Metro Magazine's Gary Steel On RIANZ, Dane Rumble and This Years New Zealand Music Awards

There’s something oddly special about about Auckland’s favourite elitist magazine, Metro, calling bullshit on this years music awards. Gary Steel’s column titled ‘The Blah Awards’ in the October issue of the magazine, cleverly takes shots at Dane Rumble (“…Rumble came on like 90’s rapper Vanilla Ice on milk biscuits. The former member of lollypop-licking hip-pop act Fast Crew was clearly a joke.”) and the way that the awards are structured through RIANZ, ignoring releases from artists that make our local scene so unique and special.

The New Zealand Music Awards take place on October 7, and what better time to issue a critique? Steel says we shouldn’t be that surprised that Rumble has been nominated for six awards considering the criteria that finalists need to meet; only RIANZ members can vote for the finalists and it costs $350 a year to join. “Once you’re on the long list, the major categories are whittled down to finalists by the “Voting Academy”, selected by RIANZ and comprising “approximately 150 representatives from various sectors of the music industry (radio, press, TV, online media, previous winners, retailers, promoters, and the like).” Steel resigned as a judge last year and says that the award process is “deeply depressing.”

Steel also points out that The Naked and Famous are technically still an independent band yet their music is distributed through Universal, which gives them a helping hand considering the way our market is structured (“those who opt for absolute independence are invisible…” Steel points out). He’s right, and the article brings us back to an interesting announcement.

Last week Dirty and Dawn Raid Records issued a press release saying that they had merged with Isaac Promotions to form Frequency Media Group, which will see all artists now get distributed through Universal Music. It’s a step that more labels might take if they need to survive locally. The benefits of signing on completely to a major label are arguable considering the speed at which things are changing in the current climate of local music yet there are clear upsides to having the backing of a well-established label like Universal and there’s not much doubt that it will help to establish FMG as a major player in our industry.

But as Steel tries to get across in his column, let’s not forget about the independent labels and artists which are the backbone of our industry. Border, Arch Hill, Muzai and countless others release superb music every year and will continue to as long as they can. Perhaps the criteria for the music awards needs an overhaul to help our independents get a leg up but whatever the case, the awards don’t dictate what’s bubbling under the surface. There were 19 artists nominated over 12 different categories (not including Gospel/Christian or Classical awards) for the music awards this year. Why not try and explore our local scene some more?

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