Connecting audiences with great songs


From 2% to 20%

When NZ On Air began in 1989, less than 2% of the music on radio was local content. Our music funding programme began in 1991 and lifting the amount of music on radio was the clear mission. Today around 20% of music on radio is local.

Funding New Zealand music radio programmes was the first step we took to support local artists and the wider music industry. 

Counting The Beat which began on Auckland's 91 FM was the first of these local music 'oases'. The programme profiled New Zealand music for a full hour across 14 commercial radio stations 50 times a week and quickly increased the amount of local content being broadcast on radio.

Through the new radio scheme, NZ On Air was also able to support student radio, the long-running champions of Kiwi music. We funded specialist New Zealand music shows on each of the then six stations, some of which continue to be produced today such as Freak The Sheep on The University of Auckland's 95 bFM.


Video didn't kill the radio star

1991 also saw the first NZ On Air funded music video - AEIOU by Moana and the Moa Hunters.

Music videos are an integral promotional tool for a song and it wasn't long before we saw increased exposure for New Zealand music through video airplay.

AEIOU - Moana and the Moahunters

Funding for music videos has not only contributed to the success of songs being broadcast. It supports the video-making industry and contributes opportunities for many directors and others involved in the film-making sector.


Rapid change

In 1992, one year on, more records entered the New Zealand singles charts than in any one of the previous 20 years and there was an optimism about the future of the success of music made in New Zealand.

It was evident that supporting recording and promotion together was integral to this success and the following years saw the Kiwi Hit Disc radio sampler programme launch. 

The Kiwi Hit Disc is how NZ On Air promotes new release local songs to radio stations so they will play them. 

NZ On Screen

Brendan Smyth, Music Manager talks about the challenges of getting local music on air during the '90s and the significance of the music video.


Success in the charts

NZ On Air has had the privilege of supporting some of New Zealand's most iconic artists from the beginning of their musical careers - artists like Kimbra, The Naked and Famous, Joel Little, and Brooke Fraser. Their songs have not only contributed to the significant increase in local music broadcast, but have also shown the world the talent here in New Zealand.

And they've been recognised at home too. In 2014 NZ On Air-supported artists made up over 80% of the nominees for the New Zealand Music Awards. 

Stan Walker and Ginny Blackmore's hit single 'Holding You' debuted at #1 on the RadioScope NZ40 airplay charts in 2014 and stayed there for three months


Our industry support

NZ On Air has an important role to play in championing the music industry. We do this as a key sponsor of the New Zealand Music Awards every year.

We also support the Waiata Māori Music Awards, Pacific Music Awards, Taite Music Prize, Smokefree Rockquest and Smokefree Pacifica Beats. 


Moving with the times

With the evolution of technology and the online world, 'broadcast' now not only refers to radio and television, but online platforms also.

NZ On Air has been quick to embrace digital and online opportunities. Promoting New Zealand music on streaming services such as YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify has become another priority for us as these global platforms continue to grow. 

Another way we support the online discovery of music is through two websites we fund - Audioculture, which celebrates our rich musical heritage, and The Audience- a new music discovery site. They are supported through our Digital Media Fund.

Over the last 25 years there has been a music revolution - anyone can now produce, release and promote their own music. 

It means that, for us, it’s not just about getting songs on the radio any more. It’s about multiple impressions on multiple platforms to reach the audience. So Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud are as important to us now as ZM and The Edge.

Brendan Smyth, Music Manager


By the numbers

25 years on - we have funded more than 3,200 music videos, 200+ albums, 1,600+ singles and 270 Kiwi Hit discs featuring more than 4,600 tracks.

None of this would have been possible without the songwriters, musicians, recording studios, engineers, video makers, broadcasters and all those who have contributed their time, creativity and passion to locally made music.

In 2015 we are fortunate to celebrate an abundance of music being created by New Zealanders.

We now have close to 20% local music on our airwaves. Both commercial and alternative stations have regular Kiwi music features, showcasing the diversity of New Zealand music. And we are seeing more and more local music on online platforms.

But one thing remains the same:

It’s still fundamentally all about great songs and it’s still about connecting with an audience.

Brendan Smyth, Music Manager


Next Article: Diversity on the airwaves

NZ On Air supports Access and Pacific radio stations to bring communities together, giving an extensive range of New Zealand voices a place on the airwaves. It is radio by, for and about our diverse communities.