Kiwi FM now 40pc less Kiwi

By Abby Gillies, Matthew Theunissen

Andrew Szusterman says changing Kiwi FM's name was not considered. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Andrew Szusterman says changing Kiwi FM's name was not considered. Photo / Herald on Sunday

New Zealand music radio station Kiwi FM has announced it will start playing 40 per cent international content from today.

The MediaWorks-owned broadcaster has been struggling with low listener numbers since it was launched in 2006.

MediaWorks Radio spokesman Andrew Szusterman said having 100 per cent New Zealand music was no longer tenable with just over 20,000 listeners tuning in each week.

"It's all well and good having a 100 per cent New Zealand radio station but if people aren't listening to it in droves what's the point? If we can create an environment which is more palatable with great international artists mixed in with a high percentage of New Zealand music we hope to achieve a better outcome."

Kiwi FM grew out of the defunct Channel Z on a wave of successes in the New Zealand music industry.

"Fat Freddy's Drop had an album that sold over 120,000 records, you had the Datsuns blowing up overseas, you had Elemeno P on commercial airplay.

Singer songwriters like Anika Moa and Brooke Fraser were starting out, and then on the other side we had Scribe turning hip-hop on its head in New Zealand with Stand Up going to number one. So you had was what was a hugely vibrant, vibrant New Zealand music scene with plenty of content.

"Yes we still have a New Zealand music scene. Is the New Zealand music industry as it was in 2005? No. Globally the music scene isn't as successful as it was in 2005 either, because things have changed."

Mr Szusterman said changing the station's name had not been considered.

Real Groovy Auckland store manager Sarah Williamson hoped the move wouldn't stop up-and-coming Kiwi musicians getting airtime on the station.

"I would hope that it doesn't mean that those that aren't signed are going to miss out. That would be a bad thing," she said.

Ms Williamson said airplay was an important platform for musicians but she could also understand the pressures faced by the station.

It is a little bit of a shame, but I think a lot of it is a reflection of the Kiwi music industry - it's the same type of music that gets funding."

Tim Gemmell from kiwi band Tahuna Breaks said playing international content on the station could actually benefit New Zealand music.

"I just reckon that by having a mix it will increase the listeners to the station which in turn I think will have a positive spin-off for the New Zealand artists that are getting played on there.

"I don't think it's because of the quality of music that's on there, it's just the reality of what the people out there are wanting to hear, and if the people are saying they're wanting to hear more international stuff then that's all good if it drives more people to the station. But 40 per cent international, 60 per cent local is still pretty good if you ask me."

Gemmell said Kiwi FM was the launching pad his band had needed to get recognised.

The station receives $300,000 a year from New Zealand on Air and is licensed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Radio Broadcasters Association chief executive Bill Francis said Kiwi FM was still meeting the terms of its license by playing a minimum of 60 per cent New Zealand content.

Fully commercial radio stations are required to play no less than 20 per cent New Zealand music.

- APNZ

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