The joke that is NZ on Air funding: II

23:56, Dec 13 2010

So, a while ago I wrote about NZ on Air funding. I told you at the time that I was normally not concerned with looking at things like behind-the-scenes/admin/business aspects. I prefer the music side to the business side of the globally faltering/failing oxymoron that is the music business.

But people had asked me to open up a forum. And I did. And many of you commented.

And it was ridiculous to see that a band like Autozamm has had so much funding; so much, in fact, that their new album was being advertised on the back of buses, on billboards - yet I couldn't get a copy to review. No point - the record company, the funding body, the radio stations and music TV shows were obviously all in cahoots and happy enough with the lie they were selling. You see, everyone keeps getting paid there. And we, as taxpayers, are doing a lot of that paying. We're funding the allocations that I believe NZ on Air rolls out to whoever they are friends with; to whoever the radio stations suggest. And that keeps them all happy. And it keeps underselling the value of New Zealand music. And it keeps us looking like a nation of cultural beggars. Not allowed to be cultural choosers.

In the end, we come across as desperate at both levels. The real talent sits there desperate to receive funding, or wider recognition - a chance of some kind. And these trace-around-the-outline-of-an-obvious-sound goons are desperate to be taken seriously. The record companies won't even send the music out to be reviewed now - no point. They are back courting radio stations. Getting in bed with them. Radio's dead - people don't discover music through commercial radio stations. The music is just there as an ad-break for the real product now - the ad-breaks.

Anyway, why I am I mentioning NZ on Air again? It was only three months ago or so when I mentioned their transparently un-transparent approach to funding the obvious "hit-makers", the same safe options.

Well - two things. First up, there was an interesting story that came out over the weekend. Annabel Fay - who, yes, is the daughter of Sir Michael Fay - decided to thank all the people that have supported her... well I guess you would call it music still... to date.


So, the family did the decent thing. They flew 10 top radio programming executives to the family getaway: Great Mercury Island, off Coromandel Peninsula.

We have several problems here. Most obviously, if the family has money to do this, surely they have money to put into their daughter's career. She's a ghastly singer by the way, with nothing close to a winner in an Original Ideas Lookalike Contest. I've had the displeasure of hearing her sing live. She is rubbish. And if you click on the link above - on her name - then you'll have this displeasure too.

But our main funding body doesn't think she's so bad. Aware that this is music that can and will be played on New Zealand radio, it has stumped up (which, if you're following, means we have stumped up) and given Fay $50,000 for a proposed album. It doesn't have a title or release date as yet. There were four additional $5000 video grants too. You are seeing the waste of one of them, again, if/when you click on that link.

The family are wise in their approach, however despicable some of you might find it. It will certainly get the result. By helicoptering over a handful of radio jocks and shouting them to the sort of time only a reality TV show can fake, they have ensured that by saying "thanks" more of this girl's awful music will make it on to the airwaves than is really deserved. It's a farce.

The radio people will have returned to dry land satiated from that thing they need beyond food, clothing, shelter and oxygen: schmooze. In fact they need it more than most other things as their clothing is usually supplied with the job (promo perks) and they will willingly exchange a bunch of oxygen for a bunch of schmooze - since they actually live and breathe that.

That means they'll play Annabel Fay's rancid pop on their stations. Or at least fill in the return-sheets saying they have. And then NZ on Air will chalk it up as another "success" and fund more of this kack.

This sort of thing has been going on - though less extreme than the obvious Fay example - for a long time. And it is these practices that are currently (apparently) being investigated. This government body is being (re-)evaluated.

But you know what I think is really bad?

I think it's really bad that Brendan Smyth (Music Manager/eternal punching bag) of NZ on Air went along, I'm told, for the ride. If he did, it's not a good look.

But NZ on Air's music wing loves the schmooze as much as the radio jocks; they're locked in a mutual back-pat. NZ on Air seems to think it is doing its job well if it is seen out pressing the flesh, taking in the canapés and gurgling down the plonk. But really, shouldn't it be reflecting our culture, musically? Shouldn't it be promoting the actual New Zealand voices - not the most obvious thing that sound like anything else, that have no craft behind them?

We've been through this before, I know. I know there's been a review going on - but you have to wonder how any review will work. Will it bring any change? Fingers crossed it does. And do the likes of Smyth and Jane Wrightson (CEO/canapé-muncher) realise that the public is on to them? The media is definitely on to them. TV3's news has started exposing this absurd system. They are, slowly but surely, being exposed as out-of-touch bureaucrats with a penchant for finger food and occasions to trumpet their safe (non-)successes.

But it's cruel, isn't it, that I can contact Michael Morley, who released two amazing albums this year, one as Gate and one as a member of The Dead C? And he can write back to me saying "thanks for your support. I expect both albums to sink in New Zealand almost without a trace". And yet we have Annabel Fay's second album with $50,000 thrown to its record company. If she was successful enough for a major label to be interested in her second album then surely that record company could pay for it, couldn't they? Wouldn't they use the profits from her mega-successful debut? Plus, they are no longer sending me CDs - so there's a few plastic discs, cases, envelopes and postage stamps they are saving pennies on.

Of course Morley is not trying to have his music on commercial radio - I know that in that sense it is stupid to compare what he does with what Annabel Fay does. You couldn't get better examples of polar opposites. Morley's audience would not consider what Fay does to be music. Fay's audience wouldn't consider what Morley does to be music. Then again, Fay fans probably watch Glee and come away going, "wow, what an incredible documentary; my life is just like that!"

Or, as we now know, Fay fans could just have been purchased for her by the parents. They don't need to fund her embarrassing music anymore. We're the mugs that are doing that.

Are you proud thinking that your cultural identity is being represented by the likes of Autozamm and Annabel Fay?

Do you think NZ on Air needs a massive overhaul of staff - and of the way it is structured? Do you think it's time we heard the real story about this giant joke?

Well Rob Mayes of Failsafe Records - and a tireless archivist of so many of the great (lesser known) NZ acts - thinks so. And he has put together a document that exposes so many of the absurdities of NZ on Air. This brings me to my second and final point - please click on this link here to download the PDF: PLEASE I urge you to read Rob's work.

It will tell you about how NZ on Air only pursued The Datsuns after they were famous and no longer wanted funding. They wanted that NZ on Air logo on a Datsuns video - so that they could say they helped. It's a scam.

What other options are there currently? I mean, anyone making music in the country might be wise to change their surname to Finn? Or call their band the feelers or Autozamm?

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