Breaking New Zealand acts in the Australian market is to be the new focus of a government-backed promotional program designed to export Kiwi music to the world.
NZ On Air, the government agency which provides funding for a number of record and radio industry initiatives, launched its export strategy – dubbed Phase 5 – in 2005 and the program has focused primarily on the U.S. and the U.K. markets. Activities include the production of samplers, airplay campaigns and the staging of live music showcases. This year’s budget is worth $750,000 New Zealand ($530,000).
However, following a review of the export strategy by music consultant and former EMI NZ managing director Chris Caddick, attention will now be focused on breaking acts in the market of NZ’s closest neighbor. In his report, Caddick argued that New Zealand artists have historically achieved a far higher strike rate of success in Australia than in any other territory.
Brendan Smyth, music manager at NZ On Air, tells Billboard.biz the organization would be implementing the report’s recommendations over the coming year. “With the benefit of hindsight, I think it makes a lot of sense to try and conquer Australia before taking on the world,” he adds.
He also points out that the connection between the NZ and Australian major label affiliates was now “more immediate,” so it made sense to redirect resources to concentrate on activity in “our backyard so to speak.”
The intention will be for N.Z.O.A. to work with local companies and their Australian partners on up to 10 airplay campaigns a year. Other planned changes include cutting back on the number of music samplers produced and N.Z.O.A. withdrawing from conventions such as MIDEM and SXSW; these activities will now be the sole preserve of another government-funded organization, the NZ Music Commission.
However, N.Z.O.A. intends to continue its U.S. college radio program. “The college radio promotions have been one of our successful interventions,” Smyth says. “Back in 2004, only two NZ artists appeared in the CMJ college radio airplay charts; last year we had 10.”
In his report, Caddick concludes: “Phase 5 will know it has succeeded when ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ [the 1986 Crowded House hit] no longer wins the APRA award for the most performed work overseas.” Smyth acknowledges that the program has so far failed to deliver a major crossover international hit.
However, he says the Phase 5 program has helped raise the profile of NZ music internationally and he believes Island/Universal artist Gin Wigmore – who performed at an N.Z.O.A. Los Angeles showcase last year and whose debut album has since gone double platinum in NZ – has a good chance of cracking the U.S. market.
He adds some artists have also made some good headway internationally without “bursting to the top of the Billboard charts.”