Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Changing Times

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  • Ian Dalziel,

    Another high profile voice of dissent from his facebook page linking to Vicki's article in support.
    - Chris Matthews :

    that would be the Chris Matthews who said in 2009:

    Q: What is your opinion of funding avenues and support networks like the NZ Music Commission, NZ On Air, Creative NZ? Have they been as helpful to you as you would have liked? Do you think they represent the country well and talent-spot effectively?

    A: Brilliant! Great! Fantastic! There would possibly be bugger all local content on commercial radio and on TV in this country if it wasn't for the vision of a few individuals a few years back, to help us poor starving musicians out and fund our videos and albums and whatnot, particularly NZ On Air.

    And it's kinda sad that we needed a quota system to force our commercial radio stations (and I stress the word "commercial", 'cos local student/community radio has always been brilliant at driving down the road-less-travelled) to actually play our bands but it was necessary: it's good to remind younger people that those same radio stations, only 20-something years ago, would NOT play Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over until it was a hit overseas! Probably the most radio-friendly local song ever written, by Neil Finn who'd had loads of hits for years with his iconic Split Enz songs, and they STILL wouldn't play it until it was quantified by offshore success - welcome to the cultural cringe that was the "Noo Zillund" of the 70s and 80s. (And aren't you glad these days, kids, that not only can you get your song into the charts quite easily but also have some advertising/TVNZ-promotions guru get it on high rotate on telly within weeks of its release, peddling virtually anything that's available to sell to the drooling public? Believe me, I know where bands make the most money with their songs in this country and it ain't from selling albums).

    Anyway, I think the Headless Chickens (and loads of other bands over the years) have been very well served by NZ On Air and the Music Commission but I'd be happy to get a bit more funding from anyone! Let's do lunch...! My people will talk to your people...!

    reflecting on his 2005 grant for the Robot Monkey Orchestra Map of Love performance (music by Chris, words by some chap Dylan Thomas, whose estate must be raking it in now!) which became a CD (which I believe was funded in 2007...)

    ...and don't forget the Headless Chickens got their big recording leg-up by winning the Rheineck Rock Award in the '80s
    - is there a current corporate equivalent of this?
    C4 maybe?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So you have an government organisation with a primary function "to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture" which is not directly or formally responsible to anyone but itself on issues of what is worthy of being reflected and developed.

    The step you left out is the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, which funds and monitors NZ On Air (as well as Creative New Zealand, which got $15,689,000 last year --plus $25,170,192 from the Lotteries Board).

    Here's the page on the Digital Content Partnership Fund 2010, with NZ On Air.

    To encourage the widest range of innovative proposals NZ on Air is not limiting ideas to a particular target audience or genre. We are seeking genuinely original online audio visual content that can attract and engage new audiences in significant numbers, preferably on more than one platform. The content must reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture, and a clear understanding of and focus on a particular audience is key.

    Here's MCH's briefing to Jonathan Coleman in 2008:

    In response to the increasing range of platforms for audio-visual content, the legislative functions of both NZ On Air and its Māori equivalent Te Māngai Pāho have been updated to allow both agencies to support local content created specifically for platforms other than conventional radio and television ... Funding has been increased to NZ On Air to be made available on a contestable basis for local content on public and private television, and for popular music.

    Looking forward, fast-changing developments in digital broadcasting technology pose fresh challenges - and opportunities – for New Zealand broadcasters. Local audiences are likely to keep fragmenting as a multiplicity of services comes on stream, although technology also enables broadcasters to complement their core channels with specialised services. This highlights the profound value to New Zealanders of visible and accessible public services and local content and the challenge for government as it engages with the future of public broadcasting in New Zealand.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    that would be the Chris Matthews who said in 2009:

    Um, gosh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    I still don't understand what your underlying motive is in championing the concept of funding schemes Russell. Some of the ideas you and others present on ways to fine tune the system are not bad, assuming these systems must stay. But why must they stay?

    and were obliged to move to develop their careers -- is not the fault of NZ On Air.

    If you look at a list of video and single grants for the last umpteen years, your suggestion to move to Auckland to develop your career is sound advice, but I don't feel that move to Auckland to get a single or video grant truly exemplifies the mandate of the scheme as intended;

    (1) The primary functions of the Commission are—
    (a) to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture by—

    Why retain a scheme that would distort our cultural landscape so much? How is forcing New Zealand musicians/videomakers to compete against government made videos, anything but a hurdle in the path of the aspiring artist? Assuming $5000 can buy you a pretty decent camera/ recording setup these days, why is the government not fulfilling it's more crucial mandate in encouraging young New Zealanders to develop savings habits?

    Why continue giving this money away to the few when it could provide practise rooms, recording spaces, film gear to the many, under the management of councils?

    Why do you need to see more of New Zealand on radio and TV? Just look out the window.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I still don't understand what your underlying motive is in championing the concept of funding schemes Russell. Some of the ideas you and others present on ways to fine tune the system are not bad, assuming these systems must stay. But why must they stay?

    I don't have an "underlying motive" -- and that's really a kind of crappy thing to say to your host.

    The premise of the Real Groove story was that the existing funding could be better used, and the system had failed to keep pace with the times. That was the starting point.

    Contestible funding has almost always been introduced to fill the gap when public service has been rolled back. The dole became PACE. The Broadcasting Commission/NZ On Air was given the licence fee that had previously sustained state broadcasting and dispensed it on a contestible basis. National abolished the licence fee in the late 90s and it now comes out of general taxation. This virtual licence fee is what funds NZ On Air.

    So that's the precedent for a public obligation here. But music is weird, because it's not quite art and not quite commerce. There are bits and pieces of support from Creative NZ and Tradenz, but, in part because the people involved really cared and pushed for it, NZ On Air's contribution is the largest of the public agencies.

    Would I do away with recording grants altogether? No. Because they've helped bring to birth a bunch of great records that otherwise might not have been made to the same standard.

    And your argument that NZOA funding competitively penalises the people who don't get it doesn't really stack up. Firstly, the people who don't get any support generally aren't actually competing with the people who do.

    But also: we tend to forget how developed the music sector is now. When I first started writing about it, in the early 1980s (no shit!) there was a lack of infrastructure and expertise. There simply weren't people with the skills, and that really cost opportunities for a generation of artists.

    The fact that that's changed is fairly strongly related to public sector support for the industry, which has given the industry structure and visibility. It's much, much more sophisticated than it used to be.

    We've seen the same thing in the screen industry -- Peter Jackson was able to count on a local skill base for his movies because NZ On Air allowed so many people to learn their craft on Shortland Street.

    And, finally, while I'd agree that NZOA's focus on radio play is wearing thin, young people still seem to be listening to radio.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Sadly, I'm making a curry

    Enjoy.

    I'm not interrogating you, if I were you'd be buzzing with electricity, but I can see where you'd get that from. Not wishing to curry undue favour, but I think you could take it as a underhanded compliment of sorts Russell, in that you are seen in many ways as part of the establishment ; ) You're knowledgeable and experienced on these matters, and yet, you provide thoughtful and balanced answers to questions when the most relevant parties will not.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    but I think you could take it as a underhanded compliment of sorts Russell, in that you are seen in many ways as part of the establishment ; ) You're knowledgeable and experienced on these matters, and yet, you provide thoughtful and balanced answers to questions when the most relevant parties will not.

    I still wrestle with that "being part of the establishment" thing sometimes ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    that would be the Chris Matthews who said in 2009:

    Um, gosh.

    thinking about it further, and to be fair, Chris is only mentioning NZoA in his comment to Vicki, and his funding for RMO project may have come from Creative New Zealand, so I may be comparing
    chalk and cheese...
    Though, as you point out, ultimately both sources are funded by The Ministry for Culture and Heritage for the National good...

    Would Dave Dobbyn's career have been more successful if he had government funding in the late 70's, early 80's?

    This is where String Theory multiverses would be useful, how to compare and contrast:
    the dying decades of the analogue era and its social paradigm - pubs (booze barns) closing at 11, Telly (2 channels) closing soon after, hell, phones may have still had dials, some radio alternatives, cards were the digital diversion...
    - with:
    the often stressful 24/7, instant gratification, fully digitally interfaced high-tech low-budget DIY lifestyle of today...

    NZOA is highly accountable for its success or otherwise in funding local broadcast content that is seen and heard by New Zealanders. That's what it does. If it funds content that isn't broadcast, that's a bad outcome.

    In terms of what gets funded for broadcast, yeah. Clones of their existing formats are what commercial radio programmers want and will play.

    I think we are better served by National Radio for local (and obscure) "played" content... and what is the measure of success?
    Are commercial radio programmers driven by actual record/download sales still?
    or is success just being heard - perhaps the audience needs to be more vocal and let the funders know we heard and enjoyed

    Wonder if they could find a spot for the Kiwi Hit Disc to be played on National Radio each month (an easy alliance between the 2 govt departments RNZ and NZoA/Min Heritage and Culture, you'd think) and a way for the proles (er, us) to keep an eye on what's being done by us (by proxy), for us and, even better, with a facility for feedback...

    Yeah, all that stuff -- although, again, you're getting a long way away from anything in the Broadcasting Act.

    true, sorry, more something for The Ministry for Culture and Heritage to mop up...
    the depot sounds great, and as Chris says above

    Why continue giving this money away to the few when it could provide practise rooms, recording spaces, film gear to the many, under the management of councils?

    it's the old "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he can get his own fish for life" ethos, why do we keep reinventing the wheel when communal or cooperative ventures give more people access to tools...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    We've seen the same thing in the screen industry -- Peter Jackson was able to count on a local skill base for his movies because NZ On Air allowed so many people to learn their craft on Shortland Street.

    Probably true, although Shortland didn't get going until the early 90s, when Jackson was already well established. Being Wellington-based the expertise he drew on was more likely to have been reliant for day jobs at Avalon and the National Film Unit, the latter of which he's owned outright for some time now. The only reason that particular little state owned enterprise wasn't flogged off in the fire sale of the 80s was because all any prospective buyer wanted was the excellent film lab and Dolby suite, and it took a while for the asking price to reflect that. All of the Unit's other areas of supposed expertise had long been eclipsed by the private sector.

    Although derided at least as much in its day as NZOA currently is around here, the NFU's often stodgy implementation of its charter to facilitate local film production was largely carried out in good faith.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3325 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    I'm not sure it's understandable at all.

    understandable in that its got reasonably intelligent men talking about nz on airs mandate when

    The Broadcasting Act does not provide any mandate for NZ on Air.

    Understandable in that some very experienced people involved in all levels of music in NZ are scratching their heads regarding what's going on at NZ on Air and how it managed to get itself there.

    Mike Bradshaw full Real Groove interview

    Understandable in that many people are having difficultly grasping what it is NZ on Air is trying to do and that they have been less than co-operative with Vicki in her original attempts to come to terms with inconsistencies that it now seems common place to acknowledge.

    To be fair to Vicki you appear to be shooting her down on some points she raised in an opinion piece from 2 years ago and applying it to her current piece, not giving her full credit for the valid points she does make, and the courage it took to do so. It would be nice to give credit where its due and all that.

    Do you think she has an underlying motive?

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    Sorry if I'm missing something, but if you want your video played on TV, shouldn't you send it to a TV channel or something?

    From what I read on that comment the video was won as part of a prize in a band competition.
    You'd have to ask both parties what went on there but I it would seem there is little point in asking an unsigned band competition winner to fathom how to approach tv stations in order to secure a screening for their own video. NZ on Air would be in a much better position to do that, and possibly it was part of the deal, a deal broken when the master tape was lost.

    I guess the band in question saw their treatment as a lack of good faith on NZ on Air's part and I can see why they'd feel that way.

    Another one Joe's unwarranted "sole examples of bitterness and failure' no doubt?

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    To be fair to Vicki you appear to be shooting her down on some points she raised in an opinion piece from 2 years ago and applying it to her current piece, not giving her full credit for the valid points she does make, and the courage it took to do so. It would be nice to give credit where its due and all that.

    The 2008 column I quoted from is the one she specifically quoted herself in her current column, which I also quoted.

    not giving her full credit for the valid points she does make, and the courage it took to do so. It would be nice to give credit where its due and all that.

    Oh for goodness sake, she's a journalist for a newspaper. It's not a friggin' support group. I'm just not impressed by her logic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Peter Jackson was able to count on a local skill base for his movies because NZ On Air allowed so many people to learn their craft on Shortland Street.

    NZOA was established in 1989, when Jackson released Meet the Feebles, his fallback project after the initial collapse of funding for Braindead.

    The release of Braindead in 1992 established Jackson as a mainstream director. Many who worked on that film had stuck with Jackson since Feebles. It seems a bit of a stretch to accord any credit to NZOA. As for Shortland Street, perhaps the biggest technical boost that show received was the fully digital editing equipment originally purchased for the Barcelona Olympics. Possibly with NZOA help?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3325 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The Broadcasting Act does not provide any mandate for NZ on Air.

    Wrong

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16272 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    But also: we tend to forget how developed the music sector is now. When I first started writing about it, in the early 1980s (no shit!) there was a lack of infrastructure and expertise. There simply weren't people with the skills, and that really cost opportunities for a generation of artists.

    The fact that that's changed is fairly strongly related to public sector support for the industry, which has given the industry structure and visibility. It's much, much more sophisticated than it used to be.

    I'd say it's more to do with sophisticated technology increasing production values, decreasing the cost while easing the means for distribution and because of it theres way more competition now which drives up quality.

    There was probably an equal or more amount of expertise within the existing infrastructure back then. It was just harder and comparatively more expensive to do shit back in the day.

    Still cant go past the fact that what makes it hard has always been the gatekeepers. I'm not buying the much much more sophisticated angle. Thats more like smoke and mirrors than a reflection of complexity. The structure hasn't changed fuck all.

    So even without public sector support, NZ artists would still be cranking out amazing music and probably of a higher quality if, for the last 10 years, public sector support, by way of funding weren't geared towards commercial radio.

    The visibilty then still only applies to that narrow focus. Theres still multiple facets of the industry largely invisible to public sector support.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The release of Braindead in 1992 established Jackson as a mainstream director. Many who worked on that film had stuck with Jackson since Feebles. It seems a bit of a stretch to accord any credit to NZOA.

    No, Jackson's core collaborators didn't work on Shortland Street, and that wasn't what I meant.

    But the existence of a daily soap meant that there was a pool of technical skills for the multi-unit shooting on the Lord of the Rings triology, and Marton Csokas, Craig Parker, John Leigh and Karl Urban all cut their teeth on Shorty before getting roles in the LOTR films.

    The impact certainly wasn't as big as it was on the Herc/Xena productions -- which delivered Ngila Dickson to the Jackson camp -- but I don't think it's that controversial to say that it helped Jackson.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Understood, I took it to mean that NZOA helped Jackson get established. My wrong.

    Herc/Xena is a great example. While the marvellous Ngila is the shining star of that show's alumni, the flow-on boost to industry skill levels in general was immeasurable. Judicious assistance to industrial entertainment can be a very good thing.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3325 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There was probably an equal or more amount of expertise within the existing infrastructure back then.

    No, honest, there wasn't. What experience the indie sector had came largely from the live music scene -- the likes of Doug Hood. People like Simon Grigg changed things a lot, but there weren't really lawyers specialising in contemporary music work until Malcolm Black. Publishing was really poorly understood.

    So even without public sector support, NZ artists would still be cranking out amazing music and probably of a higher quality if, for the last 10 years, public sector support, by way of funding weren't geared towards commercial radio.

    Are you really saying the artists I listed earlier would have made better records with no support whatsoever?

    Or Conchord Dawn (two albums funded), Dimmer (two albums, 14 videos) and King Kapisi (two albums, bunch of other stuff)?

    I think there's a big difference between saying the scheme needs a revamp and claiming it's actually harmed artists who have received funding to make their music.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Understood, I took it to mean that NZOA helped Jackson get established. My wrong.

    Ah. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    Wrong

    Thrash that one out with DD, You're contraditing each other but he seems to be well up on the actual govt docs.....

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    No, honest, there wasn't. What experience the indie sector had came largely from the live music scene

    oh right i wasnt talking about the indie sector i was talking about the expertise and infrastructure of the major labels the personell of which always knew the importance of publishing and copyright collection.

    and to what extent has NZoA really supported the indie scene or supports it now ?

    but even so weren't there a lot more experienced and savvy promoters back then because the focus was more on the live scene ? less so now with more readily available formats for exposure and consequently less opportunities for generating higher revenue.

    Are you really saying the artists I listed earlier would have made better records with no support whatsoever?

    Or Conchord Dawn (two albums funded), Dimmer (two albums, 14 videos) and King Kapisi (two albums, bunch of other stuff)?

    Probably. Without the handout and having to rely on your own talent might mean you'd produce a better quality work without having to compromise to commercial interests to satisfy the funding benefactor and minus the safety net of not having to recoup your loss if your album tanks cos it's already written off by NZoA.

    I mean, didn't you say the dole functioned effectively as a form of artist support. It certainly would have made you leaner, meaner, hungrier and stronger for it and would weed out those whose calling wasnt music as art.

    I think there's a big difference between saying the scheme needs a revamp and claiming it's actually harmed artists who have received funding to make their music.

    I dont. Deceptikonz and Dawnraid has lost a lot of it's hiphop fanbase by changing their focus to suit the funding criteria. Before they went bankrupt they were good and credible, now they're mostly shit and lacking cred.

    if the system were revamped to support what they were good at they'd still be shit hot. subsidising them has virtually artistically neutered them. And perhaps what it does show is that without the funding subsidy indie lables can't survive.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That Mike Bradshaw interview is good, but they're really wrong to declare the "decline" began in "2000-2002".

    Nesian Mystik's album was released in 2002 and went on to 4X platinum. Bic Runga's Beautiful Collision came out the same year and went 11x platinum.

    Scribe's first was in 2003 -- 5x platinum and massive cultural cut-through. Through this period, NZ music in general had a growing share of a declining overall market.

    In 2005 Fat Freddy's drop's debut became the first independently-distributed album to top the charts on release. It wet on to sell 120,000 copies and assured the future of its distributor, Rhythmethod. You couldn't say NZOA had much of an impact on what the Freddies did, but what happened around them was significant. Shapeshifter have had three platinum albums since 2004. And in 2007, Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! won best album at the Music Awards. It's not like everything stopped.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    that would be the Chris Matthews who said in 2009

    The very same, but if you read Vicki's article she mentions people have been scared to speak their mind on matters NZ on Air for some time, so it doesn't surprise that the man might be sucking it in in 2009 and letting it out in 2010.

    You'd have to ask him why he's now saying what he's saying. Perhaps not a change in attitude at all as he does say he's 'bitched for some time', just felt it more coy to keep his mouth shut in public in the past.

    As noted in Mike Bradshaw's interview, NZ on Air's style in music funding has over its course changed. He puts it at the 5 year mark (98?). Make of that what you will.

    I think it's important to focus on which phase of funding you're talking about.
    It's pointless to say 'they got grants in 1995 so they can't complain', cos we're not talking about 1995 here, we're talking about present day funding.

    Also CM's CD says made with assistance from Creative Communities, Creative Communities being local focus funding judged by members of local arts communities.

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Probably. Without the handout and having to rely on your own talent might mean you'd produce a better quality work without having to compromise to commercial interests to satisfy the funding benefactor and minus the safety net of not having to recoup your loss if your album tanks cos it's already written off by NZoA.

    Honestly, I kinda doubt that many of the artists would agree.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    he seems to be well up on the actual govt docs

    Oh cmon, just read the parts of the Act linked here

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16272 posts Report Reply

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