It started off simply as a post on a recent musician who received name suppression and then soon after received NZ On Air funding, and has since turned into a debate about the logistics of NZ On Air and a very interesting discrepancy that can be found in their ‘Statement of Intent’ for 2009-2012. If you recall, the NZoA debate came to light recently when Real Groove ran an article in their May issue questioning whether NZoA’s motives were outdated and pointed out that things needed to be changed. It quickly prompted an in-depth debate on Public Address and since then it was announced that NZoA would be reviewed and assessed, and any recommendations of change would be addressed. The forum of hiphopnz.com quickly became a discussion of NZoA’s ‘Statement of Intent,’ specifically page 32 of the document which states that the “percentage of radio singles from new artists that will achieve a top 40 airplay placing” from 2007/08 was 85% – a number which is inconsistent when looking at the past data.
The actual number is even lower than 50%, says Matt Walker who goes by the name Seka on the hip-hop forum (he’s also a local hip-hop artist and he uses the same moniker to release his music). From reading through all the posts on this particular discussion (it took me over an hour to get through it all), it seems Seka took an interest in the way NZoA processes work and began an email correspondence with Brendan Smyth. Smyth responded openly to Walker’s questioning and allowed him to post their discussions on the board as well. He asked poignant questions about NZoA’s current legislation and also followed it up with emails to Chris Finlayson from the Ministry of Arts Culture and Heritage. Another user Lopaki pointed out the highlighted discrepancy above.
Now what we’re talking about here is the amount of funded radio singles that get top 40 airplay as determined by the Radioscope charts. Walker has gone right ahead (after a gruelling process of chasing up both Smyth and Paul Kennedy of Radioscope to retrieve the stats to be able to do this) and calculated a fairly accurate number from going back and looking through the charts that were sent to him.
Smyth pointed out the process in one of his emails to Walker saying that to calculate the amount he would have to;
“a) List every song funded from 01 July 2006 to 30 June 2008;
b) Count the number of songs that had been released to radio as at 30 June 2008;
c) Count the number of those songs that had achieved a RadioScope NZ Airplay Chart Top 40 peak place as at 20 June 2008.
The % is c) over b) multiplied by 100 over 1 = xx% …”
As Walker states, “It’s just not mathematically possible for this figure to have ever been 85% at any point in time what so ever.” His generous calculations show that the actual figure is nowhere near 85% as it is stated in NZoA’s ‘Statement of Intent.’ Instead he says that in 2008 only 5 of the 22 funded songs made the top 40 chart. Furthermore:
“Now lets check the so called “actual” percentage that was calculated between july 1, 2006 and june 30, 2008. keep in mind this is stated as 85% by NZoA. And since I can’t get the 2006 records, I’m being nice to them and assuming that every single song funded between july 1, 2006 and may 29, 2007 reached the top 40.
2009 – 11/22
2008 – 5/22 – before june 30 = 2/10
2007 – 7/19 – actual calculatable = 4/19
july 1, 2006 to december, 2006 – highest possible – 11/11
17/40 = 42.5%”
It’s worth reading his whole post on how he’s calculated the stats and why it can’t possibly add up to the stated number in the ‘Statement of Intent.’ Smyth has already mentioned in one of his emails that he’s going to change the way he does the annual reports on this data. It’s a change he admits has come about through his conversation with Walker.
“From now on, for the Annual Report, I will do an annual calculation as at 30 June each year, based on the number of songs that we funded in that 12 month period … which makes sense since it is meant to be an annual report.. Then I will take the number of those songs that have been released to radio (as at 30 June less the number that have only just gone to radio in the previous week or two because it is too soon to get a reading on how those songs will perform) and then work out how many of them made the NZ Airplay Chart Top 40. And I will provide a footnote to explain how the figure was derived.”
After Walker pointed out the inaccuracies again to Smyth via email, he received a reply stating that Smyth is going to think about it some more and figure out where him and Walker are going wrong. Walker says that he is confirming his calculations. If Walker can prove that this number is wholly inaccurate then it could signal an even stronger need for change within NZoA. If data like this is erroneous then is it possible that other numbers within the ‘Statement of Intent’ also hold inaccuracies? We’re still watching this unfold and we’ll update the post as it happens.
UPDATE: Firstly, I’ve removed the info from the post that stated that Walker was still part of Menance records since he has got in touch with me and let me know that it is untrue. I should also point out that the review of NZ On Air that is occurring now was not prompted by the Real Groove article or Public Address post. The review was planned since 2008 and finally commissioned in March (it was originally put off due out the PPNZ vs. RBA royalty case), two months before the RG article was published.
As for the inaccuracy, Smyth has emailed me to explain how he got the 85% figure. Some of the singles from new artists do not get released immediately (and Smyth also tells me he is aware of tracks from 2008 that still haven’t been released), therefore his calculations for 2007/08 were inclusive only of the singles that had been released at the time. Since it’s impossible to recalculate the stats for that year now (in the same manner that it was done in the first place), Smyth forwarded me an example of the stats for 2009/10. He states that out of 20 singles that were funded, only seven had been released by the years end (June 30 2010). Six of those seven tracks made the NZ top 40 airplay chart, which explains such a high percentage that we get as an end result.
I emailed Smyth and asked him two things, which he quickly responded to: Firstly, would Walker’s calculations simply be an updated – yet still accurate – figure, since he’s done it two years later and without the restrictions that occurred when it was first done. By restrictions, I’m referring to the fact that two years later most of the tracks that have been funded would have been released and either succeeded or failed on the airplay chart. Secondly, I asked him if there was a time limit that artists have to abide by to use their funding.
His response was that indeed, both him and Walker are right with their calculations (although he hasn’t rechecked Walker’s stats). The way that it was calculated in the first instance by Smyth shows that his number was accurate but the way that Walker has calculated it now is just an update on that data. He also says that there is a time limit of 12 months on using the grant (at their discretion).
I’m going to recalculate Walker’s stats over the weekend and will update the post again if there are any differences. Smyth also added to his email that “This whole thing has made me think hard about how we report and measure this scheme and so we might make some (more) changes before we get it 100% right.”