Saturday, March 31, 2007

why don't you look at me / why don't you see me go

The story in The New Zealand Herald yesterday about the health of the NZ music industry, or otherwise, elicited this response from a reader. I post it without comment or any editing:

El Sid signs on.....

Couple of years ago we were hearing that local music has never been so healthy. At every NZ Music Awards.

I cant wait to hear what they’re gonna say this year!

It was bullshit then and its bullshit now. It's hardly any form of revelation that artists have had to take second jobs. Most of them should never have left them (if they indeed did-Zane Lowe never left his!) in the first place. You seriously want me to believe that the Bleeders expect to make a living from their music in a country this size. They are the type of band that will sell more tee shirts than cd's. Blindspott are hardly a hard working band and their sophomore album with German producers was probably not aimed totally at NZ anyway. They must have had at least one eye on trying to consolidate on their much trumpeted Asian success, and bloody good on them … so why are they are wasting their time and money at SXSW recently …. trying to nurture interest in the US Industry that is already 20% down on last year’s dismal results. Why aren’t they back in Asia?

Bic is an interesting phenomenon. Campbell was handed Bic on a plate and all credit due, they put the hard yard in overseas. Back then Campbell said that Bic on p2p sites was the best guerrilla marketing they had in certain territories. Sony NZ and International poured in the marketing but they can’t do that anymore. It doesn’t work like it did back then. It’s a whole new ballgame! The majors know that better than any of us. They know any business that is in the business of trying to create demand instead of cater to demand is in trouble. All those old marketing paths don’t deliver any more and the serious suspicion is that maybe even the baby boomer public have wised up! Their kids certainly have. The only time kids listen to the radio is in their parents cars, TV viewing drop off can be measured in the deteriorating production standards of TV commercials. To kids Cd’s are like ‘things’. … It goes on. It’s back to basics. Realness. Playing live. Treating your fans as special. Getting educated and getting smarter! Creating new promotional paths and exploiting the Net and working with people who can be all things to the artist. By artists measuring what they become by their art instead of how much they get for it. The irony technology has created ! Campbell’s management company was nearly all things to the artist, but he couldn’t (back then) not work with the labels . But, with his manager’s hat on, I bet he’s bloody not thinking that now!

If I was Bic I’d be thinking that dragging her brand (which is very credible) thru this latest outburst is seriously uncool. Altho she will be cool. She has catalogue and cred here and overseas. One license of ‘Drive’ to a car commercial will set her up for another year. Bic should be pissed off being treated like this. Its like EMI trying to save their sinking ass by pouring all their eggs into Norah Jones' basket. You think the daughter of Ravi Shankar believes she should be at number one globally, let alone generating enough income to bail out a seriously failing corporate – no way jose. The MD's of our local companies know the writing is on the wall and that the present model has got to change or die. Mike Bradshaw is a very smart guy. Campbell is a very smart guy. They know they should have attempted to work with Napster and learn to monetize P2P years ago, but instead their respective bosses tried to blow it out of the water and sue their customers. Dumb and dumber. The problem of scale and distance has ALWAYS been the problem for local artists, and the Net is part of a working solution. If the labels and RIANZ spent the time, money and energy of working with the same technology as they have trying to control it, local artists might be able to have more confidence in these same people. NZOA is in a prima position to be a source for all local artists to be posted on one website that could have international prominence, positioning and profile but MIC still persevere in sending a select number of artists to attend select festivals that are still aligned to a redundant model. Forget it. No one is home.

NZOA is the best thing that ever happened to local music but they need to upgrade their criteria and re vamp their role. They gotta pick up the ball. They long ago got into bed with radio programmers who became A&R consultants to an industry that hardly had any A&R. Now radio and TV aren’t what they were. Local A&R was always the domain of local indies who never got much airplay anyway. And it’s still the same old same old. Problem is all the Indies are more flat ass broke than ever. Some of the artists themselves are as much to blame. At WOMAD you saw high profile artists doing autograph signings for their public in the pouring rain for up to an hour after their gig. I cant remember the last time I saw local icons meeting and mingling with their public, except at the private bar

The next thing that will start hitting the major labels, here and overseas is that major artists wont re sign once their deal is up. And I can bet your lunch, that Campbell, with his manager's hat on (again) is considering this one! Oh Yeh! The majors are in a terrible position. They can't be all things to the artist, and that is what the artist needs. Managers can. Already the majors aren’t developing new acts. They don't have the resources viz time/money. The A&R vacuum being created now is only being balanced by the next Coldplay album. That's all the majors can do. Wait for the new Metallica or whatever. Soon as Coldplay and their ilk say ‘see ya’ (and they will) the majors wont be able to plug the hole in the product gap. Delivery of product has always been the key to their cash flow. It’s here guys! Right under your fingertips. Technology has accelerated to the point that it changes faster than big companies can move to address it, let alone try get the cd out in time!

If youre in a young touring band, get out of here. If you're relying on cd sales, get a job . If you're smart, start treating your fans better. If you're a song writer, treat your catalogue well and you will be sweet! Synchronization, touring and merchandise is where its at ... but most of all. . . u gotta BYOB !

El Sid.....

update: Bob Daktari, a long time industry insider, has more

19 comments:

Nige said...

Brilliant!

Chad Taylor said...

Finally: a sceptical take on the 48 hour PR blitzkrieg. The NZ media has picked up the labels' line of pirates-killing-music and run with it. (Chris Hocquard *almost* got a sensible word in on TV1, but was squashed.) Thanks, Simon. Do spread the word. (Would write more, but have to get back to my day job.)

Rowan said...

El Sid, whoever he/she is has nailed it.

Bob Daktari said...

Anyone see Andrew Fagan on Agenda talking about the article/issue?

Oh how I cringed... he had no idea about the issue he wasn't even close, it was embarassing

Paul Henry's treatment and very obvious boredom with the topic (or his job maybe) with Chris Hocquard was insightful in comparison

Campbell & co, foot, gun, shoot...

The "future" started over 12 years ago and the people aren't buying your propaganda or music anymore for very obvious reasons

dubmugga said...

...FWIW it seems the indies aren't in good shape either given the tax woes of dawnraid possibly going into liquidation

but on topic...

...I do hope brendan smyth is squirming in his well cushioned seat of a job cos it's pretty obvious he hasn't got the skills to see NZ music through to the next phase of the digital age

I do so hook us up...hahaha

Simon said...

Things have always been tough for NZ indies, but I don't agree with attacks on Brendan who both El Sid and myself do hold in fairly high regard. He's put himself out on limb for more than a few artists and indie labels over the years, myself included.

My big problem with the NZ on Air funding in recent years is they now tend to follow the broadcasters rather than lead them as they used to.

dubmugga said...

surely given the times and changes needed NZoA would be better served to appoint some fresh blood with new ideas...

...I know what he's done for artists and labels but thats my point, it was pretty much old boy kissarse and pander to the broadcasters and majors while running NZoA like his private fiefdom

and maybe thats what was needed then and as a man for his times he was it, but now ???

I don't think so...

...the writings on the wall so it's only a matter of time til the changing of the guard

Simon said...

Ok, I see what you are saying and I can't help but feel that you are right in that a clean sweep is needed.

I think the fiefdom accusation is a little unfair...without Brendan's vision and incredible energy, there would still be no music NZ music on the radio, and the only way that could be done was for someone like him to drive the political changes necessary through.

That said, the true weakness is the NZ on Air reliance on radio people to give them direction on the hit discs and the like. Radio is NZ is some of the worst you'll hear anywhere. It would make more sense to let a bunch of teenagers choose the tracks on a kiwi hit disc than the clueless bunch......I'd better shut up.

When the record companies started making records targeted at those hit discs and programmers, the end was nigh.....

I can't help but feeling that the quota,as I've always said, will be seen in the long term as a bad thing. But, as El Sid says, less and less listen to terrestrial pop radio now anyway, it doesn't sell records anymore (hasn't for a while). It's heading towards redundancy too....And the record companies still don't understand that.

Peter said...

he he, El Sid, what an anarchist! and what a great lead-in to NZ Music Month in May!

dubmugga said...

oh I don't know simon...

fiefdom : Something over which one dominant person or group exercises control

...it was only a year or so ago when he was listed as second or was it first most powerful person in NZ music scene ???

he has veto power over who gets funding and thus determines who gets a hand up into the public eye...

...to be honest there have been plenty of bands with no commercial potential recieve video and recording grants based on nothing more than having greased up mr smyth at a do and you know he likes that sort of thing

BTW is El Sid Mr Hocquard ??

Simon said...

I respect you right to your opinion here but I guess I don't really want to let my blog become a place where Brendan is slagged off. I have huge respect for the man, having knwn him and worked with him for some 25 years now, and I know what he's gone through to get us to where we are, and part of that was him taking absolute control. But in my experience he's always listened and been a champion of the underdog. Where NZ on Air falls over now is that the market, the marketing have changed, and it probably needs a complete revamp philosophically from the ground up.

Radio programmers shuld not be allowed to decide what is offered to them, and record companies (and NZOA) should not tailor anything specifically for those people.

and not its not chris

dubmugga said...

absolute control...hmmmm that sounds a bit feudal ;P

...and for all that where exactly are we ???

Radio programmers allowed to decide what is offered to them, and record companies (and NZOA) tailor things specifically for those people while forcing artists to compromise their output towards the broadcast friendly format to recieve a hand up...

...personally I can understand your perspective given your history with the man but I think this is as good a place as any to slag him and NZoA for which he must take a lot of responsibility for with it's direction or lack of it in current climes

if not the blogosphere then where ???

...sorry but i just can't help but laugh at champion of the underdog though as I'm more reminded of nibbler from futurama sitting on neelas corporate lap

to be fair though and in accordance with your wishes, thats it for me on BS on this thread...

...except to ask if we are really in a better position as opposed to what ???

Simon said...

dunno, but somebody bought 110,000 FFD albums....that sort of thing never used to happen. If the slight change in the public consciousness towards NZ's music has come about as a result of more exposure to it in general then that's got to be good. And I know they did it themselves but there is a perceptible change in the way NZ music of any style is received

dubmugga said...

exactly...

...we will support that which does have some emotional buy in of cultural ownership for NZers hence the fat freddies and the crusader shifting big units

...but surely you're not attributing fat freddies success to an NZoA ??? They were darlings of the feral dance party set for years before NZoA ever championed them

the preceptive change is that we don't cringe at how bad kiwi stuff is anymore cos it's as bad as the lowest common muck we get spoon fed through traditional media...

...i mean lets face it a lot of 20th century NZ musical output like flying nun was pretty shit and didn't deserve to be on the radio

Simon said...

No I don't think NZon Ar directly deserves credit but the change in the mindset they helped create does. being kings of the feral dance set only sells you 20,000 albums...getting into the suburban barby set is another whole thing. The people that are buying Fat Freddy's now are the white / brown suburban middle class who also buy Eric Clapton and Norah Jones.

and I agree, most NZ pop is pretty terrible now, but worse than the foreign muck since it doesn't have the production values..listen to any hit disc. We tolerate it despite thatufeak

Simon said...

"despite that" that last bit was the blogger code word!

albie said...

The biggest problem today is that the vast majority of music made is absolute fucking shite.
I am not surprised that nobody is buying it any format.
The whole industry has just become one big cliche and a pisstake of itself and deserves what it gets for ripping off the genuine music lover for so many years.

dubmugga said...

I gave up listening to hit discs when they stopped sending em to me for free but tell me about this mindset that NZoA fostered ???

...is that what we're talking about, that crap pop music is what pays the bills so we should fund and make more of it

like if we're gonna have crap on the airwaves it may as well be ours...

...uh yeah thanx NZ on air

and yeah the feral dance party set was always the white, middleclass, suburban, barby sets kids so I imagine some sort of incestual sharing of a common aesthetic crossing the generational divide with fat freddies and fuelled by a spliff or two could possibly account for shifting a few more units but i dunno about an extra 80k...

...production values ???

can't say that NZers have ever been big on them, although some hiphop these days is up there but it's still indy guitar bands as fuel for SXSW mentality which gets the nod more often than not by the powers that be...

...strange given that hiphop rules radio but here in NZ we'll only fund safe, nice, clean cut suburban hiphop or breakthrough acts retrospectively

never mind that it's the gangsta shit which moves and kids love...

Dubber said...

Great stuff, Simon. Yet another reason to be grateful for your blog. Much appreciated.