Wednesday, 06 August 2003
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Hayley Westenra
Picture supplied

Top NZ acts push aside world's best

05 August 2003

The rise and rise of Kiwi music has almost everyone humming a homegrown tune and industry leaders are working hard to keep it that way.

For the first time, four of the top five albums on the New Zealand record charts last week were Kiwi acts.

But can New Zealand music maintain its grip on the nation, or is the latest line-up of crowd-pullers just an exceptionally talented aberration? Industry officials say they are working hard to drum up school- level interest, impose radio quotas, and generally fly the flag of Kiwi music in a bid to make sure it stays in the mainstream.

Christchurch acts Hayley Westenra and Bic Runga sat at No 1 and 2 in last week's New Zealand record charts. Third place was taken by British band Coldplay, while New Zealand hip-hop artist Mareko and pop band Elemeno P were fourth and fifth.

The Top 50 chart, which dates back to 1975, is based on a formula combining radio station airplay and retail sales.

Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) chief executive Terence O'Neill-Joyce called last week a "wake-up call" for New Zealand's national identity, especially given that Kiwi music makes up only 11 per cent of national record sales.

"This is a week to celebrate New Zealand music; a week where our own have shouldered aside the best of international acts. It's something everyone in New Zealand should be proud of," he said.

Mr O'Neill-Joyce believed that with Government support the current New Zealand music fad could not only be maintained, but strengthened.

A two-year-old mentoring programme has successful New Zealand artists working in schools to spark interest in music production.

New Zealand on Air is focusing its budget on plugging Kiwi music into commercial radio air waves and doing pretty well, it says.

New Zealand music manager Brendan Smyth said record sales went up when Kiwi music was played on commercial radio.

Radio quotas for New Zealand music, referred to in the industry as "voluntary targets", are set to surpass the 14.5 per cent level set for 2003. The music industry code of practice was introduced in March last year with the aim of reaching 20 per cent local content by 2006.

Mr Smyth said the latest June quarter figures had New Zealand acts commanding about 17 per cent of the air waves.

He put the success down to the co-operation of radio stations, the investment of record labels in fledgling talent, and "a lot of time, effort, and money".The industry was working hard to ensure enough new talent was coming through to push the figures even higher.

"There are ways to make sure that there is enough good product coming through for radio to play," Mr Smyth said.

There is more New Zealand music on commercial radio today than at any time in the past eight years. Mr Smyth said the amount of commercial playtime had risen exponentially since "the dark days of 1.8 per cent in 1995".

New Zealand record sales are also up, and multi-platinum albums (15,000 New Zealand sales) are now common.

Link thanks to Keith S.


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