Going out and staying in

Oh hey – NZmusic.com. Remember that site?

NZmusic.com was a community-based website about New Zealand music. It was created as a side project by Wellington-based web design house Morse Media. I think it just came down to the Morse founders Dust and Teina being massive New Zealand music fans and wanting to have a little side project to experiment on.

I logged into NZmusic.com for the first time in ages. It told me I’ve been a member for 10 years and 4 weeks. That’s ancient in internet years.

I first joined in December 2000, and I had one very specific reason for joining: I wanted to watch an MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave video, which in turn led me to write this piece on their album a few months later.

In the days before Wikipedia, in the days before YouTube, in the days before Myspace, NZmusic.com was a place you could go to find out information about local bands, and watch a few of their music videos, even though they were low-quality and took ages to download on dial-up.

If the world wouldn’t listen to your favourite band, who didn’t even have a record deal and had barely toured outside of their hometown, you could find a handful of genuine fans of this band who’d be quite happy to discuss how, yeah, this band were musical geniuses and if there was any justice in the world, they’d be huge.

NZmusic.com was also a refuge for small-town teens who’d never have the chance to see their favourite bands play live, and probably didn’t have many, if any, friends who liked the same music that they did. A 14-year-old and a 28-year-old could equally argue about who was the best New Zealand drummer of all time, and no one really cared about (or noticed) the other’s age.

After I moved back to Auckland in 2002, NZmusic.com was the gentle hand that guided me out of the house. I’d go out to gigs at tiny bars like the now-closed Temple bar on Queen Street (and see Paselode blow the roof off), or to more populated gigs at the good old King’s Arse.

“The Shrugs are my new favourite band,” I declared on Sunday 17 November 2002 at the outrageous time of 3.41am “Anyone who can add in a bit of that Gwen Stefani/Eve song into a slow rock song is surely deserving of my adoration.” This was not overtiredness. The Shrugs are still one of my favourite bands, though they don’t play that particular song these days.

And it wasn’t just fans – actual proper band members were forum regulars too. In a discussion of music videos, I reckoned that Shihad’s “Pacifier” video didn’t really work because it was a direct copy of “A Clockwork Orange” and didn’t add anything new to the mix. Then along came Shihad’s drummer Tom, who commented “I’m alone on the issue within the band but I think the use of Clockwork Orange was trite at best – Lots of people love it though.” Whoa!

There’s an idea that any successful online community will eventually go offline. That is, with all the forum posts being made, eventually someone will say, “Hey, let’s meet up.” And that’s what happened with NZmusic.com. I eventually came to know some of the regulars from the forums, meeting up at gigs. There were also rumours of secret hook-ups, but also good friendships formed from it.

But then I stopped posting. It seems to have happened at some point in 2006, giving me at least five solid years of NZmusic.com before the decline.

The site started to fade when the New Zealand music area of the forum changed from discussions of New Zealand music to bands promoting their gigs. “hey we’re playing at shaykz on saturday come along and support nz music!!!!” No. We never went to gigs to “support New Zealand music”. We went out to see good bands play and to have fun.

So the site filled with boring posts and somehow NZmusic.com lost its heart. People noticed and made a few requests for something to be done (what?), but the Morse team were busy working hard with their paying jobs.

Rather than any sort of dramatic flouncy departure (“That’s it! I’m never posting here again! Hmph!”) I accidentally stopped posting, stopped visiting the site, until one day I realised it had been well over a year since I’d last visited.

NZmusic.com still exists, but it’s significantly pared down from its glory days. The forum is still there, but it’s filled with comment spam and doesn’t seem to have any regular users anymore. None of the older content remains – all the information about bands, the videos, the hilarious press releases is all gone.

It’s easy to blame Facebook for the decline of a community-based website, but there are now sites to pick up the slack, like Cheese On Toast, and A Low Hum‘s glorious celebrations of music, both run by old NZmusic.com regulars. And that’s not to mention the whippersnappers behind sites like The Corner, keeping the music love going.

Sometimes I find myself feeling a little nostalgic for the old NZmusic.com, but realistically, it’s gone and it’s never coming back, just as surely as 2002 can’t come back again. Instead NZmusic.com has left a legacy, a fragmented but staunch community of New Zealand music fans who continue to share the love.