X-Factor judge wants Kiwi bankroll

GIVING HIS ALL: X Factor judge Daniel Bedingfield performing his new single.
GIVING HIS ALL: X Factor judge Daniel Bedingfield performing his new single.

X Factor judge and multi-platinum selling pop star Daniel Bedingfield is putting his hand up for taxpayer cash to promote his latest song.

He has applied for a $6000 grant from the latest round of New Zealand On Air's "Making Tracks" funding to produce a video for his song Out Of My Head.

The move has been criticised by some in the music scene, who say NZOA money should be spent developing Kiwi music, not simply bankrolling tilts at commercial hits.

It is the second time Grammy-nominated Bedingfield has made a bid for NZOA cash. Last month he applied under the same scheme for his song Every Little Thing, but was turned down. Instead $204,000 in grants was given out to 23 other artists including Shapeshifter, Ladi6 and Dane Rumble.

Bedingfield, who has had six UK top 10 singles, sold four million albums, and is judging wannabe stars on X Factor, defends his right to NZOA money.

He said he considers New Zealand home and credits the reggae he heard both in London and on Kiwi beaches as the major influence on his music.

"I know my accent is pretty pommy. But I never have really felt English. I have always felt Kiwi," he said.

His new EP is classed New Zealand music because it was recorded in New Zealand and he has been mentoring New Zealand artists.

He has recorded recently with Kiwi musicians from Supergroove and Goldenhorse.

That doesn't satisfy New Zealand music historian and archivist, Rob Mayes, who said NZOA had a history of funding artists who did not need the money, thereby starving up-and-coming musicians.

"If you are a soup kitchen and you have someone with a tiara coming in driving a Rolls-Royce asking for a bowl of soup, you don't give them a bowl of soup. It's funding to help people that need money," he said.

It is not the first time NZOA has been criticised for giving money to artists with access to other funds.

Grants of $80,000 to Annabel Fay, daughter of millionaire businessman Sir Michael Fay, were criticised - but also defended by some who said a father's wealth should not affect an artist's eligibility.

Bedingfield acknowledges he did well out of his chart success in 2002 and bought homes in the UK and New Zealand.

But he ran into issues with his record label and for eight years was locked in a contract with an international label that refused to release three albums he recorded during that time. That left him without an income, he said.

He has ploughed all his fee from X Factor and crowdsourcing to promote his new EP. He won't reveal how much he is paid as an X Factor judge, but industry rumours put it between $200,000 and $250,000.

"Having to get funding at all is part of not having a record company. Taking a job at X Factor was part of raising my profile here," he said.

Mayes said any potential handouts to established artists was another example of NZOA favouring commercial viability over cultural development of Kiwi music.

But NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson said there was a "market imperative" and it had to back music which would "connect with the audience through broadcast media".

"We are after different and diverse New Zealand music for different and diverse audience platforms. That is the difference between us and an arts council where you are funding creative endeavour," she said.

During the first year of the Making Tracks programme, from July 2011 to June 2012, about 40 per cent of the funding went to new artists. But the funding was decided on the potential of the song, not the financial means of the artist, Wrightson said.

Bedingfield said: "[Funding] is only appropriate if people like the music, if the music is valuable. If people find my music valuable it is worth making a music video for."

Bedingfield has a chequered history with NZ On Air. In 2002, debate around whether his hit single Gotta Get Through This was a Kiwi song led to the creation of a definition of New Zealand music - "music performed or recorded by a New Zealand citizen or resident".

Bedingfield failed the test, and Gotta Get Through This was deemed not a New Zealand song.

Bedingfield said he found it hard being a part of the X Factor because of his history with record companies.

He said he tried to champion contestants he felt "have the heart of an artist".

He said: "I [learned] what it feels like to work for the machine, in the machine, not just have the machine destroy me or try to make money from me.

"But working for the machine is a strange combination of feeling very responsible for the destruction of art [and creating it]."

- additional reporting Bridget Jones

Sunday Star Times