Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Bombathon Begins

The 2016 95bFM Bombathon fundraising week officially kicks off on Monday, but you can already get in a sneaky donation here. And if you've ever been moved, touched, informed, amused or induced to dance by the b, I reckon you should.

I've been involved with 95bFM and its predecessor stations since I used to do the odd show in the early 80s – and of course, this blog right here has its roots in the 11 years (1991-2002) that Hard News was a weekly radio rant. That rant, in which I used to explain complex social and economic issues, swear a lot and get mistaken for Bill Ralston, is the basis of most of what I do now. I wouldn't be here, now, doing this without the b – and there are a hell of a of a lot of other people with a similar story.

The deep history of the station goes back a lot further than I do, all the way back to the first capping week broadcast from a boat in 1969. But there's a period after that in which Radio B created all kinds of useful mischief, made headlines and helped shape New Zealand broadcasting. That's a story that's almst been forgotten, but I tell it in two new Audioculture features to be pubished next week, naming names and revealing secrets that have not been told before.

Most media enterprises are feeling revenue pressure these days and for various reasons, 95bFM feels it more than most. The marvel is that it's still there doing things like the brilliant live streams for Orcon IRL. Last year, having fetched back the Bombathon from the 1990s, the station set a target of $45,000 and exceeded that. This year, the target is an ambitious (and numerically resonant) $95,000.

The station will be broadcasting next week from St Kevins Arcade on Karangahape Road, the spiritual home of b culture. There are various special activities around that, but I'd like to draw your attention to one in particular: next Saturday, the 10th, you can dig my crates.

From nine till noon, I'll be one of a select group selling at a mini-record fair at Southbound Records, 132 Symonds Street. The shop will donate our market fee to the Bombathon (if I do at all well, they'll get more than that). There'll be sexy sevens, tasty twelves, alluring albums – and the odd rare gem from the household New Zealand vinyl vault. If I get around to it, I'll post a partial list next Friday.

Meanwhile, you can bung a little in and be able to tell everyone you were into donating to Bombathon when it was still really obscure.

Because we can never allow what happened yesterday to happen again  ...


The Others Way festival takes over K Road for the second year this evening and there are more artists playing more venues. There are still some tickets left at Under the Radar and the Flying Out store at 80 Pitt Street. The lineup includes David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, The Phoenix Foundation, Anthonie Tonnon, Nadia Reid, Salad Boys, Yoko Zuna, Yumi Zouma, Ghost Wave, Kane Strang and more ...

You'll also note a special comeback from those rascals King Loser.

Andrew Moore is shooting a documentary around the comeback show (and the short tour to follow) and he reports that King Loser have been "on fire" in the practice room. He sent me this picture of Celia Mancini:

I'm involved in a small way this year too – interviewing Roger Shepherd at 7pm in one of the new venues, the old Samoa House fale. It's part of the festival, but entry is free. At the conclusion of the session, Roger will sign books and I will streak out the door to catch the rest of Nadia Reid's set at Galatos.


This evening's chat will be a reprise of Saturday night's In Love With These Times event as part of WORD Christchurch. A capacity crowd packed Blue Smoke in Woolston and maintained a level of attention that was remarkable for somewhat old folks obliged to stand up for two hours.

But there was plenty to maintain for: not least the performances that punctuated the panel discussion. First of these was Jay Clarkson covering the 3Ds' 'Spooky' – something you might never see again. Happily, Mr Willy Biscuits got some video:

Next, Graeme Downes played the title track from The Verlaines' forthcoming tenth studio album, Dunedin Spleen (there's a double live album recorded in 1986 on the way too):

Then contemporary Flying Nun artist Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins) stepped up to play the title track of Hurtling Through, her collab with Hamish Kilgour.

And finally, all three convened to play JPSE's 'Shiver', in tribute to the late Jim Laing. It was special.

There doesn't seem to be any video of what happened next: which was a spontaneous one-for-one set by Hollie and Graeme after the scheduled event. That ended with Graeme breaking out '10 O'Clock in the Afternoon', which was amazing. But I did get a photograph of the moment:

Graeme reckoned later he'd been driven to greater heights by having to follow Hollie each time. Jay reckons she told him to play it.

Other things to emerge from the evening: The Bats are still working on that next album. Paul and Kaye were in the crowd and said they put the band's almost-unseemly continuing creative vitality down to the fact that "Bob lets us do what we want." (Personally, I'm sticking with the theory that they have sold their souls to some southern devil.)

Another Tally Ho! concert with the Dunedin Sinfonia is in the works and will feature Graeme's arrangement of the "Mozartian" 'Sugar in the Petrol Tank' by his former student, Anthonie Tonnon.

And David Pine shared that Sneaky Feelings have been quietly convening over the past three or four years – and currently have 20 new songs recorded!

Further information elicited over whisky at the hotel later: Jay says she taught Paul Kean to play bass and Graeme says he gave Shayne Carter his first guitar lesson. I love musicians.


It's a very busy music weekend in Auckland. A bunch of indie luminaries are in town for the Going Global industry symposium, which includes  a public showcase tomorrow night at Whammy and the Wine Cellar, featuring Tami Nielson, Anna Coddington, Gareth Thomas, Bailey Wiley and more.

Today also sees the announcement of an alliance with its roots in introductions made at last year's Going Global. Digital Rights Management (DRM), which handles digital music services for many New Zealand independent artist and managers, has announced a strategic partnership with the Europe-based digital distributor Believe Digital. I asked Believe's Asia-Pacific sales chief Sylvain Delange a few questions:

What does Believe do that an aggregator like DRM doesn’t or can’t do?

This is really a question of scale on many aspects: international setup, technology, analytics ...

The main objective in this partnership is to leverage Believe’s international on-ground presence to enhance the reach in key markets. DRM has a very strong expertise on the local market, where Believe has the same expertise in more than 30 territories with direct access to all key international and local stores in each area. The digital landscape may be different in each territory, so we are here to build up a tailored strategy based on the local landscape and the artist potential.

On top of this local expertise, Believe is also bringing a robust technology and supply chain to guarantee a quick delivery on all platforms and an integration with the latest stores in each region, including complex digital landscapes like China, India or Japan. Real-time analytics is also key to be able to react quickly where we see traction happening somewhere.

Believe is also one of the leading Music Multi Channel Networks (MCN) providing high-end expertise on video platforms, such as YouTube. Our team is constantly up to date with the latest features of each service to make the most of them.  

What’s the agreement mean for New Zealand artists?

This mainly means that the New Zealand artists will have a global partner to open doors for them, increase their visibility on stores and optimise their assets online. They will benefit from the knowledge of marketing and music experts in each market and the technology that goes along with it. 

Are we seeing the true shape of a global digital music business now? Are we there yet?

I think it’s still very early to talk about a global digital music business even though we’re definitely going in this direction. What we have realised over the years is that all markets are different. You will always find similarities, but the way people consume music in New Zealand, in Brazil, in Germany or in Japan can be totally different. I think this is partly due to the fact that music consumption remains mainly local. Music has been profoundly rooted in everyone’s culture for centuries. Even though we live in a globalised world, most tend to listen to music made in their own country, with their own cultural references and in the local language. This is why it is so important for Believe to be physically present in all those territories. It gives us a deep understanding of each market that no data feeds or analytics can replace.

The other reason is that streaming is yet to reach mass-market adoption. Looking at all the figures, streaming is currently reaching only a very small fraction of the population. There’s still a vast majority of music consumers that have not yet come to experience or even heard about what streaming is all about. Once this happens, we will see a consolidation in the global digital music business, but I believe music consumption will still be different in each country. 

Independents have been at a disadvantage in most of the big digital licensing deals so far. Is the balance starting to be redressed?

This question is in the core of the Believe DNA. Believe is a fully independent company which is fully dedicated to independent artists and labels. When gathered together, the independent music scene can be as powerful as any other major player. Our global size allows us to negotiate deals that labels and artists alone wouldn’t be able to get on their own. It could still be better, but as the market grows we think it’ll become fairer. 

How well do artists, management and labels understand the new world?

Difficult to answer without dropping a boring “it depends”. Overall, artists are very digital-savvy nowadays and understand tools, platforms etc. However, they don’t necessarily have a full understanding of digital deals, royalty splits, business models that are also sometimes very complex. So much of everything and anything has been written online about the digital music business. Some claim it’s the worst thing that ever happened to the music industry, some say the exact opposite. 

Obviously, a greater transparency is needed. Managers should be well-versed in this, so they can advise their artists properly, and it’s also a labels duty to uphold a certain level of transparency. Our system is fully transparent for all royalties received, for all forms of music consumption. The objective is to help artists understand how to better navigate this fast changing landscape.

This is something Believe is really committed to: transparency and pragmatism so that artists, management and labels can make an opinion for themselves.

It’s interesting to see that part of the alliance with DRM involves physical distribution. How important is physical distribution?

DRM allows us to extend our global physical network, which we see as a very important service to offer. With the growing popularity of vinyl, being able to offer this on key projects globally is important to Believe.

We don’t think physical will completely disappear, we want the audience to have the choice. Most of the time, the people who buy physical are also subscribers of streaming services. You want to be able to play your favorite tunes from your phone, and once you reach home, play it out loud with your vinyl player on your big speakers – at least that’s what I do!.


The only time I saw Grace Jones play live she was a little too busy rushing off stage to do another line of coke to perform (the evening in question is recorded in Simon Parkes' brilliant Live at the Brixton Academy: A riotous life in the music business). But she seems to have been in top form  at FYF Fest in Los Angeles this past weekend:



My internet buddies RocknRolla Soundsystem are back with two crazily-funky edits of Sly and the Family Stone's 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)'. They've posted some snippets:

And you can buy both for less three near-worthless British pounds at Juno Download. I like these a LOT.

The crew also have a Mobb Deep edit available as a free download on Soundcloud:

Some lush shizz from Auckland's Prince Purple:

And a couple of things from the might Bill Brewster. Firstly, the latest DJ History podcast, a catch-up on a variety new tunes (including a new one from Wrangler, the project of Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire) released while he was off touring South East Asia:

And a four-hour show from that tour, as The Observatory in Saigon. Free download, as is the podcast:

Righto, this post has to end somewhere! Get out, enjoy the music – and do pop in and see our lovely sponsors for your quality home (and elsewhere) audio needs ...


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

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