The history of recording in New Zealand

  1. Beginnings
  2. The 1920s to the 1940s
  3. The 1950s
  4. The 1960s
  5. Record Censorship
  6. New Recording Technologies, the 1960s and 1970s
  7. Recording Live Music in the Field
  8. Independent Record Labels
  9. Recording Studios
  10. The Digital Revolution
  11. The 1990s and Beyond
  12. Preserving our Musical Recording Heritage

1. Beginnings

Imagine, the first sound recording ever made wasn't a song but the nursery rhyme Mary had a little lamb! The American inventor, Thomas Edison, recorded it in 1877, on a device he named a "phonograph", meaning "sound writer". Using this device a person could speak while turning a cylinder on which a needle recorded the vibrations of the voice on tin foil. Playing back the sound was a simple case of placing the needle back at the start of the groove originally made in the tin foil and turning the cylinder.

Edison's invention stunned the world. Before the phonograph, all music was live and "unplugged." But thanks to Edison, sounds people made with voice and instrument could now be recorded mechanically, and played back as often as necessary.

Only two years after Edison's invention, a phonograph was exhibited in New Zealand. In Dunedin, where it was first demonstrated, local newspaper reporters heard what were probably the first sounds recorded in New Zealand. They included a verse of Rule Britannia and two airs on a cornet. However the sound quality was poor, and the machine was seen more as a scientific curiosity than a form of entertainment. But in 1890 a much-improved Edison phonograph toured New Zealand sparking tremendous public response. This time, Dunedin spectators sat spellbound as they heard a variety of music and speeches recorded overseas. One reporter thought it close to "supernatural" the way music and speech could emanate from a machine! It was during this tour that the first song by a New Zealander was recorded then played back several days later. The amazed Dunedin audience was even able to recognise the voice. It was local singer, John Jago, singing the appropriately titled song, Dear Me, is that Possible?

Although the first phonographs were very crude, people quickly began improving on Edison's design. By the mid 1890s Americans could go into Phonograph Parlours, drop five cents into a phonograph jukebox and listen to a variety of recorded music, from brass bands to soloists.

The original "records" people listened to were wax cylinders. However, these required large trumpet-shaped devices mounted on a phonograph to amplify the music. The earliest gramophones also used an amplifying horn, but later models featured a built-in amplifying chamber. Gramophones were an improvement on the phonograph since they used flat disc records that could be mass-produced. In time wax cylinders were replaced by these discs since they were easier to produce, store, and gave better sound reproduction. These records, or 78s as they became known, (a reference to the speed they were played at, 78 rpm, or revolutions per minute), were the early forerunners of the Long Playing (LP) records, themselves to be replaced by compact discs in the 1980s.

Phonographs and then gramophones soon became the popular technology of the day. In New Zealand these new talking and singing machines were a highly successful form of entertainment - this was before the days of TV and radio. People would gather to listen to concerts, not of live musicians, but of the latest recorded music played on phonographs and gramophones! These "gramophone evenings" were held in homes, sometimes local halls, and also music shops. One popular shop in Wellington that featured these concerts was called the Talkeries.

At that time there was no domestic recording industry. Instead records were imported from overseas, mainly from Britain and America. However some private recordings of music on wax cylinder were made locally, among them the Wanganui Garrison Band and Māori waiata. Some New Zealanders, pioneer artists and composers, established careers overseas and recorded songs for the major record companies. One of the earliest was John Prouse who recorded a series of test pressings in England for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company as early as 1905. Two others were Frances Alda who recorded songs with the famous tenor Caruso in America in 1910 and 1912, and Rosina Buckman who recorded in England in 1914. Twelve years later Alfred Hill recorded a number of his compositions with the Mayfair Orchestra in England, among them Waiata Poi and Tangi (a Māori lament).

2. The 1920s to the 1940s

By the 1920s many New Zealand homes had a gramophone, and demand for popular recorded music grew as recording technology improved and the use of microphones became commonplace. From 1925 music began to be recorded electronically, dramatically improving the tonal range and clarity of records. Before this, music was recorded by musicians gathering round and playing or singing into very large metal recording horns. This channelled the noise to a needle which then directly "cut" the music onto a master disc.
Recorded music was big, but the most popular items were very different from those of today. In 1928 the first electrical recording made in a church became a best seller in New Zealand. It was by the Temple Church Choir of London and sold around 30,000 copies in New Zealand, a huge number in those days.

With the creation of a record pressing plant and recording studio in Australia in 1926, New Zealanders now had a greater opportunity to listen to their own performers and music. But one of the first New Zealand songs recorded and pressed in Australia, God Defend New Zealand was actually sung by the Australian, Peter Dawson! Soon New Zealand artists began travelling to Sydney to record their music, including Hepepa Terourangi, and in 1930 members of the famous musical whānau from Ōtaki; Hēnare, Hinehou and Weno Tāhiwi.

It was 1926 that also saw the birth of APRA, or the Australasian Performing Right Association. This association was formed to ensure that the rights of music writers, lyricists and music publishers are recognised, and that music writers and publishers are paid the royalties they are entitled to when their music is broadcast and or publicly performed.

In 1927 an Australian recording crew travelled to New Zealand and recorded songs by the legendary Ana Hato and Dean Waretini. Later, in 1930, Gil Dech from Columbia Records in Australia visited and recorded the famous Rotorua Māori Choir in the Tinohopu meeting house at Ōhinemutu.

Throughout the 1930s even more varieties of popular recorded music became available. The quality of recordings kept improving as acoustic engineers sought new ways to reproduce the clarity of live performances, while gramophones became even smaller and more portable. However the recording industry faced severe competition. From the mid 1920s radio had been broadcasting "free" music recordings and live music. The "crackly, scratchy " sound of records could not compete against the broadcast quality and immediacy of radio. There was also the rising popularity of sound motion pictures. The first film featuring a sound track, The Jazz Singer was released in 1927 while New Zealand's first talking picture, Ted Coubray's Coubray-tone News, was first screened in January 1930.

Radio and film, combined with the impact of the Depression, saw a dramatic fall in record sales, as public interest in recording declined. Some even predicted the end of records and record players.

By the mid 1930s the first electric record-playing radiograms were appearing. The radiogram was like an early "home entertainment system" and featured a combination of radio and record player. While the Depression and then World War II slowed the expansion of the music recording industry it quickly picked up pace again as demand for popular music grew after 1945.

In early 1949 a recording milestone was reached in New Zealand. The first commercial record to be recorded and pressed in New Zealand became available through the TANZA label (TANZA stood for "To Assist New Zealand Artists".) The song was Blue Smoke, sung by Pixie Williams and written by Ruru Karaitiana. It was recorded in a Wellington studio built by sound engineer Stanley Dallas for the Radio Corporation of New Zealand. Blue Smoke took seven days to record, the length of time attributable to the difficulties of recording above the hum of a freezer situated next door to the studio!

Blue Smoke quickly became a hit achieving sales of over 20,000. More recordings followed, some 50 over the next three years as other recording labels also began seeking out local talent. Among the earliest were the Stebbing Brothers' Zodiac label in 1950 and HMV New Zealand Ltd in 1953, although HMV initially focused on pressing overseas hits for local release. In 1959 HMV released the first recording of a work by a contemporary New Zealand composer; Douglas Lilburn's Festival Overture performed by the National Orchestra. This record was also the first commercial recording featuring the Orchestra.

3. The 1950s

During the 1950s, 45 rpm and long-playing microgroove 33 1/3 rpm vinyl records replaced the "old" 78-rpm discs due to their superior durability, low surface noise and capacity for extended play. By the end of the decade these two formats had become the industry standard. Among New Zealand's first long playing records pressed here was South Sea Rhythm featuring Bill Wolfgramm and His Islanders with Daphne Walker. It was recorded at the Astor Recording Studios, Auckland over four months in 1955.

In the 1950s popular music mainly reflected the tastes of New Zealand adults. This preference tended towards Country and Western, played by early recording stars like The Tumbleweeds and Johnny Cooper and his Range Riders; Hawaiian-influenced music from notable performers like Bill Wolfgramm and Bill Sevesi; Māori Show bands such as The Howard Morrison quartet and also solo singers and musicians, among them, John Hoskins, Mavis Rivers, and Nancy Harrie.

The era also saw record releases showcasing Kiwi culture, landscape and events. Popular songwriters who celebrated this new sense of national identity included Sam Freedman with his Māori themed songs; Sam Freedman's Melodies of Māoriland , Ken Avery who wrote Paekākāriki, Tea at Te Kūiti and Gumboot Tango and, in the early 1960s, Peter Cape whose popular colloquial hits included Down the Hall on Saturday Night and She'll be Right.

However by the late 1950s Rock 'n' Roll had exploded onto the New Zealand scene, changing forever the face of the New Zealand recording industry.
Johnny Cooper was the first New Zealander to record a Rock 'n' Roll song in New Zealand, (and reputedly the first to record Rock Around the Clock outside the USA), but it was a young man from Wanganui, Johnny Devlin the "satin Satan" who, as New Zealand's answer to Elvis Presley, helped turn Rock 'n' Roll into an unstoppable phenomenon. In 1958 Devlin's song Lawdy Miss Clawdy was reputed to have sold a staggering 100,000 copies, mostly to teenagers who from then on increasingly dictated the type of popular music that would be recorded and listened to. As the music industry quickly sought to accommodate this new youth market, rock and pop music soon became the dominant sounds listened to by young New Zealanders.

4. The 1960s

In the 1960s cheap mass-produced portable transistor radios increased the public's appetite for popular music. But this was also an era when radio was state-owned and exerted a powerful influence on the record buying public and thus the recording industry. Record companies would regularly submit singles to the New Zealand National Broadcasting Corporation for purchase and play. If a song was deemed unsuitable there was little point in record companies importing and distributing it, since radio was (and largely still is) the principal medium whereby the latest releases were bought to the public's attention.

5. Record Censorship

Thoughout the 1960s New Zealand radio operated a national (if not entirely logical) censorship policy that reflected and maintained the conservative adult society of the day. Records were routinely banned for a variety of reasons, although these were often based on the personal preferences of radio controllers as much as breaching any concept of "human decency."

Some criteria were fairly obvious. There were references to drugs and sex - the latter saw the Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together pulled from the airwaves. Other song lyrics were considered too politically subversive, like Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction. Then there were the more bizarre. The record Spotty Muldoon by English comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, programmers thought might offend the then Finance Minister, Robert Muldoon. While Jimi Hendrix's Burning the Midnight Oil, was banned because it featured "excessive" guitar feedback. In fact even an innocuous (by today's standards) swear word like bloody was enough to get a song dropped, as happened to the Royal Guardsmen's Snoopy Versus the Red Baron, banned in 1968. And it wasn't only overseas hits that suffered this fate. Local single Manāpouri by Kevin Lynch was pulled due to the then controversy surrounding the proposed raising of Lake Manāpouri's water level.

However radio's conservative programming approach became increasingly challenged by the young. Radio Hauraki initially began life as a "pirate station," broadcasting in international waters 50 miles (80 kilometres) offshore from Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. A deliberate move that allowed them to circumnavigate restrictive broadcasting legislation and broadcast their own playlist. This in part spearheaded the way for the gradual deregulation of the radio industry. Towards the end of the 1960s radio stations like Radio Hauraki, and later Radio I, were exclusively playing whatever they liked , directing their rock and pop music to an essentially teenage and young adult audience.

The 1960s also witnessed a dramatic rise in locally written and recorded popular music. However many pop bands and performers of the time also released their own versions or "covers" of hits by overseas artists. It was an era when vinyl reigned supreme and teenagers queued outside local music and record shops to buy the latest hit singles. One local release of the time still retains its considerable popularity. It was the Fourmyulas Nature, written by Wayne Mason in 1969. and voted the top New Zealand song of the last 75 years in 2001.

6. New Recording Technologies, the 1960s and 1970s

The Stereo Record

In the late 1950s early 1960s stereo records made their appearance. "Stereo" recording employed two microphones, or sets of microphones, spaced a short distance apart, feeding the signal to two separate amplifiers, or "channels". This is the electronic counterpart of our own hearing process, and just as our ears provide two "channels" that allow us to accurately locate sounds in a three-dimensional way, so stereo recording creates a "sound stage" on which we can mentally position recording artists as we listen to them. The result is an extremely accurate and three-dimensional reproduction of the original sound.

While stereo sound was easy to achieve with tape by simply recording onto adjacent tracks of a single tape, it was much more difficult with disc recording. Eventually a system was designed in which the record groove carried two information channels, set at right angles. A single stylus read both channels, vibration in one direction feeding the right channel, and in the other direction, the left channel. The compact disc, with its vast storage capacity, made the recording of data in two separate streams a comparatively simple affair.

One of the first recordings of a New Zealand composer to be released in stereo was the seminal Landfall in Unknown Seas. This featured Allen Curnow's poem set to Douglas Lilburn's music and performed by the Alex Lindsay String Orchestra. This Kiwi Pacific release (1966) involved recording Allen Curnow reading his poem and the Orchestra separately. As this was prior to multi-track tape technology the final master involved some skilful, (and successful), matching and cutting to combine both sound tracks.

Meanwhile the process of recording music in studios and pressing vinyl records became more sophisticated. "Cutting heads", which lathe-cut the original discs from which "masters" were made, were improved. Moulding and
pressing techniques were also refined, resulting in a more exact copy of the original sound.


Originally intended for use in dictation machines, Philips unveiled its compact audiotape cassette in 1964. Progressive development and refinement followed, including the introduction of Dolby Noise Reduction - which finally eliminated the bothersome "hiss" from tape. By the 1970s the tape cassette was well on the way to becoming one of the most popular listening mediums for pre-recorded music. Its relative cheapness, the portability of tape recorders and their ability to easily record music, - both legally and illegally - has guaranteed the medium's popularity to this day. Tape cassette technology also spurred a mini boom in home demo and bootleg recording. Although records were still preferred format for most listeners, by the end of the 1980s cassettes were outselling both LPs, and CDs.

By the end of the 1970s many cars were equipped with radio and cassette decks while in the late 1970s Sony produced a small portable audio cassette player that would revolutionise (and individualise) the way people heard music while doing other activities. Sony called their invention The Walkman.

Meanwhile the use of tape to record music in studios had become standard practice since the 1950s. Tape worked particularly well in recording music. It used iron oxide particles bonded into a plastic base. The recording head would magnetise these particles in a way that corresponded with the original sound recorded through a microphone. This had major advantages over previous recording processes. Music recorded on tape had a greater degree of high fidelity or "hi fi" and could now be multitracked. Multitracking gave engineers, producers and musicians the compositional ability to layer or overdub sound to produce increasingly complex soundscapes. For example a bass track could be laid down first, then rhythm and finally vocals could be recorded and added "on top", creating a rich range of textural sounds and musical effects. With tape the best "takes" could be chosen then seamlessly edited and spliced into one final polished version, or "master."

New developments in recording technology also paved the way for sound engineers and producers to manipulate the original studio performance to obtain a variety of new sound effects like repeat echo and flanging, or phasing. A particularly good example of the latter can be heard on Simple Image's 1968 psychedelic hit Spinning Spinning Spinning.

Tape's cost, quality and versatility meant that studios quickly adopted it as their preferred recording medium, replacing direct recording on acetate disk or wax. The technology of tape equipment rapidly accelerated as the size of multitrack mixing boards tripled in little over 10 years. In 1970 Auckland's Stebbing Studios obtained New Zealands first eight track but by 1981 four recording studios, three of them in Auckland and including Stebbing, boasted 24 track recording facilities.

However through a combination of geography, band philosophy and lack of money, some of New Zealand's most influential 1980s bands had no access to the recording and mastering facilities provided by top recording studios.

In fact these bands championed a "lo fi" approach to music which became known as the "Dunedin sound." In fact many of these early Flying Nun bands were recorded on nothing more than a portable four track TEAC recorder.

7. Recording Live Music in the Field

Recording music in the field first began in 1919 at a Hui Aroha marking the return of Māori Pioneer Battalion soldiers from England. In all from 1919 to 1923 four recording expeditions took place covering Gisborne, Rotorua, the Whanganui River and the East Coast.

The recording team consisted of staff from the Dominion Museum, Elsdon Best and James McDonald and also involved at various times Sir Peter Buck and Sir Āpirana Ngata. These recordings of waiata and chants were made on Edison Dictaphone wax cylinders.

Between the late 1930s and 1950 the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, working in conjunction with Ngata, began recording a series of hui that Ngata organised or was involved in throughout the country, beginning with the opening celebrations of Tūrongo wharenui at Tūrangawaewae.

In the late 1940s the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit travelled to many small New Zealand towns and recorded items from musical groups and soloists, Māori and pākehā, as well as local sound effects and reminiscences of pioneer life by some of the older inhabitants. These collected recordings represent a priceless heritage of voice and music that reveals just how central music was then as a form of entertainment in the lives of people and the wider community.

Later in the 1960s Wiremu Kerekere and Leo Fowler recorded a huge amount of Māori music, traditional and modern, while they attended numerous hui and visited many marae across the country.

The use of portable tape recorders and microphones meant that people could travel anywhere and record live music in the field of broadcast quality for radio, academic study or commercial release. Throughout the 1960s to 1980s interest in, and demand for, traditional music from New Zealand and the Pacific grew, and a large amount of indigenous music was recorded by academics, musicians, journalists and recording companies.

8. Independent Recording Labels

During the 1970s and 1980s, popular music fragmented into a number of musical subgenres like reggae, punk and hip-hop. Each of these had its own devoted followers, and a whole range of 'Indie labels,' (local independently owned and operated record companies), sprang up to cater for and promote specific music styles as well as the more "mainstream" rock and pop. Over the years prominent New Zealand labels have included; Prestige, Viking, Jayrem, Ripper, Propeller, Pagan, Bunk Records, Tangata, and of course the well-known Flying Nun label up to, in the present day, Urban Pacifika, Kog Transmissions, Dawnraid Entertainment, Golden Bay Records and Mā The last also operates as a "one stop shop" by producing, distributing and marketing both contemporary and traditional Māori music.

Other notable recording companies also focused on less mainstream popular music. For example Ode Records originally specialised in recording Polynesian music. Kiwi Pacific International Ltd which began life in 1958 as A.H. and A.W. Reed's Kiwi Records Division, was responsible for recording a comprehensive range of compositions by New Zealand composers and still releases an exclusive but extensive range of New Zealand music including orchestral, choral and folk. Other labels were prominent in recording regional musical talent. In the Manawatū the Tala label from Levin released a number of records by outstanding local artists.

9. Recording Studios

This period also saw a gradual increase in the number of independent recording studios, mostly located in Auckland, and to a lesser extent Wellington. However often as not these studios survived more on income generated from producing radio, and later TV, commercials - than from producing records.

By the mid 1980s there were more recording studios in Auckland than the rest of New Zealand combined. These ranged from the upmarket Harlequin Recording studios, featuring 24 track equipment and charging $75 an hour for recording time to Last Laugh, an eight track recording studio pitched at progressive and experimental bands and charging $15 an hour.

Other notable New Zealand recording studios over the years included Astor studios who recorded Tex Morton and Bill Sevesi in the 1950s, Stebbing Studios, New Zealand's oldest independent recording studio, which in the 1960s recorded Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the La De Das, and in the 1970s The Dudes and Hello Sailor.

In Wellington Marmalade Studios recorded such artists as Jon Stevens, Sharon O'Neil, the Netherworld Dancing Toys and also the Dave Dobbin and Herbs hit Slice of Heaven, while Auckland's Mandrill Recording Studios recorded a string of notable 1980s hits from the Dance Exponents, The Mockers, Pink Flamingoes and the Screaming MeeMees.

By the mid 1990s around 30 indie labels operated in New Zealand and about 40 recording studios were scattered throughout the country, five of them located outside the four main centres, including Tauranga's Mountain Studios, and the Dolphin Studio in Palmerston North.

In the early years studio recording was a fairly straight forward, relatively unsophisticated process (compared to today's computerised consoles) relying as much on the intuitive "feel" for recording by sound engineers as their technological expertise. On average it would take anywhere from three to five hours to record a popular song.

Throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s the recording technology in New Zealand's studios often lagged behind their counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere. However New Zealand sound engineers and producers made up for this with a healthy degree of New Zealand's famous "do it yourself ethic." They were adaptable and multi-talented individuals. They had to be; at the time there were few books and no formal courses on recording music. Many were forced, often ingeniously, to adapt local equipment and conditions to obtain the required musical effect. 1950s recording stars The Tumbleweeds recorded six of their hit albums in the living room of one of their band members, while Johnny Cooper was once recorded in a toilet just to get the right echo effect!

10. The Digital Revolution

By the early 1980s vinyl records were still the most preferred listening format. In 1981 LPs sold in New Zealand accounted for 58 per cent of retail sales while cassettes commanded 37 per cent. However, the recording landscape was about to radically change with the advent of the audio digital revolution. The impact of this began in the mid 1980s when the first CDs or Compact Discs made their appearance.

Digital recording technology records sound by converting it into a stream of numbers subsequently recorded via an analog-to-digital converter. To listen to this "numbered" music, a digital-to-analog converter turns the numbers back into music, which is then amplified through speakers. The superior sound quality of CDs and their almost indestructible nature - vinyl records are prone to warping and scratching - meant that take-up by the public was quick once the initial high price of CDs and their players dropped. As demand for vinyl records rapidly fell they then began to be phased out by recording companies. New Zealand's last vinyl record pressing plant closed in 1987. Eleven years later New Zealand's first CD Production company began manufacturing CDs in Auckland.

1987 was also the year when CD and vinyl record sales each accounted for 20 per cent of retail sales - cassettes occupied 55 percent. But just over two years later CD sales had surpassed those of LP records in America and New Zealand soon followed a similar trend. In 1997 New Zealand CD sales accounted for 46.8 percent of retail turnover while vinyl records in just 16 years had shrunk from 58 percent to only two percent of total sales. The reign of vinyl was clearly over.

By the mid 1990s the CD and tape cassette were the two main formats for recorded music. But not for long. By 1995 the DVD Rom format had become established as a potential replacement for the CD. DVD, or Digital Versatile Disk, offered even higher fidelity than a CD and came with a storage capacity 7.5 times greater. Within three years the first DVD players were on the market.

Another major digital innovation in the 1980s included standardising a music industry communications protocol called MIDI, for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which allows electronic musical devices to 'talk' or network to each other, or to a computer -for example synthesisers and drum machines when recording and playing music.

Music recorded digitally could be now be manipulated, substituted, sampled cut and pasted and looped in ways that were not previously possible without degradation of the original recording. This meant that an endless array of new sounds could be created, giving rise to a whole range of new and dynamic sounds typified by a genre of popular music now labelled Electronica.

The advent of digital technology in the music industry not only altered perceptions of what music can be created from, but also the way it could be reproduced and distributed. Millions world-wide have ordered CDs off the Internet and like other countries New Zealand boasts its own CD "etailers' like Smokecds and Real Groovy. Recent statistics also reveal that in the USA alone over 50 million Americans have downloaded music off the Internet.

This download trend has been largely attributable to the recent development and subsequent widespread use of MP3 sound files. MP3 files can be downloaded from the Internet then stored on a personal computer to be played back on a MP3 player or downloaded onto a portable MP3 player.

MP3 stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer III, an audio file that uses psychoacoustics compression through an algorithm. This compression removes parts of the sound file that are 'superfluous' or are not audible to the human ear, a bit like, "the sound of a cat walking during a thunderstorm."

Because of MP3's great compression ratio - a 24 Megabyte file can be compressed to nearly 2 Megabytes, MP3 files can be easily sent via the Internet to a computer. Now thanks to MP3 a personal computer can also become a personal jukebox able to serve up an almost never-ending range of music, past and present.

For musicians MP3 opens up enormous opportunities. Its potential allows for the distribution of music directly from web sites, thus bypassing record companies and retailers and consequently lowering costs associated with distributing and marketing. However use of MP3 also raises serious copyright and royalty issues since music can be now be easily copied then passed from one person to another via Internet.

11. The 1990s and Beyond

For the local recording industry the early 1990s was a particularly productive time for Kiwi music. The Flying Nun label was generating impressive sales both here and America and in 1992 local NZ musicians had 10 singles in the 1992 top 50 sales chart.

The 1990s also saw a number of funding initiatives designed to stimulate the local recording industry originating from Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand) and NZ on Air . These included a recording artist development scheme that assisted in funding debut albums, the Kiwi Hit Disc, a free compilation of Kiwi music sent to radio stations five times a year, and NZ on Air's funding of music videos. This last was particularly important. From the 1980s TV programmes like RTR, Countdown, and Radio With Pictures featured popular music videos - videos that quickly became an integral marketing and promotional tool in the sale of records.

From the mid 1990s advances in, and availability of, increasingly inexpensive "take-home" digital recording technology has given musicians the ability to record and produce music at production levels that a few years previous were available only through recording studios. This trend has continued into the present day where a "professional sounding" music CD can be recorded and produced at home (or in a garage!) for under $1,000.

Coupled with a resurgence of interest in New Zealand music this "democratisation" of the recording process has helped in-part to stimulate the release of a rich and diverse range of kiwi music by solo performers, bands, DJs and the like.

For example, over 10 music CDs were recorded in the Hawkes Bay region alone in 2001. Radio New Zealand's Homegrown show - a programme that plays and promotes New Zealand music - regularly receives around 10 CDs of Kiwi music a week. Recent recording industry figures also support this trend. Local recorded music grew on average 5% per year from 1998 to 2001.

Kiwi Music on Air

Over the decades radio has played a pivotal role in the local recording industry since airplay brings a record immediately to the attention of the public. However, the deregulation and subsequent fragmentation of the radio industry into niche markets has resulted in mixed blessings for the local recording industry, and to those who fight to increase the amount of local music played on air. Some radio stations regularly champion and play local music - student radio and iwi stations being two examples. Other commercial stations feature little or no local content, their formats being based on overseas models like the "Classic Hits" format. These stations are opposed to the introduction of any compulsory system forcing them to play a quota of New Zealand music. Among their reasons are a lack of local music that fits their station playlist, and the belief that in a deregulated radio environment they should be able to play whatever music their listeners want.

However New Zealand music may get an additional boost with moves to establish a music quota for commercial radio stations, requiring them to play 25% New Zealand music within five years - a move many in the music industry believe essential to the ongoing development of New Zealand music into the 21st Century.

From laboratory to bedroom, from wax cylinders to bits and bytes, the technology of recording music has travelled light years over the last 100 years and will continue to change as we seek new ways to record and celebrate life and culture through the passion of music. Who could have guessed how prophetic the words of a Dunedin reporter were when he first saw Edison's phonograph in 1879 and wrote that it was "a scientific curiosity that may yet in time be developed into great practical value."

12. Preserving our Musical Recording Heritage

A number of institutions in New Zealand are responsible for the preservation, conservation, and accessibility of our musical heritage. Among them are Radio New Zealand's Sound Archives and Ngā Taonga Kōrero, responsible for preserving and providing access to New Zealand's recorded radio heritage. This collection includes lacquer discs, analogue and digital tape cassettes and over 20,000 open reel tapes.

Ngā Taonga Kōrero (the Treasures of Speech) is a separate collection housed at Sound Archives and dates from the early 1960s when the Māori section of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation was set up by Leo
Fowler, with Wiremu Kerekere.

The Archive of Māori and Pacific Music, held at the University of Auckland is the largest archive in the world of Polynesian sounds including those of New Zealand. Material has been gathered from most Pacific Islands, and covers not only vocal and instrumental recordings but also oral history. Currently the collection holds audio and videocassettes, commercial recordings and more than 5,000 reel tapes.

The Archive of New Zealand Music, based in the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, collects scores and sound recordings of music composed and performed by New Zealanders - either resident or overseas. Over 36,000 discs, tapes and cassettes are held covering all types of music and including oral history are held. Of interest also is the National Library's Brian Salkeld Collection of 15,000 international historical recordings in a variety of formats from wax cylinders, to shellac discs. This gives an excellent historical perspective of performance styles, recording techniques and popular musical tastes over the past 100 years.

Owen, Dylan. History of recording in New Zealand. Discover: Te Kohanga Taonga, updated June 29 2002. URL: