Hard News by Russell Brown

3

Friday Music: Nadia 2

It's a testament to the power and control of Nadia Reid's singing and playing that matching her studio recordings in session seems to hold no fears for her. And thus was the case with her BBC 6 Music Live Room session, recorded last week for Marc Riley's show during a 12-date European tour that finishes this weekend:

You can listen to the rest of the session here on the 6 Music website

The song is one of two previewed from her second album, Preservation, which is out next Friday (and can be pre-ordered here on Bandcamp and here for the LP and CD). The other is 'Richard', which, as she acknowledges in this Otago Daily Times interview, is about a former beau. She's been playing it live for some time, but on record it's a demonstration of the unusual sounds producer Ben Edwards can create in his Sitting Room studio in Lyttelton. ('Reaching Through' on her first album is another example, although when I win Lotto I'm going to bankroll her to go to Nashville and re-record it with an orchestra and five guitarists.)

Her New Zealand tour in support of the album begins in Port Chalmers on March 30 and finishes up at the Tuning Fork in Auckland on April 8.

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You can never hope to catch more than a a fraction of the music at Splore, and that's okay. There's always more than music happening and sometimes  the right thing to do it just hang with your friends and enjoy each other's company. But I did hear plenty I liked: Blackalicious were vibrant on Friday night, Dub Pistols were 100% party-time on Saturday night and Fat Freddy's Drop, with a memorable cameo from the mud people of the audience, were perfect for Sunday Splore.

But the big discovery for me wasn't a band, but a DJ. Denmark's Courtesy fired up on Splore's DJ stage shortly before midnight on Saturday – and she was wild and amazing. I'm not sure I've heard anyone mix like that with vinyl. As Pitchfork's Philip Sherburne observes, her intense, physical style "gives the set the kind of life and spirit you simply don't get with automated beatmatching".

And guess what? She's playing Whammy bar in Auckland tonight. If that's past your bedtime (it certainly is mine this weekend), there are a few mixes available on her Soundcloud. They don't entirely tally with what I recall of Saturday night – that seemed more house and less techno – but they offer an idea of what she's about.

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One thing I did miss at Splore was Pitch Black's performance. I obliged myself to be back at camp in bed by midnight because I needed to be up and running the Listening Lounge talk programme the next morning. As it transpired, I lay in my tent and heard them loud and clear – and they sounded brilliant. They're playing Neck of the Woods on Karangahape Road next Friday along with International Observer, Deep Fried Dub, Digital Playground and DJ Dubhead. International Observer is on at 10pm and Pitch Black at 11.30.

If you can't make that, here's a look at the extraordinary digital projection they deployed at Splore:

And finally on the Splore tip: I posted some pics I took there.

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The longlist for the 2017 Taite Music Prize is out.

The remarkable Newtown Festival has revealed its lineup for Sunday week and it includes Hex, Salad Boys, Mel Parsons, Peach Milk, SoccerPractise, French for Rabbits and and a lot more.

And Cut off Your Hands have been announced as the support for all three of The Pixies' forthcoming NZ dates. Good match: COYH are unabashed about their new wave roots – enough to toss in a blazing cover of Talking Heads' 'Crossed and Painless' in their Laneway set just after the release of their own distinctly Talking Heads-ish new single:

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One thing I've really been enjoying in the past few months on 95bFM is the new, earlier timeslot (7-10pm) for Stinky Grooves on Tuesday nights. If you're not in broadcast range, you can catch Stinky Jim's round-up of all manner of rhythms here on his b-casts page (being podcasts, they're wickedly downloadable) – or here on his own website, where he provides the full playlists and more.

Also on the b tip: The Phoenix Foundation headline 95bFM Bands in the Park, Albert Park, Friday March 10 from midday

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Audioculture has dug up a Mockers story I wrote for Rip It Up way back in 1984.

And on the same site, Michael Brown offers 10 riffs on the Māori strum.

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Elsewhere, the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack is fun.

Depeche Mode are unimpressed by Richard Spencer's claim that they are "the official band of the alt-right".

A new Shazam-like product that could lead to public performance rights revenue being dsitributed more accurately and fairly.

And an interesting Annie Mac-fronted short BBC doco about the fate of Britain's nightclubs:

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Tunes!

Auckland's A Label Called Success is as busy as ever. Newish, this chilled little number with parping digital horns:

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The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:

Songbroker

Representing New Zealand music

0

Splore 2017

I'm a fitful photographer at festivals: I kick off keen but by the time the party really starts, I'm happy enough to simply avoid losing my phone, let alone take it out and point it at things.

And thus it was at Splore 2017. There are no pictures of Saturday night. But I did take a few during the four days I was on site at Tapapakanga Regional Park. Here they are.

Feel free to add your own: just use the "file upload" button under the comment window. 500kb to 1MB is a good size.

36

Sky and 2020

On May 1 this year, it will be 21 years since Telecom launched its first real consumer ISP – Xtra – kicking off the mainstreaming of of the internet in New Zealand. The company had finally surrendered its stance that the country needed no more than its business IT services and its (already by then old-fashioned) educational network NZ Online, and the more adventurous ordinary folks flocked to pay $5 an hour to "cybersurf".

But Telecom offered more than a connection. Xtra was also a content provider. Behind the infamous X-ville image map lay a small media empire, offering news and magazine content, generated by a mostly young, keen editorial team. A few months later, Clear Communications took a similar tack with with the Clear Net home page.

Phone companies clearly felt that they needed interests in content to woo customers online – and, hopefully, tap them for a little more cash once they got there. Xtra's excitable, unorthdox general manager, American Chris Tyler, pitched we journalists his vision of developing a "media engine" that Telecom would soon be able to sell to other telcos.

In the end, it came to fairly little. Xtra soldiered on as an editorial enterprise for some time, but it became clear that customers could find their own stuff online and Telecom would have little success in fencing them in to its own offerings. These days, Xtra.co.nz resolves to the Yahoo NZ page, a home for commodity news and the country's worst commenters.

A few weeks ago, I heard, second-hand, the thoughts of one of the Vodafone managers working on his company's proposed merger with Sky TV. He was astonished at how old-fashioned the culture was there, at how poorly they understood the internet. It confirmed my guess that Sky, which has prospered (to the extent that it still makes most of the money in New Zealand television) under the nailed-down model of pay TV, desperately needed the relative hipness of a telco partner.

In a sense, Sky is Telecom 20 years ago; a company with a prodigious lock on the market being forced by new entrants to do things it has traditionally not wanted to do. Vodafone could be its change agent.

Or not, as it transpires. The Commerce Commission has, to some surprise, declined clearance for the deal. The Commission's chair Mark Berry explained the reasoning today:

“The proposed merger would have created a strong vertically integrated pay-TV and full service telecommunications provider in New Zealand owning all premium sports content. We acknowledge that this could result in more attractive offers for Sky combined with broadband and/or mobile being available to consumers in the immediate future. However, we have to take into account the impact of a merger over time, and uncertainty as to how this dynamic market will evolve is relevant to our assessment,” Dr Berry said.

“Around half of all households in New Zealand have Sky TV and a large number of those are Sky Sport customers. Internationally, the trend for bundles that package up broadband, mobile and sport content is growing. Given the merged entity’s ability to leverage its premium live sports content, we cannot rule out the real chance that demand for its offers would attract a large number of non-Vodafone customers.

“To clear the merger we would need to have been satisfied that it was unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any relevant market. The evidence before us suggests that the potential popularity of the merged entity’s offers could result in competitors losing or failing to achieve scale to the point that they would reduce investment or innovation in broadband and mobile markets in the future. In particular, we have concerns that this could impact the competiveness of key third players in these markets such as 2degrees and Vocus.

“This is also against a backdrop of fibre being rolled out, making it an opportune time for the merged entity to entice consumers to a new offer. If significant switching occurred, the merged entity could, in time, have the ability to price less advantageously than without the merger or to reduce the quality of its service. Given we are not satisfied that we can say that competition is unlikely to be substantially lessened by the proposed merger, we must decline clearance.”

Sky's shares are tumbling in the hours since the news. And yet, Sky made nearly half a billion dollars in revenue and $60 million in profits in the past year. The local launch of the Viceland channel on Sky also serves as a caution about the real ability of content creators to make money on the open internet. Even Vice, the enfant terrible of online TV, realised it needed the reliable dollars of linear television. Sure, the growth is over, but the income isn't.

But there's a cliff-edge ahead. In 2020, New Zealand Rugby renegotiates its coverage deal, which sustains the game in this country. The chair of NZ Rugby's board is Brent Impey, the former CEO of MediaWorks. Does anyone think he won't do everything he can to control those rights and maximise the benefit to his organisation?

It's not hard to see Impey approaching Spark (or, for that matter, Vodafone) and pitching them a deal where they do all the hard stuff – technical delivery, marketing, customer relations – in exchange for the ability to bundle premium content with their services. As Spark has demonstrated on a smaller scale with Lightbox, telcos don't even need to directly make money from that content.

2020 is also the year targeted for 80% of New Zealand households to have access to fibre internet – and for the special regulations pertaining to the UFB rollout to be replaced by a new regulatory framework. MBIE began taking feedback on what that new framework should look like in July last year.

The submissions make interesting, if dense, reading. Most submitters, including Spark and Vodafone, view the Commission's proposed 15mbit/s "anchor" product as plainly unambitious (given that our early-adopter household already has gigabit service, yeah). Retail providers are looking forward to having access to "dark fibre" on the network, rather than buying services from Chorus. But however the rules eventually fall, it seems clear that 2020 will be a year of change: new means of wholesale acccess, new products – and the availability of the country's most valuable screen content.

It seems clear that 2020 is going to be a very interesting year.

17

Public Address and PressPatron

Last week we flicked the switch on something that's been a while coming: a new payments platform called PressPatron that provides a way for you to support not only Public Address, but, before long, a range of other blogs and websites – all from a single account that you control.

The delivery of PressPatron is a testament to the vision and persistence of Wellingtonian Alex Clark, who developed his idea in an MA thesis on news funding models, then found investors, hired developers and got his product built. His plans extend beyond independent media and beyond New Zealand, and I'm really proud to have hosted the very first deployment.

Now that a soft launch with readers who had previously been supporting the site via PayPal has been staged with just a handful of minor problems, we're ready to invite everyone in. You can simply go to our Supporters page to set up an account.

There's no paywall to get past, and in our case anyway, there won't be. (My main contribution to the project was point out to Alex that for sites like this a paywall was neither necessary or desirable.)

Some of you have been supporting us monthly for a while, either through PayPal or bank transfer, and I'm extremely grateful for that, but I'm inviting you now to switch to PressPatron. It's far better for me as a publisher and offers a lot more to you as a subscriber. You can also make one-off contributions and there should eventually be a way for you to direct those to particular bloggers. I get a clear statement of earnings each month, which I'll publish.

What will I do with the income? Well, it's early days yet and I've let contributions run down in the last few months in anticipation of the new platform, so I'll see what happens. Initially, the money will hopefully make it worth my while simply operating the site, but I want it to help fund some deeper journalism by me and our other bloggers. If I can deliver a story I think is important without having to try and shop it to another editor (who has probably had her or his freelance budget cut three times in the past six months), that's a great result for me. At any rate, I hope to at least be able to justify blogging more frequently.

But the site is due for a refresh of both its design and structure and it would be good to embark on that this year. I'm also wondering about moving to more multi-author "topic" blogs like our disability blog, Access.

But let's see what happens. For now, I'm delighted to have PressPatron up and running.

You can read more and create an account via our new Supporters page.

This is probably also a good time to remind you about the Public Address mailing list, which sends out links to new posts most weekdays.

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In a somewhat related vein, Public Address last week switched from http to the more secure https protocol. Your existing http bookmarks should siply redirected to the new, secure URL, but that hasn't been working forsome people (me included). The fix until the CactusLads work it out is to edit your browser bookmark, so that it starts https:// rather than http:// – or simpley go to the home page and create a new bookmark from that.

7

Friday (Thursday) Music: Heavens

The first year I went to Splore was the year Erykah Badu played. My memory is of arriving on the Friday afternoon to an idyll where everyone was smiling, the sun shone and children frolicked. I felt like the 5000th person to find paradise.

That evening, as the diva wound into her set, the heavens of paradise opened. I mean, really opened. It was a tropical cloudburst. Everyone who wasn't too wasted to move bolted for shelter and I wound up in the falafel stall, helping the owners tip gallons of water off their tarp every couple of minutes. In its way, it was quite a fulfilling community experience.

About half an hour later the rain stopped and everyone was happy – apart from the people at our campsite who'd decided it might be nice to air out their tent and toddled off down the hill leaving all the windows open.

The Auckland region's summer pluviality looks like being on show this year too. I went and bought some $20 gumboots at the No.1 Shoe Warehouse this morning, and discovered I was the fifth Splorer who'd been in for wellies in the half hour the shop had been open.

It'll be fine, even if the weather isn't. It's not like it's Glastonbury. Tapapakanga Regional Park is not Worthy Farm, there aren't a hundred thousand punters, the promoters are prepared and the sandy soil drains well. Most of all, it looks pretty sweet for Saturday night, when Dub Pistols bring the party to the main stage and a remarkable lineup – Tall Black Guy, Courtesy, John Morales and Frank Booker, in that order – commands the DJ stage.

So yes, that's where I'll be. You can check my Twitter for rain jokes and silly pictures.

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I was pleased yesterday when new vinyl from The Nudge turned up in the post.

"Oh," I thought, counting three tracks on it. "A new 12" single."

Turns out, Dark Arts is more of an album and all of side two is the 24-minute prog-funk epic 'Bring Me Your Love'.

There's a video for the title track, the shortest of the three:

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It's a shame it had to happen over his dead body, but Prince's catalogue (or a fair chunk of it) is available for the first time on Spotify and Apple Music – and even better, it's remastered. FACT mag has a guide to the 10 greatest Prince albums.

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Over at Audioculture, David McLennan tells the story of almost-forgotten feature of the Wellington punk scene: the Cuba Mall Sesssions of 1979.

And Redmer Yska digs even deeper to find the totally forgotten weekly entertainment magazine published by the owners of the Truth newspaper in the 1950s: Joy.

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Because we live in strange times: Michigan Republicans have suggested Kid Rock for the US Senate.

And on the other side, Moby claims the inside word on what intelligence agencies have on Trump.

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The particular art of reggae music has a feeling all its own. And you can own some of that feeling via a new set of silk-screened prints from the Soul Jazz-aligned Sounds of the Universe store. I just love this Tubby one.

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Tunes!

Oh my, this is awesome. Wellington's Lord Echo has busted out this fluidly funky track from his forthcoming album Harmonies as a straight-up free download. More info and preorders here.

From Auckland's A Label Called Success, this electronic, ethereal taster for the Space Above album that's out tomorrow (ie: Friday).

And finally, Greg Wilson has mixed together 20 of the hard-to-find edits and reworks he played in his 2016 sets. Track listing and separate embeds here.

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The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:

Songbroker

Representing New Zealand music