Hard News by Russell Brown


Music is coming home

The practice and business of music has been one of the sectors most gravely impacted by the virus sweeping the world. The emphatic nature of our government's response, necessary as it was, has slammed the industry and the people who work in it.

There are New Zealand artists – Nadia Reid, Tami Neilson, The Beths and others – who should have been out in the world touring in support of new records; many more who were relying on income from playing live locally; record shops shuttered, live music venue owners who don't know when they'll be able to open for a gig again; $62 million in income vanished from cancelled tours by international artists, money that crews and hire companies were relying on; concert and festival teams struggling to understand what next summer looks like. And all this in an industry where the key people, the artists, struggle at the best of times.

These things were on the agenda for an online hui staged this morning by the Music Managers Forum NZ. And I'm happy to say that the collective will on display was hugely encouraging. The collegiality of our music industry has never seemed more valuable than it does now. 

The overall takeaway was a universal recognition that music is coming home, because it has to, but there was a hell of a lot of detail behind that. Here are some notes:

• Victoria Kelly of APRA/AMCOS says the agency's next payout to composers is being brought forward, in recognition of the fact that many members have no live music income.

• Recorded Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan RMNZ’s Damian Vaughan says indicates that “the event in November” – that is, Music Awards – will be oriented towards helping artists and others in the industry. They’re also looking to raise $2m for distribution via the charity Music Helps – the big streaming platforms have already contributed. RMNZ will also be commissioning research on industry impacts.

• Music Helps has already begun offering emergency grants of $500 for individuals affected by the virus respose. These grants are available to "Roadies, riggers, technicians, crew, performers, songwriters, managers and anyone who has lost income from their work in the production or performance of live or recorded music in Aotearoa"

• Rose Campbell of Creative NZ says the agency has completely rejigged its funding structure. It is now offering emergency "relief grants" via a partnership with Work and Income and decisions on those will be made within five days. There will be additional assistance for long-term recipients of Creative NZ support.

• David Ridler, head of music at NZ on Air emphased that the agency is continuing to operate, with staff processing contracts and grants from their homes. The budget pool for the next New Music Singles round has been boosted so there is funding for 40 new tracks, up from 20-odd. The agency will also understand if already-funded projects don't meet their deadlines. NZ On Air is also briefing the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and is part of several new working groups.

• Nadia Marsh of Te Mangai Paho says the Covid-19 crisis has come just as the agency was rolling out a new focus on music. They’re reworking their current funding round to get new projects going quickly. TMP is also launching a $100k fund next week that supports compositions, rather than recordings, given the difficulty in recording at the moment. All their funded music is waiata Māori. 

• The New Zealand Music Commission seems to be the agency most engaged with government and CEO Cath Andersen says she's been in frequent contact with MCH. She's been talking  associate Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Carmel Sepuloni too, and pointed out that there are four ministers with responsibilities for the arts (including the Prime Minister), which means arts are well-represented at the Cabinet table, but also that the demands on the senior ministers' time are currently significant. Ministry officials are also being fed ideas for the "recovery" phase.

• Cath says "everything has changed – it's business unusual" for the Commission. In education, its mentoring in schools programme will go digital. Rockquest will continue, and will announce a "very different" programme soon.

• For the next Outward Sound grants round, Cath says the Commission doesn’t want applications that involve international touring – grants will be for international marketing and promotion for new releases instead.

• May's 20th anniversary New Zealand Music Month has been completely reworked and will now focus on a theme of "stream local, play local, follow local, buy local". RMNZ, which principally repesents the three major music companies, will also get behind the "buy local" campaign. Cath emphasises it won't just be about listening to local music but buying it, which will help record stores.

• The Commission will soon publish advice for artists on monetising live streaming performances, and is advising music venues on ways to survive.

• Speaking of which, Victoria Kelly says OneMusic licence fees for venues have been suspended. She says streaming performances on the major social platforms will deliver royalties via existing licences. The income will inevitably be less than current live performance rights income, but members need to remember to send in their set lists to get paid.

One thing the panelists didn't have time to get to was an idea that had a lot of support in the comments: a new New Zealand music TV show. I've been thinking about this since the pleasantly unfamiliar experience of hearing and seeing New Zealand artists live on prime-time TV during last year's concert for mosque attack victims. It could be done in a number of ways, but I really think it's a timely idea – and complementary to the industry's new inward focus.

There are other issues to deal with – particularly in the live music sector, where a lot of incomes are at stake. They may come up in a second online event scheduled for 11am on Thursday April 23, again via MMF's Facebook and YouTube channels. For now, thanks so much to MMF for doing this and to Teresa Patterson for chairing.

Here's the video:

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