Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Good News

Many years ago, a man came to the place I had been cast, and he saved me.

That sounds more exciting than "In 1983 Murray Cammick travelled to Timaru, where I was working in the branch office of the Christchurch Star, and hired me," but the effect is basically the same.

As it did for many other people, my contact with Rip It Up, then New Zealand's free monthly music magazine, changed my life. I was deputy editor for only three years, but it ruined me for the straight life. You can read my memories of the experience here.

Back then, 30,000 copies of Rip It Up were distributed nationwide and picked for free off piles on the floors of record shops every month. It seemed that everyone read it and and working there felt like being part of the culture.

But like many others who've been through the place, I've fretted about Rip It Up's heritage sometimes. It was owned by Satellite Media from 2001 to 2013 and had a particularly notable spell as a paid title under the editorship of Leonie Hayden. But Satellite sold the mag to music industry figure Grant Hislop, Leonie (now the editor of Mana magazine) was let go and  things went downhill. Back in the day, Murray was prepared to wear it if a bad review prompted a record company to pull an ad – under Hislop, Rip It Up was basically selling good reviews. Last year, Leonie wrote a Spinoff column hoping it would just die.

Last month, it was put up for sale in an odd listing on Trade Me, in which it was characterised as a "gold mine".  Hislop apparently sold it to a new owner, Leanne Frisbee of Passion PR, in November, but her plans to relaunch it had been scuttled and he was helping with the sale. Or something. It just seemed weird.

But after the ad appeared, Simon Grigg began negotiating with Hislop. He was able to strike a price for the purchase of Rip It Up's written and visual archives, artwork and published magazines. The right to publish the magazine remains for sale and Hislop believes there is still value there, but I think most people would believe that Simon got the treasure. It's the social history.

Simon is, of course, currently the creative director of the music legacy site Audioculture and his ownership of the archives will clearly be a boon there. But it clears the way for other things to happen with this taonga too.  This really is good news.


The arrival of New Zealand Music Month has brought the usual rumblings about, well, New Zealand music. Hussein Moses has written a balanced and thorough story on the local audience's drift away from local music for The Wireless. Grant Smithies discovers that many of the people who make New Zealand music are making it elsewhere this month.

And Music Month manager Simon Woods runs down the month's activities on the official website. But let me be blunt: that website needs to die – it would be better to have a placeholder and sort out a listings page with someone like Eventfinda or one of the newspaper websites. The Facebook page, on the other hand, is quite lively and well worth a look to get an idea of what the month actually consists of.

But the deep read is this blog post published yesterday by Ben Howe, who is a partner in Flying Nun, Flying Out and Arch Hill Records, among other things. It's pretty dense, but it's about the money. Ben's estimate is that around 90% of the annual $74 million in recorded music revenue goes overseas and he outlines the reasons why that is so. It's inevitable in some respects and unsatisfactory in others – but it's amenable to change, which is what Ben is proposing as he seeks election to RMNZ's governing board.

This is his most interesting suggestion:

2. Allow One Music licensees to nominate where/to whom their fee payments go.

One Music is a good initiative where RMNZ and APRA have banded together so that venue music licensees (shops, café’s, etc) only need to get one music license rather than two from the two different music providers (APRA, RMNZ). In 2015 Recorded Music reports this is worth $3.8million.

The main problem with this kind of license has always been measuring what actual music a licensee (shops, cafés etc) plays and then paying that money through to the correct recipient. At the moment payment is calculated using radio airplay statistics, though everyone is aware that isn’t probably what those shops, cafés etc actually play and this heavily favours big international artists with a lot of radio airplay.

As a whole, the industry acknowledges this system is not very satisfactory, but has been unable to come up with a cost effective alternative.

My idea to solve this issue is to allow licensees to nominate the music style that best describes the music they play, and then use existing genre based airplay charts to actually remunerate the artists/labels/publishers. Included among the styles/genres licensees could nominate “New Zealand Music” and if they nominated that then payment would be measured against NZ artist airplay.

I strongly believe that many small businesses/retailers and so on would like to know their music license fee was going to local artists, and local artists would also get behind the scheme encouraging licensees to select the “NZ Music” playlist. It is an idea I have already floated with both RMNZ and APRA and so far, aside from the work involved in implementing it, it has met with a positive response as a possible solution. Hopefully this system would mean more money in the pockets of New Zealand artists and labels, rather than the current unsatisfactory system.

Best of luck Ben. If you can sort this there's a gong in it next time Labour's in government. Sure, it might be a while, but I'll have a word with Prime Minister Ardern.


One of the New Zealand musicians who's somewhere else for Music Month is Marlon Williams. Here he is playing last week on the BBC's Later with Jools Holland:

Nailed it


On a rather different note, The End of Now is a $10 rave at the King's Arms tonight. It's one of a series of parties put on by Suren Unka and Bob Frisbee, tracking towards a festival next summer. They're promising to transform the old KA and the lineup includes this guy: Alphabethead.


The new James Blake album, The Colour in Anything, drops about lunchtime today. Sounds like this:



A new cut from local groove supergroup Leisure dropped last night and already has 30,000 plays on Soundcloud. It's their best yet (and it's actually available for purchase on iTunes, grandpa):

And now, a lazy handful of classic reworks ... 

The mighty Situation take on 'Gypsy Woman' (old-fashioned free download from Soundcloud):

A cool ghetto funk remix of the Zapp track (mildly annoying Hypeddit download palaver):

A dope take on 'Back to Life' (click through for a download link):

A silly but very enjoyable Run DMC rave-up (click through for a download link):

And oh sweet baby Jesus, John Morales has spread joy upon the land. As he notes, he's mixed Teddy Pendergrass's 'The More I Get the More I Want' a few times over the years, but he's calling this 'The Ultimate", so you'd best get your mouse clicking on that download button:

If you're not dancing in your kitchen tonight, I'll want to know why. Righto.


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

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