One of the choice things about New Zealand is the fact that for the last ten years the government has been giving money to bands to make music videos.
Pre-1991, if a band wanted to make a music video it was up to them or their record company to fund it. As things were back then, most of the struggling bands were signed to small record labels without huge promotion budgets.
This resulted in the low budget music video standards: the live performance, the group of friends mucking around in someone’s backyard, and my personal favourite – jigging about in front of a blue screen. All shot on really cheap looking video.
The impressionable youth of the time looked at such music videos and thought to themselves, “man, New Zealand bands suck,” and went off to buy a Vanilla Ice tape, when they could have been buying Upper Hutt Posse. So someone, some good person, decided that one way to make New Zealand music more appealing would be to give struggling bands some cash to make better videos.
So every year NZ On Air gets truckloads of cash from the government. According to their website, in the 2001/2002 financial year, they had $79,000,000 to give to starving artists involved in the world of the broadcasting arts. Of that, $450,000 goes towards music video production. It’s split up into 90 grants of $5000 for bands that have choice tracks to offer the world of music.
Apart from the obvious criteria of having to be New Zealand music, the only other requirement is “airplay potential”. What this means is that it’s not just good songs from good bands that get funding. Popular, lowest-common-denominator type bands – ones who are little more than New Zealand version of American bands – get funding too.
The “airplay potential” criteria also means that the videos produced aren’t necessarily groundbreaking creative masterpieces. Girls in short skirts? Guys running around in funny costumes? It’s all there.
And just because a band gets five grand to make a video doesn’t mean they’re going to make a good video. Sure some bands have are fortunate enough to have a record company who will throw in some extra cash and get something good made, but I don’t think lack of cash is too much of an excuse. Back when I was at tech pretending to be a film student, there were people making no-budget music videos for their mates that looked really good.
But despite the occasional crap video for a crap song from a crap band that gets NZ on Air funding, for the most part the videos are OK. It’s caused the death of jigging about in front of a blue screen, and created good videos that aren’t embarrassing to watch.
The New Zealand government gives bands money to make music videos – that’s so cool.