Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Enter Audioculture

The noisy library of New Zealand music has opened its doors. Months in the making and years in conception, Audioculture.co.nz is live. It's more fun than an encyclopaedia and more orderly than a fanblog and its purpose is to capture the stories of New Zealand popular music and the culture that grows around that music.

The site launches today with more than 250 pages, grouped under "People", "Labels" and "Scenes". We plan to add another 300 pages in the Audioculture's first year. So this isn't the end of the project -- it's very much the beginning. Not only will the number of pages grow, the pages themselves will become progessively richer.

Dozens of people have contributed to the Audioculture project, but it's no secret that the man who has made it happen is Simon Grigg. Simon's contribution to our popular music history is prodigious and it gets even bigger today. It's been Simon's determination that has got the project to fruition, and his personal mana that has given it credibility with the people who make and deliver music.

Murray Cammick, as site editor, has brought not only decades of nous and knowledge, but his incredible image collection. The site is lit up throughout by his own photographs, and the pics, posters and even the odd handwritten letter he has saved.

I've written a handful of articles for Audioculture, and I'm also responsible for its governance, as a member of the Digital Media Trust, which oversees Audioculture and NZ On Screen and reports to NZ On Air, the funding agency for both the cultural ventures. You can read more on the About page, and view the list of writers: Gary Steel, Chris Bourke, Andrew Dubber, Peter McLennan and more.

But mostly, dive in. Check out Gary Steel's tribute to Dave McArtney (those pics!), Andrew Schmidt on Bill Direen, my Headless Chickens entry, Peter McLennan on Manuel Bundy and Andrew Dubber's Lorne Street, High Street and the jazz explosion in the inner city, an early example of the "Scenes" features that will increase in number now that most of the basic work is out of the way. If your favourite band isn't there, don't fret -- it's very probably in the works, but feel free to have a word via the feedback link along the right-hand margin of the pages.

Again, it's not just about the text -- or even only what's on the site. We've made generous use of embedded content, which means we can bring to wider notice the precious 1980s video work of Bob Sutton, and Darkstation's assiduous audio recordings. There are also plenty of outbound links.

Commercially-released music is presented as embedded Spotify links -- so you'll need to sign up for a free Spotify account to hear it, which won't please everyone, I know. But Spotify turned out to be far and away the most effective means of clearing the music for use. The decision had a happy spin-off: many older releases have been cleared for Spotify (and hence other digital services) because we needed them for Audioculture. The work of DMT member and Rianz CEO Chris Caddick in this respect really deserves applause.

So go on, have a look.


Today is also a big day for Audioculture's mirror-image -- TheAudience, the new-music shout-out site that launched on May 31, 2012. Congratulations, guys: if Audioculture can be a nimble, responsive and thoughtful as you've been in your first year, we'll be doing bloody well.


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