The day the music died?

Tiki Taane

A few weeks back I wrote of APRA’s annual Silver Scroll songwriting awards.

Specifically I wrote that the Australasian Performing Right Association have stripped 2016’s winner, Thomas Oliver, of his award after bad, but not criminal, behaviour towards a woman. They have also introduced “morality clauses” that subsequent winners must adhere to.

Now, Recorded Music New Zealand, the folk who organise the Aotearoa Music Awards (AMA), have followed suit. Whether out of genuine concern or to avoid corporate embarrassment, you now have to adhere to behavioural guidelines if you are to win a music award in New Zealand.

Perhaps we can pause for a second here and take a brief glance at the history of rock 'n' roll over the past 60 or so years.

It strikes me that perhaps once or twice in that time, proponents of this music that we call rock have possibly not behaved exactly as your mother would like over the Sunday dinner table. Even back in the inchoate 50s, which now appear quite tame, there seemed to be a little bad behaviour occurring.

As to the 60s ... I suspect a number of musicians took drugs. Some were even arrested for breaking the law. Then there were the 70s. And punk. Those little scallywags with mohawks and safety pins were known to be occasionally disruptive.

More recently I believe a few hip-hop proponents have displayed anti-social tendencies; and in England those Gallagher brothers were a bit impolite; I have a feeling that even Amy Winehouse might have been abusing alcohol.

Role models

However, in New Zealand we want our musicians to be role models. None of this awful rock 'n' roll nonsense. And fortunately we have Recorded Music New Zealand to protect us. Because from now on, you can be assured that badly behaved musicians will never again win awards in this country.

Think I’m exaggerating? Allow me to run through some of the Aotearoa Music Awards Statement of Expectation. Remember, “these expectations apply to our partners and their contractors, sponsors, award nominees, persons nominating, judges, award winners and others involved in the lead-up to the event, at the event itself, and in any interactions after the event.” So - everyone involved, anytime, possibly forever...

Amongst the nine commandments, these are the first two: “To treat everyone fairly and with respect” and: “To behave in a professional and courteous manner at all times.”

Yes, we don’t want any rude behaviour. That would be just so ... rude. I wonder if the organisers are mixing rock music up with kindergarten teaching?

I remember, for instance, Tiki Taane being arrested for an F-word laden anti-police chant during a show in Tauranga. Did he treat the police “fairly and with respect”? Was he “courteous”? The valiant Simon Bridges demanded that Taane be “banned from Tauranga” - a strange response from someone who’s all for free speech now there’s a hate speech bill out there from the other side.

So Tiki Taane would be out; lucky he’s already won a pile of awards. Just imagine how a rule like this would look in America: “Please, Mr Kanye, would you mind being courteous at all times. Please.”

More rules

And here’re a couple more rules: “To operate within the law at all times” and: “To act safely and responsibly including as to alcohol consumption.” So does that mean every musician with a drug conviction is now out of the running for awards? And everyone who gets drunk?

And how long before someone suggests this: the awards are RACIST! Yep, just like Crimewatch. Disproportionately drug and other convictions feature Māori and Pacific Islanders from lower socio-economic groups. And who disproportionately creates hip-hop and rap? Māori and Pacific Islanders from lower socio-economic groups. So by putting in a morality clause they are overwhelmingly targeting poorer Māori and Pacific Islanders and excluding them from awards...

Just imagine American or British music awards where the winners are obliged to behave courteously, not drink too much, not have drug convictions. Can you think of any musicians from the past 60 years who may possibly not have upheld these standards?

But thanks AMA. We all feel a lot safer now that you’re cleaning up rock ‘n’ roll...

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