Key Points:

Musician and talent scout Gray Bartlett is preparing to celebrate a 50-year career in the entertainment industry and he is angry.

A number of issues have got Bartlett's goat but, in a nutshell, he is angry at what he sees as a waste of taxpayer money on failed government policies to promote New Zealand music.

"The government agencies haven't kept pace with the music industry. They have been more reactive than proactive; they've missed the boat over the last six or seven years."

Bartlett - a former National Party candidate and ex-Auckland city councillor - says the Government's policies are "hopelessly out of date".

Bartlett is about to embark on the first leg of a nationwide tour celebrating his career.

As well as performing, Bartlett has acted as a talent scout in recent years, with Hayley Westenra, Will Martin and Elizabeth Marvelly among those he has discovered.

He is doing a job, he says, using his own money, which the Government should and could also be doing.

Instead taxpayer money is being wasted in New Zealand music, he says.

"Why should someone who wants to finish an album in Hokitika get taxpayer funding?

"It's great for the community interest, but let the councils look after it."

Bartlett is also critical of Mike Chunn's Play it Strange, a trust to encourage young New Zealanders to develop interests and skills in music. While charitable, it does little for creating markets or promoting musicians, Bartlett says.

Bartlett concedes Chunn succeeds where he has failed - by getting government support - because of the politics of the music industry.

"I am angry because when the opportunity is there to apply for something to help an artist, I can't. I'm angry because they will waste money on absolutely ludicrous things.

"They will give grants to friends of the Labour Party - I find it disgraceful."

Bartlett says he wants to see taxpayers' money well spent, "not on policies that allow this mob to keep perpetuating rubbish".

"I would never dream of taking a grant now if I couldn't back it up with facts. The music side of it is really a shambles at the moment."

Bartlett says while he is angry about this issue, he is optimistic and positive about other things including his music and his audiences.

His anger comes in part from seeing how those audiences are largely ignored because the music they like is classified as country, a genre Bartlett says is not supported by the Government.

Bartlett lives in hope New Zealand will one day have the mindset to embrace all music on merit and not politics, like Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who named country and western singer Lee Kernaghan as Australian of the Year.

"Can you imagine voting Patsy Rigger or John Grenell or Suzanne Prentice New Zealander of the Year?

"No, because they look down on that type of music and they would rather have a cultural type of music - which has its place but it's not the leading edge of where it's at.

"We have to go for excellence."

Media used to rubbish Hayley Westenra when she debuted, but his faith in her and a knowledge of where the market was heading has proved right his declaration that she would be bigger than Kiri, he says.

The artist is key, he says, not the songs which New Zealand can't hope to compete on a world market with.

Bartlett cannot quite believe he has had 50 years in the very industry he is trying to now help evolve into something better.

"Where the heck has it gone?

"I suppose I've always liked being busy."

Bartlett singles out his platinum albums as his greatest achievements, but also working with Rolf Harris and jamming with George Benson. He says getting that telegram from Harris' management inviting him to appear on Talk of the Town in 1968 led him to learn his craft of recording in an environment which did not exist in New Zealand.

"It changes you; it makes you hungry when you work with people like that daily."

Returning to New Zealand was like time had stood still, he says.

New Zealanders do well overseas. They find a niche, he says. It's part of our psyche and why he encourages his young stars to go overseas.

"There's a little group that tries to control the NZ music industry but they do so at their peril."

Instead, the Government should support him, he says, and help him put together an annual tour of New Zealand and to key overseas markets, showcasing the country's talent.

BARTLETT PERFORMS IN

Whangarei, May 1
Auckland, May 4
Tauranga, May 8
Napier, May 13
Hamilton, May 23
South Island dates will be released at a later time.

- NZPA