This post was originally published in the Rothko Records newsletter.
Muzic.net.nz is a New Zealand music website founded in 1999. A promotional platform and community hub, Muzic.net.nz is a non-profit organisation run by a team of 50+ volunteers based throughout the country. Their ethos: ‘to do all that they can to support and promote our local bands and musicians.’
Operating one of the local industry’s longest-serving New Zealand music publications, Lisa Jones and her team mentor and encourage creatives to share their art and navigate professional careers.
Domes was fortunate to receive positive coverage on the site. Lisa has also contributed to our reflections on music marketing strategies. She is a humble benefactor of the local scene and niche artists. Though a community as small and vital as ours is dependent upon manaaki, mahi tahi and reciprocal support. In this interview, Lisa discusses the triumphs, realities and challenges of the site and just how we as artists and fans can help.
Can you give us a sense of the day to day effort of running the site?
Muzic.net.nz has become quite the beast over the past two decades. We currently have 50+ volunteer team members who are predominantly dedicated to writing reviews, conducting interviews and photographing events. We also have a management team who assist with general organisation for our team.
I take care of the day-to-day running of the site which can involve anything and everything from adding news articles and updating artist pages through to creating our monthly newsletter and proofreading our reviews and interviews. I power through 60+ emails most weekdays.
My day starts around 4:30am and some days I’ll still be working on emails as late as 8pm. I don’t work on the site for the entire day though; I’m also a stay-at-home mum of two and I work around school pick-up and drop-offs as well as other extra-curricular activities. All up, my team and I spend 50+ hours a week on it from February to December each year (January is usually fairly quiet as most of the industry goes on holiday then).
For over two decades, you’ve directly supported artists and indirectly many other areas of the local industry. It strikes me that this perhaps isn’t fully understood or appreciated. What are your proudest achievements to date?
My proudest achievement to date would be making 20 years in 2019 - no other music media website in New Zealand has ever achieved that. The celebratory gig we held in May of that year is hands down the most memorable night in Muzic.net.nz’s history. The bands that performed on the night said some truly amazing words on stage about what we do which literally took my breath away. Nothing beats that feeling of true appreciation and of knowing that we have made a real difference over the years.
Some moments have stuck with me throughout all this more than others: being invited to judge for some of our top awards; Eli Moore telling us that we are the most responsive correspondents in the industry; Dick Tracy calling us the unsung heroes of the NZ music scene; Decades stating that it is a rite of passage for musicians to know about Muzic.net.nz; Paul Martin (Devilskin) saying that we’ve made a real and positive change in the NZ music scene… it’s the thanks and kind words that make this all so worthwhile.
For us, this has always been about the music — not the money (there is none), fame or anything else. It always comes down to the music. Over the years, I’ve seen how difficult the industry can be for our local acts and I’ve made it our prerogative to support and promote our locals as much as possible.
From your perspective, what have been some of the most significant changes or challenges for our industry in the last 5-10 years?
Our local musicians face many challenges when promoting their music, especially the manner in which other music media and radio organisations display an unwillingness to work with particular musicians simply because they aren’t deemed to be “mainstream.”
We have come across many bands and musicians over the years who have exceptional talent and who are continually pushed aside to make way for a few mainstream (as well as international) acts despite many of them creating the same genre of music.
The time has come for these organisations to open their ears and listen to what New Zealand has on offer - I believe they will be surprised to find that what is on offer in this country is just as good, if not better, than what is popular.
In some respects, social media is an incredible promotional tool which can be used to an advantage; however, it can also create difficulties. Because so many of us have access to social media and music platforms such as Spotify, it is now harder than ever for an individual band or musician to gain recognition and it can be somewhat overwhelming when trying to promote themselves. With huge amounts of music now more accessible than ever before, musicians have to be even more proactive, adaptable to change and relentless, especially if they want to stand up above the rest.
COVID-19 has also had a profound impact — not just on Muzic.net.nz but on the industry as a whole. From our perspective, the constant stream of postponed and cancelled gigs created a lot of extra work and put some of our website upgrade plans on the backburner. Although, there are those in the industry who have really suffered—entire tours have been cancelled, gigs have been rescheduled three or more times, venues have faced the possibility of closing forever and a lot of people lost a lot of money—I feel as though we have come out the other side with a stronger and much more supportive community.
It’s moments like these that make you more appreciative for what we have, especially when other places in the world are faring much worse than us.
You’re one of the few outlets that review singles. This is incredibly helpful to artists who see the engagement value in short-cycle or high-frequency release cycles — thank you! Can you tell about us why you’ve continued to offer single reviews and the challenges that come with it?
The main reason we continue to offer single reviews is simply because very few other outlets offer it, yet our local bands and musicians rely on single reviews perhaps now more than previously.
We have to ensure we don’t review too many singles, therefore leaving plenty to write about for EP and album reviews. However, there are fewer challenges with reviewing a single than there is with reviewing an album. For example, a reviewer can delve deeper into a single, yet the review can be written in a shorter space of time.
Demand for single reviews has increased exponentially in recent months and as a result we can now only review two singles per 12-month period for each band and musician in an effort to ensure that we can continue to provide promotion to anyone who asks for it.
Anyone can become a contributor (reviewer, interviewer or photographer) and while any such work is voluntary there are a few perks to the job,such as being able to hear music before the general public does. Anyone interested can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Muzic.net.nz reviews include ratings (stars). How important is it to the journalistic quality and promotional value of reviews?
We implemented our star rating system a couple of years back upon realising that having a rating attached to new release reviews can contribute towards the approval of NZ On Air funding applications. We view this as another means of supporting our local bands and musicians. Review ratings can also help promote the release on a grassroots level; as another means to encourage people to purchase it.
You’ve previously alluded to some of the aspirations you have for the site. What can you share about the roadmap for the next quarter or year?
We have several pages of ideas for the site, so much so I could probably write a novel about it. At the start of this year, I would’ve detailed all our plans for a nationwide gig guide but COVID put a dent in that; however we are hopeful that it will still see the light of day.
For the last few years we have been working on a full website upgrade. Our existing website is some 10+ years old and as such certain aspects of it have become outdated. It’s a mammoth job, but it will be well worth the wait.
We are also working on a website for the Aotearoa Music Industry Collective to make it easier to access all the helpful articles that we have collated over the years.
What are some of the other realities and constraints you face? What drives you to keep going?
The realities are that we don’t earn any income, we have somewhat demanding workloads and the majority of the general public in New Zealand do not show any real support for the NZ music industry. However, the old adage comes to mind: never trust a book by its cover.
Since Muzic.net.nz’s formation, I have come across some real gems and I’ve been to a huge amount of memorable gigs, but the one thing that stands above all else is the incredible people I have met along the way—many of whom I now consider to be my music family. We also have an exceptionally supportive team and it means a lot to know that there are people out there whom we can rely on.
What drives me to keep going? I am extremely passionate about NZ music and once I set my sights on something it’s next to impossible to steer me in another direction. I have a huge amount of grit and determination, not only to succeed but to also see others succeed.
My granddad (one of the main founders of country music clubs in Taranaki) said that he, “never let the grass grow under his feet,” and that’s exactly how I feel. Or in the words of Shihad, “Stand up, or move down, but I will not live and die without a sound.”
What can the musicians and community you’ve supported for 20 years do to support you and the website?
Subscribe to our socials (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube), purchase our clothing via PrintMighty and wear it to gigs, tag us and share our posts. All these things help to spread the word while not just promoting Muzic.net.nz but also promoting NZ music as a whole.
Bands and musicians can also ask us to co-host their Facebook event pages, set up video cross-posting (also on Facebook) with us and add our logo to tour and gig posters. Above all else, giving credit where credit is due is super important and tagging photographers when using their photos is always appreciated.
[This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]
Our thanks to Lisa and team for supporting Rothko Records.
Until next time,