Supporting Kiwi music:
Coming up from a land down under
Is New Zealand the next Sweden?

February 2, 2003   [LA Times]

POP EYE
 
By Steve Hochman, Special to The Times


In the last couple of years, music executives have flocked to such locales as Detroit and Sweden, searching for the next White Stripes or the Hives, respectively.

Should their travel agents start booking flights to New Zealand now?

A vibrant scene that has been growing on the South Pacific islands nation for several years is about to emerge in the U.S., with three New Zealand bands getting major U.S. launches.

"6Twenty," the debut album from garage-rock band the D4, is due March 24 from Hollywood Records; the similarly oriented Datsuns have an album due March 4 from V2 Records (home of the White Stripes); and harder-edged Pacifier is making its American debut on Arista
Records on Feb. 11.

"I read in a paper in the U.K. [that] someone was talking about calling New Zealand 'the new Sweden,' " says D4 singer Jimmy Christmas. "At the South by Southwest conference, [there will probably be quite a lot of New Zealand bands." (The conference is in March in Austin, Texas.)

The current state of New Zealand rock marks the coming of age of a generation inspired by a late '80s and early '90s scene there centered on the Flying Nun Records label and such bands as the Bats and Straightjacket Fits, which itself attracted a lot of influential
global acts to play there.

"Having bands like Fugazi, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Sonic Youth travel to New Zealand, we Kiwis looked at it as awesome," says Pacifier's Jon Toogood. "Once that got injected into the scene, the level of great rock bands here went up a mile. Everyone had to
beat each other to be the best. I come from Wellington, and it's a creative place. You end up bumping into people and going back to the house and recording a song."

The country's relative isolation has allowed bands to develop before moving to a larger stage.

"People see it as a disadvantage coming from New Zealand, but for us it's been a benefit," Christmas says. "By the time you're ready to come out, you've really got it together."

V2 Records President Andy Gershon heartily concurs.

"It's a very vibrant scene there," he says. "They have plenty of time to really hone their live acts. For the Datsuns it was five years. Every great scene, this is what happens."

Now that a few bands are ready to move out from that scene, though, will the streets of Auckland be swarming with record executives? Maybe not.

Gershon notes that financial cutbacks at major record companies alone might slow the stampede because of the time and expense of going there, if nothing else. "As much as there have been invasions of Detroit, Chicago, Seattle or Sweden, no," he says. "I think it's the distance."

Besides, New Zealand bands with any ambition are more than happy to go to where the executives are, exactly what these three bands did.

"With the Datsuns and the D4, they, like us, said, 'We want to play for a living and if we stay in New Zealand we're going to run out of land,' " says Toogood. "Most Kiwis I know love traveling anyway. I don't know many bands here who would go, 'If they want me, they
have to come here.' We love someone booking a flight for us to play for them. The rest of the people I went to school with are working 9-to-5 jobs and dreaming about that."

More kiwi music on air:         
[Minister of Broadcasting Press Release]

Commercial radio stations exceeded their New Zealand music targets in 2002.

Kiwi music made up 15 percent of the commercial radio playlist last year - beating the 13 percent target set under the code.

Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey today released broadcasting statistics collected by the Radio Broadcasters Association under the voluntary code agreed to by commercial broadcasters in March 2002. Broadcasters are working towards a 20 percent contemporary New Zealand music target by 2006.

In 2001, 11.2 percent of music broadcast by commercial radio was of New Zealand origin.

Steve Maharey said the Code's objective of getting more New Zealand music is being achieved.

"2002 was another great year for New Zealand music. Broadcasters have done a great job and I hope these excellent results do not lead to complacency in the coming year.

"Broadcasting targets were met in all but one format and the overall target of 13 percent Kiwi music was exceeded. This is good news for the New Zealand music industry and radio listeners who are getting to hear more local talent across the airwaves.

"The results follow solid work by commercial radio broadcasters and
New Zealand On Air:

commercial radio, under the umbrella of the New Zealand Music Performance Committee, is working cooperatively to increase the amount of Kiwi music broadcast. Its achievements have been quite spectacular, for example Kiwi music broadcast by rock radio stations increased from 4% in June 1997 to over 25% last year; and

New Zealand On Air's Phase Four plan seeks out new Kiwi artists producing music suitable for commercial radio which 'pluggers' then introduce to stations. Artists like Carly Binding, Nesian Mystik and Blindspott have been promoted in this way and are now achieving strong air play across the radio formats.

"These results also hold out great promise for increasing the amount of local programming on television. In December the television industry agreed to develop a similar voluntary industry targets for the small screen.

"Increasing the amount of kiwi content we get to see and hear is an
important part of developing our national identity and showcasing the work of talented New Zealanders," Steve Maharey said.