By Paula Yeoman
After seven months of navigating a Covid-induced new world order, in which the music industry has changed in ways we could never have imagined, it feels like a good time to take stock of what we’ve learned. As we come to terms with the reality – that we may face months, if not years, of isolation on a tiny island at the bottom of the world – one lesson screams louder than any other for me. We must do more to actively support music being made in Aotearoa.
As an artist manager I see first-hand just how important support and active engagement is. So, I’ve taken the liberty of making a check list. You may question why the need to spell out such obvious steps of support. Doesn’t everyone already do these things? In short, no! The truth is, we are excellent at paying lip service; but crap at following through.
Even if you personally achieve two of these basic actions in the next month, you will have made a difference. Imagine how much more of a difference you’d make, if you convinced two friends to do the same; and those two friends convinced two more friends to do the same.
It really is that simple!
Make sure you are following your favourite NZ artists on Spotify OR find new acts to follow
Many don’t realise how important it is for artists to have followers on platforms such as Spotify. That tiny ‘follow’ button can be critical. It’s important because it’s one way to measure if music is getting through. If someone has taken the time to follow an artist, there’s a good chance they actually like their music. They are not just a passive listener, who’s streaming their music at the gym or on some massive playlist where all the songs blend into one. Also, having followers means that an artist generates more streams through their own playlists and library, which in turn helps drive Spotify’s algorithmic playlists, like Release Radar and Discover Weekly. People who actively follow an artist are more likely to save their songs to their libraries and less likely to skip songs. In a world when everything is driven by algorithms, this is hugely important!
So, make sure you are following your favourite NZ artists and if you already are, then spend a few hours searching out new local artists. Give their stuff a proper listen and if you genuinely like it, hit follow. It really does make a difference.
Follow artist you like on social media and engage with their posts
Social media can be such a tiresome and tedious thing. But for many artists it’s one of the most important tools for building a fanbase of people who genuinely like what they do. Again, the emphasis is on the word ‘genuine’. Make sure you’re following artists you like and when you are, take the time to like their posts and comment. This also drives algorithms. Share posts/stories about new releases. It’s a good way of showing support and also introducing their music to potential new fans. And while no-one wants a forced follow, sometimes even ‘sympathy votes’ count. That’s because the number of followers and subscribers you have on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are watched closely by decision-makers, such as funders, festival bookers, radio programmers and so on. It’s a numbers game and it all counts.
Shazam songs you like
It’s quite surprising the number of people who don’t know what Shazam is. If you’re one of those people; it’s an app that identifies a song in a few seconds and then links to the song on Apple Music. It might seem like a rather pointless app, but it’s another tool for measuring if a song is getting through. I use Shazam frequently and often find myself rummaging through my bag in the supermarket so that I can find out what song is playing. What’s really encouraging is that supermarkets, malls and chain stores play a lot of Kiwi music. I’ve also been known to Shazam a song even when I do know who’s singing it. That’s because I know Shazam has its own chart and I know that industry heavyweights watch Shazam numbers and these charts closely. If you haven’t got Shazam on your phone, get it and use it. It’s an easy way to show your support, and you never know, you could be helping a local artist to get their song playlisted on radio.
Oh, and once you’ve found out who the singer is, remember to follow them on Spotify, Apple, Instagram and Facebook too.
Swap your daily coffee for a day for two and buy cheap gig tickets instead
We used to think nothing of spending $100 or more to see a big international artist live in concert. And yet, I’ve seen really good New Zealand artists put on small shows with $20-$30 (or less) tickets and still struggle to sell out. These are artists that people claim to like. I’m at a loss to explain what the mentality is behind our reluctance to buy cheap tickets to local shows. We seem so non-committal and apathetic. We know that playing live shows is absolutely critical to an emerging artist’s growth and development and to their ongoing success. They need audiences to play to! Also, what some people may not realise is that funding criteria often includes an artist’s ability to sell tickets. For newer artists, and even some relatively established acts, it can be really difficult to meet the criteria. So, let’s get a bit more excited about local shows. Buy a ticket as soon as a show is announced. Hell, buy your friend a ticket too. It’ll set you back a few flat whites but you are helping a whole lot of people – not just the artist, but musicians, sound engineers, venues and so on.
I love nothing more than band merch and I’m guilty of spending big bucks on my favourite international artists and yet, I own so few pieces by New Zealand artists. As I type this, I’m already thinking of the bands that I could be supporting through buying their merch or giving it as a gift. That’s money in the pocket for a hard-working Kiwi act and also, nothing is as powerful as a bit of promotion via a kick-ass band tee.
Lobby the gatekeepers for change
New Zealanders should keep pressure on the gatekeepers of the industry to ensure that local music is fairly represented across the board. That means demanding more local bands on festivals; more local music on radio. I don’t mean to trivialize the role of festival bookers and radio programmers, because I truly do appreciate that their jobs are difficult. But if you – like me – want to see a broader range of acts and genres on our big festivals and more New Zealand music played on radio, then make your thoughts be known. And most importantly, remember all of the above steps. By doing these things YOU are helping, because the more popular an artist becomes, the more likely they’ll get booked on festivals and played on radio. The gatekeepers who closely watch Spotify, social media, the charts and so on, are the people who have the power to make or break careers and in an industry that’s rich with talent, it is our duty – as it is theirs – to make sure that our local talent has a place.
Paula owns and operates local music company NicNak Media with Nicole Thomas. Together Paula and Nicole manage a successful roster of talent, including Theia, Chores, Paige, Abby Wolfe and NEKO. They also work alongside many local and international artists delivering PR campaigns.