New Zealand music is currently enjoying a long stay near the top, with new artists and genres cracking the traditionally international-dominated local market more than ever before. Kiwis are beginning to get over the cringe factor that homegrown music used to generate – we are finally beginning to listen to ourselves. Much of the success can be attributed to organisations like NZ On Air, whose focus on not trying to compete with the import market, but giving a leg up to the talented local artists has seen Kiwi music take flight. (See what I did there? That’s some great prose…because Kiwis can’t fly.) Take a look at the likes of Steriogram, Scribe and Blindspot, and Brooke Fraser for examples of what small amounts of funding at the right moment can achieve in terms of exposure.
With all this success in locally produced culture, is the impending introduction of an American music juggernaught a step in the right direction? All signs seem to point to no.
The hype around MTV NZ seems to suggest that there is a hole in the NZ music video scene, where of course, MTV should be. The marketing campaign is being driven by MTV’s Kiwi focus. In fact, it seems dependent on it. To quote ex-More-FM presenter Stefan Chapman, turned MTV NZ programmer, “The launch of a truly Kiwi MTV is a hugely exciting opportunity.”
Truly Kiwi? That is a big claim to make. I can picture it now, Kiwi presenters surrounded by sets, schedules, and programming ‘inspired’ by MTV America. The Kiwi music connection is set to make up 30 percent of the music play, with the rest being filled by the international contingent of booty shaking, bling blinging, stock rocking commercialised crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ballad belted out by Destiny’s Child as much as the next guy, but this seems to me like a backwards step for home-grown music. Do we really need another outlet for imported music, when our radios and televisions already seem intent on forcing it down our throats?
MTV NZ has got C4 shaking in its Canadian made boots. The changes have been subtle, but slowly during those long winter nights C4 has given itself a shot or two of botox, lost a few kilos and taken to wearing really short skirts. Yes, C4 has whored itself up in preparation for the new girl in town. In fact you would be forgiven for thinking C4 was MTV. Blatant self promotion is now plastered across the screen 100% of the time, emblazoned over its music videos and programmes, its website bears a striking resemblance, concept and style wise, to the MTV visual style, and in almost every aspect, C4 seems to have pre-empted MTV’s arrival by copying it first. This couch potato thinks C4 need not have been so worried.
MTV NZ will play only on the pay network Sky TV, and will be competing with the no nonsense, 24/7 music playing Juice and J2, and will be relying on non-music programmes already offered by C4. There is simply no space for another video music channel in the already competitive New Zealand market. New Zealanders are notoriously fickle viewers, and by not being available free to air, MTV has already a severely limited its possible target audience. For all that’s going against it however, MTV NZ will benefit from marketing to an audience already familiar with its brand.
MTV has a much longer history in contemporary pop culture. Even though it’s short stay on New Zealand shores was years ago (June ’97 – ’98), MTV is still in our consciousness, thanks to references in imported movies, television, and the general pop culture world.
Love it or hate it MTV NZ made its way onto our screens on August 18th. Time will tell if it survives the ratings war or not, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last more than a year.
Have a good second half of the year people. Bring on the sunshine!
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