Why We Still Need New Zealand Music Month

So another New Zealand Music Month comes to an end. This year I noticed New Zealand Music Month a lot more than I had done for a long, long time. This is perhaps because I volunteer at 95bFM, which is incredibly committed to NZ music, and also because I run a music blog. However, for a large majority of people, this years month passed by without much fanfare or attention being paid to it. I think the general verdict was that it was poorly advertised, there were not many events happening associated with it, and also many were questioning its purpose given that New Zealand music is in a pretty good place right now. To be fair, unless you are part of the industry, work in music media, or are a music nerd, New Zealand Music Month would have hardly made a flicker.

So the question then becomes do we still need a month dedicated to New Zealand music? One could argue we should be celebrating New Zealand music all year round anyway, and some would say why do we need a month dedicated especially to it? New Zealand Music Month initially came about in 2001, launched by the New Zealand Music Commission to try to help raise the profile of local music and encourage commercial radio to play it. There was a lot of fanfare around this at the time, with activities in schools and special hoodies being sold in Hallensteins. However, in recent years New Zealand Music Month seems to have reached a bit of a crossroads as to its purpose and whether it has passed its use by date. For starters, New Zealand music is doing better than it has done in years. There is so much talent around and a lot of good music being released it is hard to keep up at times. So why then do we need a month dedicated to promoting our music?

Well for me personally, I do think that New Zealand Music Month still has a place, if only to celebrate how good our music is and how much talent we have for such a small country. It is an opportunity to showcase this talent both through the media and in concert, to get to know our musicians, and perhaps most importantly give as many young and up and coming artists a platform to get noticed. For example, at 95bFM this year we had many young artists play live to air each day in the stations dining room, something that would have proven difficult to do without New Zealand Music Month. The let down though for me about this years New Zealand’s Music Month is that aside from the odd radio station like RNZ and bFM, and a little bit of media attention here and there, the month itself was poorly advertised, and not much was done in association with it. Where were the concerts? Where were the events? Was mainstream media doing enough? In an ideal world this month should be all over the media and everyone should be revelling in it, but sadly, this is not the case it seems. Why though? Is it just that the public do not care anymore after sixteen years? Or do the organisers not promote it well enough?

In any case, we should keep New Zealand Music Month, but it can be done better. Firstly, it should be moved to October/November when music awards tend to happen. That way we can make the event more of an end of year celebration of New Zealand music and tie it in more to music industry events. Having it on its own at the start of winter in my opinion contributes to it being lost and feeling a bit out of place. Moving the month to when music awards happen might even give some much needed credibility and identity to what at the moment are by and large industry schmoozing events like the VNZMA’s. The New Zealand Music Commission could also do better to promote it more widely both in the mainstream media and through having more events tied into it. At the end of the day, there is no doubt New Zealand music is worth celebrating and we should be patting ourselves on the back for what we have down here at the bottom of the globe musically. With this, a month where we can stop, celebrate, and at the same time also reflect on New Zealand’s great music history with things like the recently announced New Zealand music exhibition at Auckland Museum is well worth embracing because not many other countries do that.

– Sam 


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