About 5000 Ways

“Music videos appear to capture what’s happened before and what’s going to happen next in New Zealand seemingly better than any official doco.”
NZ On Screen commenter Blair

I’ve set myself a mission: to watch every NZ On Air-funded music video made.

The diabolical idea came to me in January 2011. I was in Christchurch, down by the banks of the Avon, filling in time doing some reading on my iPhone. My reading material of choice was the Caddick Report, a review of NZ On Air’s music funding schemes.

The report looked at the television- and radio-centric music-funding schemes and considered whether they are still relevant in today’s digital world. (Answer: yeah but no). One submission to the report suggested that NZ On Air should engage with “new media” by starting a YouTube channel.

And so that got me thinking about all the music videos that had received NZ On Air funding and I wondered how many were available online and why they hadn’t been collated into a YouTube playlist yet.

The Sneaks summarise music video funding in their “I’m Lame” video.

Well, from April 1991 to July 2011, NZ On Air gave out over 2200 grants of $5000 each for the production of music videos by New Zealand artists. They’d need an intern to make all that into a YouTube play list.

It was intended that the $5000 grant would be matched by $5000 from the artist, with $10,000 being the cost of a decent music video. But that matching was never enforced and a lot of bands discovered it was possible to make a decent video for $5000 – or less.

The amount of the grant was held at $5000 for that 20-year period, even with $5000 in 1991 being worth over $7700 20 years later. Were successive governments being cheap-arses in not ever increasing funding in that time? Or is it a reflection of the decrease in television production costs over this period?

From July 2011, all the previous funding schemes (including music recording) have been ditched in favour of a $10,000 single-n-vid funding package, of which $6000 is allocated for the music video. It also has a mandatory $2000 contribution towards the music video from the artist.

And then there was the sometimes controversial issue of the music video funding decisions. Back in the days of NZmusic.com, there was always a ruckus when the latest video funding decisions were made. “Waaah! ‘Tisn’t fair! Why does [popular pop band] get funding over my experimental noise orchestra?!” Why? Because NZ On Air’s mandate is broadcasting, not art. It’s about its name: getting New Zealand music on air, not supporting niche musical art projects. The Arts Council is there for that.

So this all seems like a good time to start to look back at all the music videos that have resulted from 20 years of $5000 grants. I’m intrigued by this substantial body of work. What has this $11 million given to New Zealand music and broadcasting culture?