That' to Shayne Carter's imposing, gothic 'We Will Rise Again'. It's really nice to see Street Chant's 'Pedestrian Support League' in there.


Speaking of Shayne P Carter, Flying Nun has announced the September 9 release date of the "piano album", Offsider:

And the associated tour dates:

  • Thursday 18th August, The Tuning Fork, Auckland
Friday 19th August, Bar Bodega, Wellington

  • Friday 26th August, Blue Smoke, Christchurch

  • Saturday 27th August, The Cook, Dunedin


Unknown Mortal Orchestra's first track in a while, 'First World Problems', is their most funky, nimble tune yet. And now there's a video, in which interpretive dance serves as a fucking-and-fighting metaphor. Well, I think that's what it's about ...

Also fresh: Tourettes has a great video for another taster from his forthcoming album. Whammy Bar stands in for the Big Apple. Very short and proper mad.


British reggae writer and photographer Dave Hendley passed away this week. He wasn't well known outside reggae business, but if you have a Trojan Records compilation, he may have been the compiler. Here, he wrote about his love for reggae and, more particularly, for the "liberated raw graphics" of Jamaican cover art showcased in sleeves like this:

American Photo magazine showcased some of his pictures of reggae legends at work in JA (thanks for the tip, Dubhead), along with his stories about getting them:

“Probably the most pictures I ever took of anyone, in one of those brief encounters where you take pictures for three or four minutes, was Gregory Isaacs. It took me a month to pluck up the courage to photograph him. He had a bad reputation—he was a very sweet singer, but he was also an out-and-out hoodlum. I think it was a Saturday morning, and we were flying out that night, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get a picture of Gregory Isaacs.’ He was my favorite singer at the time. I saw him down on the North Parade, I said “Gregory, can I take your picture.” He just dropped into a crouched position, he was wearing these very heavy shades, and he just looked completely menacing. I did eight frames, four frames with the glasses off, four with the glasses on—quite nervous, hands shaking.”


At Audioculture, Murray Cammick has the richly-illustrated story of The Datsuns, from their apprenticeship opening for every international band band that came to Hamilton to – almost instantly, it seemed at the time – the cover of NME. It's really worth a read.

Also new on Audioculture: Gareth Shute profiles DJ DLT, from the beginnings of Upper Hutt Posse on. I still remember booking them during my brief spell as a dance party maestro. They were much harder than any of the Auckland rap crews – and DLT did his stuff with but one turntable. He recalls that in the story:

“At some point during the recording of the album, we borrowed a mixer. It was hard core because I had to learn it on the fly, while recording it. I didn't have a mixer at home to practise on or anything like that. In 1989, when we moved to Auckland, we got lots of gigs so I did eventually get a better set-up, but it was still only one turntable. All the photos from back in the day, you can see that I've only got one turntable and a mixer.”

Here's one from 1990 with the newly luxurious two-turntable set-up:


Simon Grigg has digitised a long-lost video of the Screaming Meemees playing at the Brown Trout Festival in Dannevirke in in 1983. As you might expect, the North Shore boys didn't go down well with everyone in the crowd and the set was cut short when a bottle from the crowd struck Tony Drumm. But it lasted long enough for the band to play a couple of songs that were never recorded:


One of the diversions at the horrorshow that has been the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week has been the interludes with the house band, which have not been the wall-to-wall country-rock you might expect. I've been telling people how they played David Bowie's 'Station to Station' on day one and people don't entirely believe me – so here it is. And yeah, they murdered it:



The Golden Pony are back with another loping, funky house tune. Free download:

If you read the news, you'll know that Turkey's got some problems right now. But there's always disco. Beam Me Up Disco just presented this great mix from Istanbul's Mercan Senel:

She has a bunch of wiggy re-takes on Turkish disco classics. Check this:

And finally, staying with the disco groove, Patrick Cowley's classic 1979 remix of Lipps, Inc's 'Funkytown' is on free download at HearThis. It's a reshare-to-download deal and you might as well grab it now!


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant