May/June 2023

by Richard Thorne

2023 Review Of NZ On Air’s Music Funding

by Richard Thorne

2023 Review Of NZ On Air’s Music Funding

Formerly known as the Broadcasting Commission, NZ On Air is an autonomous Crown entity responsible for funding support for broadcasting and creative works in Aotearoa, with annual revenue of around $180M in 2022.

Charged with producing the 2023 version of NZ On Air’s regular independent reviews of the various music funding programmes the agency provides, Victoria Kelly evidently took to the task with relish. The result, announced at a NZ On Air Music showcase event at Auckland’s Tuning Fork at the start of November, is a surprisingly readable 78-page report neatly titled: A Review Of NZ On Air’s Music Funding.

The report PDF’s size is daunting, but Kelly was laudably intent on presenting the full diversity of opinions she uncovered in interviews with 70, artists, producers, managers, publicists, record labels and industry executives etc. Striking a balance on page would have provided the biggest challenge.

An award winning composer, artist producer and former Director of Member Services for APRA NZ herself, Kelly has all the right credentials to be widely empathetic and she writes collectively, as one of those benefitting from and invested in NZ On Air Music’s various funding schemes. Frequent use is made of (un-credited) quotes that are insightful of the differing funding need perspectives each of those groups and/or individuals hold, some unsurprisingly in conflict with others.

The report notes: ‘The remit of NZ On Air is to fund public media content that reflects the cultural identity of Aotearoa and connects with New Zealand audiences. Two messages about this remit, as it relates to the audience, have come through loud and clear:

  • There are not enough opportunities in the local environment for most funded music.
  • Connecting with a global audience is the best (and increasingly the only) way for local artists to connect with a New Zealand audience.’

Fortunately for us all, the author provides an 8-point Summary of Recommendations on p76 which covers the following:

  • Enable Export – Reframe NZ On Air’s remit to facilitate the export of NZ music, so that artists can better access their audiences and sustain their careers
  • Tier Funding – Adjust New Music funding streams to allow for greater agility, elasticity and fairness for applicants and recipients
  • Define Success – Set clear measures of success for artists, and fund according to their ability to achieve that success in their chosen spaces
  • Develop Capability – Offer culturally specific business development to artists to help them increase their industry knowledge, networks and confidence
  • Increase Flexibility – Reduce any unnecessary administrative loads or restrictions on artists that further compromise their ability to create, or engage their audiences
  • Support Infrastructure – Empower industry infrastructure to better support and promote artists and their music in the transforming environment
  • Prioritise Equity – Embed safety requirements, representation and cultural world-views into funding streams
  • Unite Industry – Collaborate across industry to achieve the above, and facilitate clear pathways for music from its creation to its audience’

Running to just eight pages, the NZ On Air response document (both are available via makes a more convenient read.

Each of the recommendations above are covered separately, culminating in a one page Summary of Actions, which is after all, the point of the exercise. In 2022, NZ On Air Music distributed $4,823,702 via New Music Development, New Music Single, New Music Project, Waiata Takitahi, New Music Pasifika and New Music Kids funding.

Most widely reported of the planned changes is an increase of the $ amount of each New Music funding stream to include a mandatory 10% Artist Creation Fee – i.e. income to go directly to the artists.

This means that a New Music Single, New Music Pasifika, New Music Pan-Asian and New Music Kids funding grant of $10,000 will also see an additional $1,000 maximum paid to the artist on top of the funding amount, bringing the total funding to $11,000. For New Music Project the funding on offer is currently up to $40,000, meaning a maximum of $4,000 will paid to the artist on top of the funded amount.

For many involved, the fact that the artists themselves have not previously been paid to create via NZ On Air grants seems anomalous, especially when the organisation all-but directly funds producers, publicists, video directors and crew, and managers. Others will be sceptical about the shift from optional (artists’ choice) to mandatory artist payment for the creation of their art, and what complications that may add.

Historically, NZ On Air music funding hasn’t treated the haves and the have-nots differently – those acts that already enjoy genuine financial success, are legacy artists or full time professionals/part-time musicians – are equally able to gain funding for their new music, as are Kiwi artists basing themselves in Australia and elsewhere.

With no likelihood of overall funding pool expansion, that additional 10% per contract inevitably demands reductions elsewhere, and cuts in the overall number of tracks and artists currently being funded under each programme are flagged. NZ On Air’s response doesn’t cover the likely numeric scale of those cuts, though 10% is an obvious enough guess. Any resulting changes will be implemented in the 2024/2025 financial year.

This is from the Summary of Actions:

‘From January 2024:

  • the optional 10% Artist Creation Fee, that currently is within each New Music funding stream, will be added on top of each grant and will be mandatory.
  • for both New Music Single and New Music Project budgets there will be a provision for the artist managers to be paid to create and implement a media and promotion plan for their artist, as long as they are able to supply evidence, they already provide this service for their artists.
  • there will also be an additional provision within each New Music Single budget for an artist’s management to include a project management fee (this is already an eligible expenditure within the New Music Project budget).’

Important as it is, the desperate need for our creative artists to derive income from their music in the streaming environment isn’t dominant among NZ On Air’s dozen action point items. Mentoring, support, music community, ethnicity and code of conduct items outnumber those related just to revised funding allocations. As Victoria Kelly’s report observes at the outset, ‘We’re living in wild and crazy times!’

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