The Music Club

September 30, 2010

My column on the NZ Music Awards (I refuse to use the sponsor name, Vodafone… damn, I just did) in the just-out October issue of Metro has resulted in some virulent discussion in blog-land, and I can’t resist a few lines as a right of reply.

THE CORNER music and culture blog is worth checking for its sometimes thoughtful content, and Hussein Moses makes some good points in his discussion of my column and the NZ Music Awards.

It would have been nice if he hadn’t misspelled my name in the tag lines, though.

It also would have been nice if he’d qualified his use of the word “elitist” in his description of METRO, a magazine that might represent those in Auckland who can afford to eat out and participate in the myriad activities of the city, but to my mind hardly warrants that aside.

[Moses later on refers to METRO editor Simon Wilson’s “short, sweet and irate email” asking that he take down the PDF that THE CORNER had put up of my column. I’ve seen Wilson’s email, and it could be described as short, even curt, but irate? Not on your nelly. This is my beef with many bloggers – they don’t see the value in getting it right. I’m not saying that glossy magazines, and print media journalists never get it wrong, just that bloggers so often don’t seem to know the difference.]

So… Moses made some good points, and more or less seemed to agree with my column (hey, buy Metro to read it; it’s a good issue!)

But then good old media pundit Russell Brown pops up to disagree with me. In my METRO column, I make the point that some so-called independent NZ record companies have relationships with “major” companies like Universal, EMI and Warners that have led to some cynics labeling them “pretendipendents”. Obviously, the relationships vary – some are for distribution of product alone, like Flying Nun’s with Warner. Some are for distribution and promotion. Some other linked in other, more complex ways.

Brown says: “I think regarding acts and labels with major-label distribution deals as improperly indie is pointless in New Zealand. The symbiosis between small labels (some of them artist-owned) and majors has been characteristic of the local industry for more than a decade. Universal in particular seems committed to working that way — hasn’t it been distributing the Dawn Raid catalogue for a long time? And Dirty, of course, started out with a P&D deal with FMR. What has happened in that time is the rise of Rhythmethod as an indie distributor capable of selling multi-platinum records. And it’s not shut out of the VNZMAs at all — I seem to recall Fat Freddy’s Drop winning a clutch of them.”

His point is fatuous. I never claimed that having some involvement with a “major” was enough to bring about dark clouds of evil. My implication was that those with ties to the majors have an “in” with RIANZ (Recording Industry Association Of NZ) and Music Award nominations. Those labels who are genuinely independent, with no ties to “major” labels, have no affiliations to the mechanisms in the industry that would allow them to be nominated or – Gawd forbid – voted to a glittering prize.

Of course it’s wrong to suggest that it’s impossible for independent record companies (or even artists self-releasing records) to join RIANZ and somehow get nominated, but it’s clear that few, if any, would ever make the final selection, and of those, diddly squat would stand a chance of winning.

That’s assuming that the genuine independents actually WANT to participate in a Music Awards that has become a farce – if it wasn’t always one. I don’t believe they do.

But hey, I won’t bang on, because my article makes the points rather more eloquently than this screed. It’s just a pity that someone of Russell Brown’s prominence in the media (someone who has become a kind of de facto totem of the new centrist-left/indie/alt whatever) betrays his really rather orthodox views with opinions like the above quoted.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. “But then good old media vampire Russell Brown pops up to disagree with me.”
    It was hard to understand what the point of Mr Brown’s comment was in relation to your article apart from to be some sort of default apologist for the industry once again. I don’t think he got what you were saying.

  2. Wow, that was a bit unnecessary. I posted one comment on what was being said in the discussion on The Corner — and in return I get “media vampire”, “utterly fatuous”, “de facto totem of the new centrist-left/indie/alt whatever” …

    I didn’t particularly even address the comment to you — although I do think your column was let down by some factual errors — but you spent more words cursing me out than I wrote in the first place.

    Calm down, for goodness sake.

  3. Maybe I had too much coffee, Russell. Or maybe there’s some residue of bitterness (over-extracted grounds) from your slanderous response to my Listener article on Flying Nun back in, Jeez, when was that… 2002? In any case, because I’m a reasonable guy at heart, I’ve edited my blog so that you’re no longer a “media vampire”, and your comments are simply “fatuous”, but not “utterly fatuous”.
    I would be interested to know about my supposed factual errors.

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