Last year a manicured boy-band appeared on the red carpet at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards. I hadn't heard of them. Their name was (and still is) Titanium. Yes, they're still together. Not only are they still together, they are doing very well. They are, I'm told, the first Kiwi band to have three singles simultaneously in the New Zealand Singles Chart.
Last year their debut single, Come On Home, went straight in at No 1. They have a full album available, All for You. Wikipedia will tell you that it "received generally favourable reviews from contemporary music critics".
This is one successful band!
The words "Titanium" and "talent" are indelibly linked - you see, these guys won a talent quest. So you'll always see the two words mentioned in any story about this band.
This is a manufactured band, a boy band.
For Titanium we must, er, thank The Edge radio station. Titanium won The Edge's competition to create a Kiwi boy band.
This misguided folly has given us our own One Direction/Take That/N*Sync/NKOTB - you know, just what we wanted...
But rather than die the natural (obvious) death that these one-trick-pony/one-note-phoneys are (usually) known for (and then - swiftly, as a result - no longer known at all) we have NZ on Air propping them up, encouraging them. The band has won two grants from the new NZ on Air lottery Making Tracks. That's two lots of $10,000; two videos for these successful singles.
NZ on Air no longer funds albums. Instead it gives artists the chance to nail $6000 or $10,000 to make a video. People make videos on their iPhones these days; we can see a clip on YouTube five minutes after it's been recorded. So this $10,000 bonus really is a handy score!
NZ on Air is committed to funding artists that can generate a following, that have people "liking" them on Facebook, voting for their songs. And of course, as always, a measurable goal is funding music that makes an impact on radio. This means that for every indie act that might, in some way, come close to reflecting a part of our unique Kiwi culture, there are several pop acts - copyists essaying international pop sounds, tracing around the banal, bland and obvious, oblivious to artistry, eyes are simply on the prize. And the prize is always there: $10,000. A panel of industry names meets over a lunch or two and dishes out the money.
But here's the thing with Titanium - this band was a construct, a conceit. The Edge made this band, built this band via the platform of a talent quest. So they had instant radio-play. The single made its debut at No 1; an audience was sitting, waiting.
Why, then, does this band need NZ on Air funding to achieve radio play? The band was created for radio-play; a radio station created the band. Titanium is signed to a label, Illegal Musik, distributed via Warner Music. One of the NZ on Air funding grant announcements lists the band's label as being The Edge radio station. Does that mean the money is being paid straight to the station for playlisting the music?
Making Tracks is the new scheme that NZ on Air is essentially using as its laundering service. A bunch of loud-mouths complained - for years - about the same old people getting the same old money to make poor-performing/critically reviled albums. So they changed things. This shakeup amounts to little more than just another scam, a new one to spread the money, with many of the same names back in at the trough. Now with the added annoyance of appearing desperate by clogging social media with desperate pleas to like their work, daily.
The money goes into funding videos and singles; NZ on Air looks like the good guy.
Here the big issue is that the band never needed the funding in the first place because, by virtue of the band's only talent being that they were chosen to come first in a radio-station competition, they have radio-play. The Edge will never not play Titanium. The Edge will always play Titanium. The Edge invented Titanium.
But, anyway, outside of Titanium, why is radio-play the chief indication that something is good?
Have you listened to commercial New Zealand radio? It's awful. Smashie & Nicey DJs attempting watered-down phone-pranks in and around ads for mobile phones and songs that sound like the ring-tones for the phones they're plugging when those pesky songs have finally finished. Gah.
But you won't hear musicians complaining about this all that much - because, secretly (heck, it's not even a secret) they'd still love a slice of the pie if they were allowed.
Titanium might be made up of nice people - but that's irrelevant. Being nice has so little to do with being worthy. And they are not worthy of our investment. They were chosen by a radio station - for their own gain. They're effectively the recipients of ill-gotten gains. They're milking it.
And in a year they'll be forgotten.
And NZ on Air relies on us all forgetting that our money went to another act that can help the funding organisation look good for sponsoring a group that had radio play and chart success. Even though they had that before NZ on Air took another soft option.
What can we do about the joke that is NZ on Air funding? Because the more they try to shuffle away from any hint that they're a sham act the more they seem to show their cards; a full hand of scam.
How we continue to let this funding body rule things in the way they do is beyond me. It's criminal. It need an independent inquiry. Unfortunately, in this country, a truly independent inquiry can never happen.
Do you agree that a pop band given a platform by a radio station does not deserve funding so that it can secure radio play and an audience? Isn't this just NZ on Air recognising an easy ticket? What are your thoughts on Titanium being given $20,000 to date to make videos for songs when the band already has a track record of success that has been created by The Edge radio station? What are your thoughts on the joke that is NZ on Air funding?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.