Our cultural identity is pretty much dead. TGIF, eh?

Sorry to bum you out. It's slightly depressing news I know. But better to hear it from me, a friend, then to wake up one day in the near future, look in the mirror and have the frightening realisation that you don't even know who you are anymore.

Allow me to explain.

Over the past couple of months my entertainment colleagues and I have been working on an ambitious, week-long, multi-media extravaganza that deep dives into the glorious hey-day of the once mighty local music industry.


This went live on the Herald's website yesterday and features brand new video interviews with key artists, classic music videos from the era, lots of photos of very lol, mid-2000s fashions, a bunch of 'whatever happened to...' features and a brain-tickling music quiz that will challenge the knowledge of even the most anorak local music experts.

While this stuff is all gold, it's supplementary to the main event, a long form feature titled Don't Stream It's Over: Charting the rise and fall of the Kiwi hit factory.

This fascinating long read into the Kiwi music boom of the years 2000-2010 is full of warm nostalgia, hard facts, big numbers, huge money, some shocking bombshells and - of course - absolutely brilliant music.

The story backgrounds the disparate circumstances that magically came together to create this wave of Kiwi chart topper's and details the eventual crashing of said wave.

The feature took Joanna Hunkin, the Herald's Head of Entertainment, around four months of researching, fact checking, interviewing and writing to put together. It can only be considered essential reading.

Being a rock solid piece of reporting it's fair and balanced. Which is presumably why she didn't end the feature with the sentence; 'Our cultural identity is pretty much dead.'

This, being an opinion piece, doesn't need to worry about any notions of fairness or balance which is exactly why this column opened with that sentence. And here's why.

In that decade-long, golden era 324 New Zealand singles hit the Top 40. From 2010 to now only 141 managed that same feat. That's a helluva drop off. But it's not scary. These next numbers, however, are.


During her investigation Hunkin discovered the outrageous and worrying fact that this year, "only seven local songs have made it into the charts – and six of those were by Lorde".

What the actual flipping heck? Where's the cultural panic button?

It might sound like an overreaction but having just trawled through the treasure trove of hits from that decade what struck me was not just the staggering number of diverse classic hits there were but also how uniquely New Zealand they were.

Our charts were literally filled with the sound of Kiwi song. Rock bands, punk bands, indie bands, hip-hop crews, singer-songwriters, pop stars, rappers, electro groups, dub bands and drum & bass acts were all regularly having chart hits.

Some from that era endure today, most have since bowed out and some exploded on the charts like a firework before fading to black. But all contributed to defining our cultural identity.

You'll remember big names like Goodshirt, the Naked & Famous, Opshop, The Mint Chicks, Deceptikonz, Deja Voodoo, Nesian Mystik, Goodnight Nurse, Pluto, Minuit and Concord Dawn.

But what was great was that groups could rocket from nowhere up the charts; remember Misfits of Science, The Tutts, Kids of 88, The Bleeders or The Fanatics? They all charted with killer tracks. You do not see that sort of musical disparity happening in the charts today.

And this is a big deal. These songs shaped and defined us. Hell, they gave us something to shape and define.

There is of course amazing and world class local music still being made. Without giving anything away TimeOut's upcoming Best of the Year music list features at least half a dozen local albums on it.

But there's no question that our music is no longer getting in front of us the way it once did. We had so many radio stations championing every genre, we had music magazines, we had music TV channels playing music TV shows and music videos, we had major labels taking chances and regularly releasing local singles and albums.

And now? We have YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud and the internet. The accessibility of these platforms is fantastic. But the cultural impact they've had is horrendous.

A decade from now who will be remembered in the wider context? Lorde, deservedly, and... um. Genre pockets will remember genre artists. Perhaps that's just a sign of the times.

But wasn't it great that you didn't have to be into dub to know Fat Freddy's Drop, or into rap to know Scribe, or into guitars to know Elemeno P? It truly felt like the genre was "New Zealand music" and further clarification was just nitpicking.

This isn't warm nostalgia talking. This is hard facts and cold numbers. Only seven local songs in the charts by two artists. Seven and two.

How many you reckon will make it next year?