A Low Hmm Pt. III: A Late Hmm


‘A Low Hmm’ is a series of online chats between Duncan Greive (ex-music magazine editor) and Dan Taipua (ex-music listener) about the current state of music culture in NZ.

This piece was written before the summer break, so forgive any errors of continuity or propriety.


7:31 PM

Duncan: D’day champ.
A-hem. G’day champ.

7:32 PM

Dan: You visible?

Duncan: Nah. Never. Have emailed too many weird people from this account. They always get at me and it’s awks.

Dan: So many irked Trademe customers

Duncan: Pretty much.

So we’ve got an hour until Homeland starts. What’re we talking about?


7:38 PM

Dan: It’s cliche, but it’s been a busy year in 2012
I’m writing up the ‘Top Moment of the Year’ as literally ‘The Whole Year’
We got press folding, streaming starting up, funding reviewed, funding revamped

Duncan: It has been eventful, even by the past decade’s standards.

Dan: Yeah, it’s as though the future has finally caught up with us – like everything that was talked about for the past five years suddenly just kicked in

Duncan: Yep. Though even as we type I’m still listening to Soulja Boy. Still amazed I was allowed to put that guy on a magazine cover. He sounded so shockingly new. Now he’s ancient. On Spotify Premium though. You on that?

Dan: I’m a proud ongoing customer (they just started billing me automatically after the free trial). I’m very happy with it (please help me)

Duncan: I’m proud-ish. I don’t really get why they need to pay artists and labels so poorly – that Galaxie 500 piece was pretty depressing/illuminating – but still believe that it’s early days, and they plan to reach critical mass then jack up the prices, or payments at least. I guess some more advanced revenue statements would help. Like do you get more if your spins lean more free or paid? And if some amazing person had the service and just played Hellzapoppin’ once would the 3Ds get $3, or whatever the share of revenue which flows back is? My guess is no, but maybe they should. Galaxie 500 are great btw.

Dan: I was pretty unfazed by that article, since you actually couldn’t pay me to listen to Galaxie 500. Did you read that piece on their revenue base? It’s something like 80% subs 20% advertising at the moment.
I know that in NZ they need to build up their cultural capital – it’s a great, easy service for a decent price but the exposure’s pretty low right now.

Duncan: Yeah their advertising in New Zealand is pretty excruciating. Increasingly grating series of ads for the service itself. Not sure why it hasn’t caught on – radio advertising is still pretty healthy, and you’d think it was more ‘active’ than that medium. Guess maybe media buyers aren’t the edge-chasing thrillhounds their reputation would suggest?
But Spotify do need to up their local profile. Seems like everyone who’d been waiting on them hit it immediately, but no one else has joined the dancefloor yet.

Dan: I know a part of my subscribing in conscience money, so I can go ‘yeah I downloaded these albums five years ago, but now I can kind of retroactively pay for them in very tiny increments’.

Duncan: Totally get the conscience-salve thing. Does it also apply contemporaneously? Or do you just stop downloading albums, legally or otherwise? Are you supposed to? No one seems to know…


7:55 PM

Dan: A reasonable-sized lever in this is a legitimate fear of the ‘three strikes law’. Did you see that case that was brought forward, then dropped, in October? The link’s here, RIANZ looking for $400 per downloaded track

Duncan: Yeah, but didn’t they end up getting sent back to school, because she hadn’t actually received any of her three strikes, due to her ISP not sending them to the right email address? And ‘legal scholars’ thought $400 a track was way too much, so that’s unlikely to withstand scrutiny. I don’t doubt they’ll eventually prosecute some poor saps, but it’ll be like the boy-racer car crushing thing – a big stick, not frequently deployed.

Dan: Yeah, they did really poorly on that one – failing to follow process for a law that they lobbied for (-_-)

Duncan: You do get the feeling that technology/habits might overtake them by the time it reaches any kind of popular consciousness. In 3-4 years time, are people still using iTunes, or is Spotify ridiculously dominant by then? Goes back to that ‘future finally arrived’ thing you mentioned – we just got 2008’s version of the future with Spotify – there’s probably more future to come.

Dan: More 2008 future like Soulja Boy?

Duncan: He’s still got it. Or ‘All the Way Turnt Up’ is still mean.


8:02 PM

Dan: We’re a full year on from the biggest shift in NZ on Air music funding with NZOA publishing their review of the Making Tracks scheme It’s a great document, and in itself reflects the types of changes made to the funding
This is nerd central, but there’s a fantastic chart at the back of the doc which publishes figures (relevant, measurable figures!) on plays and reach

Duncan: Yeah I was pretty impressed. Felt more like a VC fund discussing how its seed money was doing out in the wild than just gassing up the Feelers/Shihad jets for another year.
Contradictorily, at least so far as what I was sorta lobbying for, I do feel they over-ordered alt/indie stuff – a possibility they referred to – but maybe that was a natural correction to years of neglect?

Dan: I think it’s a few test fires to see if any of would stick in the first year basically to establish some kind of % hit rate – I mean hitherto you’d have no idea what would pop and what wouldn’t, especially running on new channels of distribution

Duncan: True. I do wonder if the dropoff we’re seeing at commercial radio – their ‘share’ is the lowest its been in a while, as I understand it – is down to the new regime being less suited to their demands. That could be one of a few other factors too. I think they have a new radio plugger, so it could be just less competent personnel. Or that the first generation of sustainable commercial artists is reaching the tailend of their creative cycle, while the next lot are yet to really elevate. Or just that people are less jazzed by New Zealand music. That would imply the love for it was a novelty, which I feel like some people would strongly dispute. But I think there is a legitimate fatigue too. There’s also the idea that commercial radio sees the funding for their special, somewhat shitty, artists drop and retaliates by playlisting less and less.

Dan: Again, I think that might be modelled on absent predictability – like, those special radio artists were shitty but they knew exactly what to do with them.

Duncan: Or they’d invested enough in them – in the sense that they’d backed them from way back, and had specifically said ‘I will play this’ – whereas they have no such attachment to that which we funded. But the cool thing is that they’re kinda cut out of the loop now. Or at least just a station on it. The YouTube views figure was super interesting, in that report. Maybe the best evidence that most of those songs we funded were finding an audience.


8:21 PM

Dan: Ay man, you know does have an audience but can’t get any dang funding?

Duncan: Who’s that?

Dan: the bro Hussein Moses

Duncan: Oh true?

Dan: Remember back in ALH2 you and I were talking about the new area of Digital Media funding from NZOA and basically thought they should back smaller projects?
…nek minnit
‘The NZOA Digital Media Fund Ignite fund’ is established for the funding of small-scale digital media projects, with the intent of igniting them

Duncan: That does seem awfully relevant. But their idea of small-scale and yours might differ.

Dan: People have been telling Moses on and off for years that he should apply for some type of funding for The Corner, but there’s a bunch of ethical reasons around why he wouldn’t want to get into that. So, to appease both sides of the argument, we nutted an application for the princely sum of NZ$130.

From a total pool of $200,000.

Read the whole proposal here

Duncan: That doesn’t seem like such an extravagant sum of money. Paperclip budget for a proper website.

Dan: Well, some other website – here is the rejection letter we received on October 9th 2012 :-(

Duncan: Blues, dudes. I admire how pitiful your request was. Almost daring them to turn you down. They called you on it. Good that you’re making it public – too much of that stuff is shrouded in secrecy. Like, how’re Mixtape’s numbers? And when’s that Music Management video game coming out? Like the Endace sale debacle, it can sometimes seem like the taxpayer involvement ends when the ink’s dry on the cheque.

Dan: Yeah, the tough thing is we had measurability and audience, as well as a decent idea from someone who once put Soulja Boy on a cover

Duncan: Well he was obviously a genius.


8:40 PM

Duncan: Overall, a pretty great year for NZ On Air, though, given that they’re a goddamn government agency. And this Simon Grigg project has the potential to be terrific. If only because he’d be in my top five ‘people to give money to’ in NZ music. Making Tracks seems to be working. Jeez, this lack of complaint is going to ramp up the views some huh? I also hear that November’s physical sales were up double digits on the previous year locally. Maybe 2010-11 was really bottom? Tune in next year, folks.

Dan: You know, I’m really looking forward to seeing these plans roll out in the coming year – the Grigg Project in particular. And if I know anything about the internet and this site in particular, this lack of strong controversy is bound to have people flooding the comments with shared optimism. Also, back the Ravens to take the Superbowl and if you have to pick a Powerball number, make it #8.


  1. I read this whole article from top to bottom and there was absolutely no mention of cool hipsters at Camp Low Humz? What gives?

  2. Endsongs says:

    I was a ‘cool hipster’ at Camp a Low Hum (actually a hot hipster in shorts and sandals and badly-applied sunscreen drinking warm beer) and I didn’t see Duncan or Dan. I wish someone would pull the plug on NZ on Air funding of music recordings and music videos and we all get back to DIY survival of the fittest with zero aspiration of turning a buck.

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