This document examines the impact of cultural policy on the processes of making music in different countries, cultures and contexts in order to show that the way that music is perceived and valued influences the way it functions in any given context. It argues that we need to develop and implement coherent policies in relation to music making and indeed in relation to all forms of artistic and cultural activities, in order to ensure that a favourable social, cultural and political climate exists for arts and culture to flourish.

According to Bennett, "cultural leaders make it their business to define what is in or out in the rock world, and the followers rarely question those definitions."1 He says that "The Music," representing a perceivers taken-for-granted attitude to what has been succesfully distributed and cultural accepted "is a phenomenon of a society literally wired for sound. All of this has an overwhelming effect on the ways living musicians are able to present their music to audiences. As with any musicians in any music culture, musicians in modern settings find it necessary to develop an awareness of the soundscape which surrounds them."2 We must now extend our awareness beyond this "soundscape" and begin to understand a wider context which is characterised by far reaching social, cultural and technological changes.

Some of the issues involved in developing coherent social and cultural policies in relation to music and music making have been articulated by Batel, who said that "if there are not enough purposeful impulses for an active interest in music {amongst young people}, the passive consumption of the never-ending supply of pop music inevitably presents itself as compensatory satisfaction."3

More active occupation with music on the part of young people might be achieved by:

  • adequate examination of contemporary musical forms within the scope of music education in schools
  • increasing opportunities for participation in ensembles over a wide range of styles and genres
  • greater access to technology in order to show the possibilities of being creative with sounds
  • expanding the possibilities of interactive media in order to move beyond paradigms based on passive musical consumption
    While some of these kind of ideas are now being implemented in schools, the role of local authorities in processes and events which aim to nurture and support young and emerging talent in the wider community needs to scrutinised much more closely, as it is clear that some local authorities are deriving revenue from the use of facilities when they have the capacity to sponsor such activities and support a broader range of artistic and cultural activities in their communities.

    Mulgan and Wolpole considered the impact of social and cultural policies on music making in Britain. They write that "to the free marketeers the music industry represents an ideal of cultural practice, a model of giving people what they want"4 and that "the success of commercial music is often taken as an argument against any role for the state in supporting and encouraging music."5 They say that in Britain "many of the radical policies have in practice been followed by local authorities rather than the Arts Council. Local authorities have mixed two sets of goals: providing live entertainment and providing opportunities for local musicians to rehearse and record. The beginnings of an industrial approach to music, focussing on the importance of employment and economic viability, have also come from the local authorities rather than the national institutions."6

    They further argued that "with the introduction of tape levies and the licencing of all-night music television, the state is in fact becoming ever more deeply implicated in popular music. The problem is not so much that the state is uninvolved, but rather that the need for policy is scarcely recognised. What is needed now is both a cultural awareness of how the sector functions and the economic means to influence how the market works: to make the market free enough for everyone to express themselves, whether or not what they produce conforms to an idea of art or to the the demands of MTV and American (commercial) radio."7

    Mulgan and Worpole commented that the Greater London Council "showed how music could be used to both embody different policies (such as the commitment to shifting power in London's ethnic minorities) and to influence the industry."8. The GLC was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1986 because they challenged the monetarist policies of the Thatcher government. Interestingly enough, a new London wide authority similar to the old GLC has now been created. Iain Sinclair describes Alembic House, the residence of author and former Tory Minister Lord Archer as "one of three great riverine monuments to Thatcherism: along with the hollow boast of Canary Wharf and County Hall, the deposed GLC ghost barracks, through whose partly-boarded windows it is possible to view the stalled conversion that would convert London's seat of government into a Japanese piano bar. These three, taken together, give us a new definition of shame."9

    According to Mulgan and Worpole, "musicians are more concerned with distributing their music and setting up a venue than determining the correct ideological line" but "if funding was available for a mixed economy of experimental pop video and cable, for localised specialised music radio stations, for independent labels and concerts - in short for a sector operating between subsidy and the demands of commercial industry - then the scope for experiment and for the radicalising and political (in the widest sense) power of popular music would be far greater. Such a programme would also create many thousands of jobs, moving people out of the dole and self-exploitation. To implement a truly radical policy for music will require new institutions: investment bodies, a music industry training board, an academy for jazz as well as the Royal College of Music, and a new approach to broadcasting. And they will need to see technologies as tools not threats, and the world of commerce and the popular as a challenge rather than a problem. These, after all, are real living arts."10

    Some of the policy recommendations of the report resulting from an inquiry into Commonwealth assistance to the arts carried out by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia are as follows:

    • That the Australia Council (the Australian equivalent of Creative New Zealand) should convene a working party to develop appropriate business training arrangements for new entrants to the contemporary music industry. The working party should include representation from a broad cross section of the industry.11

    • That the government should, as a matter of priority, introduce a tape levy on the sale of blank audio recording tape to finance royalty payments to holders of copyright in recorded material.12

    • That the Australia Council should establish a scheme to assist talented contemporary musicians in the production of demonstration tapes, video clips and their first record. 13

    • That the Council together with the Technical and Further Education sector, should develop relevant training for the contemporary music industry covering
      (a.) business principles for aspiring contemporary musicians; and
      (b.) training in recording and production techniques.14

    • That the Australia Council should develop a scheme, similar to those it administers for visual artists and writers, under which talented contemporary musicians are assisted to train study and perform in overseas centres.15

    The Committee of this inquiry was firmly of the belief that many of these recommendations could be virtually self funded and noted that the potential for commercial sponsorship was "clearly considerable and there is also scope for earned income."16 They also recommended that the Department of Foreign Affairs should establish and maintain coordinating arrangements for Australian cultural activities overseas and that these arrangements should aim to maximise the foreign policy and trade benefits available to Australia from Australian cultural activities and should make full use of the skills and resources of relevant artistic agencies such as the Australia Council and the International Cultural Corporation of Australia as well as the expertise of the Australian Trade Commission.17

    By 1990 some of the policy recommendations made in Australia had already been explored in New Zealand.

    From the early 1980s there was a significant increase in the amount of do-it-your self recording and the formation of IMPPA (the Independent Music Producers and Performers of Aotearoa) created a new focus for furthering the cause of New Zealand music. Different groups and organisations, including the Green Ribbon Trust for Local Content, the Kiwi Music Action Group, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) subsequently the New Zealand Music Industry Commission have continued to advocate for New Zealand music.

    Television New Zealand (TVNZ) supported the development of New Zealand music videos by initially shooting videos in their own studios and from about 1983 began providing film stock, processing and other resources to enable independent film makers to make music videos for TVNZ to use on their music programmes. However, this process broke down in 1986 over a dispute about whether TVNZ should pay record companies for the use of soundtrack material and in the tussle of corporate interests over this issue, musicians were the main losers because their needs were not considered. TVNZ supported music video production became possible again after the dispute was resolved and support for local music video production has subsequently been taken over by New Zealand on Air, which was established in 1989.

    Prior to the restructuring of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, which became Creative New Zealand, a New Artists Recording Scheme was jointly funded by them and the New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board to provide support for musicians wanting to release a first record. To qualify for this scheme, new artists were required to obtain the commitment of a record company to manufacture and market the recordings made by successful applicants with funding from the other funding partners.

    In 1987 a week long Kiwi Music Convention was held which considered all aspects of the music/recording industry in New Zealand. Its final statement:

    • recommended a music quota for radio

    • asked that New Zealand record companies move immediately to help meet these quotas

    • deplored light entertainment budget cuts in television because of the inevitable effect of these on the music industry

    • deeply regretted the almost total absence of major international publishing interests from New Zealand and the consequent lack of support to developing and establishing New Zealand songwriters and

    • endorsed the Arts Council's recommendation for the establishment of a Recording Commission18

    In November 1987 the only remaining record pressing plant in New Zealand was closed, and with the exception of the production of cassettes, the manufacturing of musical product for the New Zealand market was mainly carried out in Australia until about the mid 1990s. It is likely that the success of digital audio compact discs, which have been called the most successful consumer electronic product introduction in history,19 played a large part in the decision to close the record pressing plant.

    The idea of establishing a Recording Commission was first mooted by the then Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council in 1980 and despite the fact that what is now known as the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) has been in existence for at least 45 years, 20 years passed before the New Zealand Music Industry Commission was established. Is this because the major record labels with offices in this country are still mostly instruments of cultural imperialism with little interest in supporting a broad range of New Zealand musical endeavour? Is this made possible because these local offices of large multinational companies are backed up by significant marketing muscle that originates off shore in the form of very large promotional budgets? Will greater support of the local industry through the New Zealand On Air Phase 4 programme challenge the market share that overseas product currently enjoys, thereby reducing the potential return on investment made offshore in product coming into New Zealand? What percentage of the profits made by these companies in the local market actually remains in New Zealand anyway?

    In New Zealand large production and promotional budgets are still available to a small number of artists at any given time, the majority of recording projects undertaken are still largely self funded and you need big money to get into the lucrative American market.

    All of this discussion highlights the fact that a coordinated resourcing and artist support infrastructure for the whole music/recording industry in New Zealand is still developing and what progress has been made in this area is largely the work of independent record labels and a number of outstanding individuals.

    Mulgan and Worpole's comment that "the problem is not so much that the state is uninvolved, but rather that the need for policy is scarcely recognised"20 accurately describes the National-led Government's position with respect to the music industry, if not the cultural sector as a whole prior to the 1999 election. Propped up by broken promises and self-serving ship jumpers and lacking the political will to bring about changes which had been advocated for many years, the Shipley government's ideological position in relation to arts and culture now appears to have been seriously flawed. The "market" is unlikely to nurture creativity unless it shows immediate commercial potential and despite all the talk about liberalisation of trade, many local artists still have to compete with major players in the global market place without the abundance of resources that multinational companies are able to call on in order to market their product.

    • The Ministry of Cultural Affairs has been in existence since 1991 with a small number of staff. Under the previous administration the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Heritage was not even in the cabinet and was demoted in the National party's ranking prior to the 1999 election.During the years Helen Clark was Prime Minister she was also Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

    • The New Zealand Lottery Grants Board's statutory role is to distribute the profits of government-run national lotteries for charitable purposes. At the request of the Government the Lottery Grants Board allocates fixed percentages of its income to Creative New Zealand (15%), the New Zealand Film Commission (6.5%), and the New Zealand Film Archive (0.5%). In recent years the Lottery Grants Board grants for these agencies have been substantially greater than the funding provided to them through Vote Cultural Affairs.

    • Following a change of Government in 1999 a cultural recovery package was introduced which saw organisations such as Creative New Zealand and New Zealand On Air receive substantial increases in funding from the Government and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission was established. At the same time many of the recommendations that came out of the Heart of the Nation consultative process were rejected by the new Government.

    • In 2000 Creative New Zealand received a funding boost amounting to approximately $6 million a year over three years and their first priority was to shore up the arts establishment. The expectations of many project-based artists have still not been met and increased levels of funding are yet to 'trickle down' to grass roots creative communities where the infrastructure is still very fragile.

    • While Creative New Zealand has not increased Creative Communities funding, this funding is distributed by local authorities and the local authorities themselves could be more proactive in this process by increasing investment in nurturing, promoting and marketing local art, creativity and culture.

    The development of coherent cultural policies, increased professionalism, knowledge and skills and an adequate resourcing and support infrastructure are all needed if the New Zealand music industry to keep developing in a way which will support innovation, maximise opportunities and allow the full potential of New Zealand music to be realised internationally.

    Looking at New Zealand art, Shaw argued that "perhaps the greatest single problem for creative artists in New Zealand is the conformism of New Zealand society," and because "most great artists are well ahead of the values and concepts of their contemporaries," New Zealanders need to "open up (their) ideas sufficiently to catch up."21 The population of New Zealand could double without effecting the environmental quality of life and the sense of available space. Shaw says that "with broader immigration, the social quality of life would soar in terms of diversity and choice,"22 and in terms of music this could make possible all sorts of musical undertakings which are presently limited by the size and conformist nature of New Zealand society and not by musical skills or available talent. It is clear that educational programmes are important in the processes of what Shaw calls "catching up" and it is noted that while diverse programmes of study are now available in secondary schools and at tertiary level, the secondary sector is clearly in need of better resourcing so that the implementation of new initiatives is properly funded, more schools can have up-to-date facilities and mentoring programmes can be ongoing.

    The way in which Ireland has undergone a cultural renaissance was outlined by Michael D. Higgins on Backch@t and in the New Zealand Herald23 during a visit here in 1999.

    Finally, by way of contrast, Chernoff observed that "the traditional arts of Africa are not easily distinguished from one another," which supports "notions of musical and cultural integration," and makes the point that "compared to Western societies, African societies have many more people who participate in making music, and they do so within specific groups and specific situations."24 He argued that in Africa music making is a group activity which is integrated into the various patterns of social, economic and political life.25 This view is supported by Graham who asserted that in Africa, "music is perhaps the main manifestation of culture in the broadest sense."26 Graham examined the music making in Africa, looking at the way in which music had moved from its traditional base through the application of industrial processing, to a new stage of commercialisation which increasingly emphasised quantity of sales and not quality of performance and found that "by the 1980s the time was right for a more widespread appreciation of the unique contribution Africa could make to the more general evolution of dance music."27 From the late 1980s a number of African artists, such as Yossou N'Dour from Senegal, Salif Keita from Mali and Mory Kante from Guinea, have combined state-of-the-art technology and production with traditional instruments such as the kora and talking drum. Yossou N'Dour gained greater international recognition from his work with Peter Gabriel and other well known musicians and through the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour.

    The impact of cultural policy (or the lack of it) on the processes of making music in different countries, cultures and contexts has been examined in order to show that the way that music is perceived and valued influences the way it functions in any given context. It is clear that central government and local authorities need to develop coherent policies in relation to music making and indeed in relation to all forms of cultural activities, in order to ensure that a favourable social, cultural and political climate exists for arts and culture to flourish.


    1. Bennett, 1980, p.111
    2. ibid, p.114
    3. Batel, 1980, p. 85
    4. Mulgan and Worpole, 1986, p. 61
    5. ibid, p. 62
    6. ibid, p. 68
    7. ibid, p. 68
    8. ibid, p. 69
    9. Sinclair, 1995, p. 167
    10. Mulgan and Worpole, p. 73
    11. Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1986, p. 173
    12. ibid, p. 175
    13. ibid, p. 178
    14. ibid, p. 178
    15. ibid, p. 180
    16. ibid, p. 181
    17. ibid, p. 189
    18. Baysting (ed), 1987 pp. 90 - 91
    19. Brand, 1987, p. 20
    20. Mulgan and Worpole, 1986, p. 68
    21. Shaw, 1988, p. 36
    22. ibid, p. 36
    23. New Zealand Herald, 6 September 1999
    24. Chernoff, 1979, p. 34
    25. ibid, p. 35
    26. Graham, 1988, p. 9
    27. ibid, p. 21


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    Baysting, A. (ed) (1987). Getting started in the music business - A survival manual for New Zealand musicians. Auckland: Ode Record and Publishing Company.

    Bennett, H. S. (1980). On becoming a rock musician. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press.

    Brand, S. (1987). The media lab - inventing the future at MIT. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.

    Chernoff, J. M. (1979). African rhythm and African sensibility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Graham, R. (1988). Stern's guide to contemporary African music. London: Zwan Publications.

    Mulgan, G. and Worpole, K. (1986). Saturday night or sunday morning. London: Comedia Publishing Group.

    New Zealand Herald (1999, September 6). Irish comeback points the way, A13.

    Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. (1986, September). Patronage, power and the muse - Inquiry into Commonwealth assistance to the arts (Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Services.

    Shaw, L. B. (1988, April 9). Ouside New Zealand art looking in. New Zealand Listener, 34 - 36.

    Sinclair, I. (1995). Lights out for the territory. London: Granta Books.

    Staff, B. and Ashley, S. (2002). For the record: a history of the recording industry in New Zealand. Auckland: David Bateman Ltd.

    Australasian Performing Rights Association.
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    Cultural Policy in New Zealand (2007) published by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
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    Play It Strange.
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