Max Johns - crap at blogging regularly, Blenheim

Monday, February 07, 2005

Channel NZ
Another editorial from www.muzic.net.nz's email newsletter

It is quite possible that Grant Hislop has the biggest balls in all of Aotearoa. And he's just gone a long way towards proving it. Hislop is, among other things in the NZ music scene, Channel Z's program director. Not a lot of reason to celebrate his knackers, you might say, but only if you didn't know that on Waitangi Day he pulled the plug on all overseas content and converting Z into a brand new station they call Kiwi.

100% NZ music, every day, forever. It's certainly going to make Kiwi different from any other station. And it's also one hell of a bold move. A new station, broadcasting to our three biggest cities (and Sky TV's digital subscribers), putting all of its faith on the creative output of our single, tiny country. And it's trusting in the listeners out there to go along with the vision. Will Kiwi fly?

Channel Z hasn't had a great run in the ratings with its current "alternative" format. Kiwi needs the radio-listening public to be drawn to NZ music to a greater degree than it was to what Z offered. Whether this will happen is tough to predict. Marketers call it "segmenting" – basically, making yourself different from the competition in order to attract different people. Radio stations generally segment themselves along genre lines - easy listening, rock, pop, whatever - rather than anything else. b.net stations buck that trend by broadcasting anything relatively unknown, but theirs is not an overwhelming commercial success story. To separate yourself from the competition by restricting your playlist not to songs of a certain type, but music of a certain country is a new idea. Kiwi is going to have to broadcast across genres and this, according to accepted radio practices, is a big risk. Your average Joe or Jane puts on whatever station plays the type of music they like. It could be that Kiwi is asking too many people to have too wide a musical taste.

But people do recognise NZ music as a distinct type. Look in the stores and you'll see, among others, sections for pop, metal, rock, world, hiphop, and New Zealand. One of these kids is not like the others. By virtue of the way NZ music is perceived, it could hold a radio station together. There is something that means that we group Greg Johnson, King Kapisi and Blindspott together in our minds almost as much as do Chingy, Ja Rule and Nelly. If the perception of NZ music as its own genre can carry listeners to Kiwi, Hislop will have himself a winner. But if the station is seen to lack any particular sound, or be too eclectic to attract the average listener, he will have a problem on his hands. Let's hope that they're as oversized as other bits of him.

Flouting accepted norms in any media is inherently risky, but the biggest payoffs usually come from the taking biggest chances. The idea behind Kiwi is simple, but fantastic. If the station is a success, it can only be a good thing for NZ music and NZ artists. We've had the talent to pull this off for years, and now we've got a man with the broadcast frequencies and the bravery to give it a go. All we need now is the audience.