The Minister for Pacific Peoples has issued a challenge to the board of the Pacific Music Awards to take its work to the next level and do more to protect artistic talent, including questioning why many artists aren’t receiving royalties for songs that get played on air.
Speaking as the keynote address at the annual Pacific Music Awards in Manukau last Thursday 24 May, the Minister Aupito William Sio started with Samoan proverbs: " My elders have often said, E le falala fua laau o le vao. The trees of the forest do not move without reason. E mafua ona falala, ona ua agi le matagi. They move because the winds have begun to blow."
The Minister addressed the challenge in his awards speech on Pacific Media Network’s Tuvalu language radio programme the following night, saying it's not a criticism but a challenge "to the Pacific Music Awards trustees, and the sponsors, everybody in the industry, particularly our people...That we’re not just celebrating what we do but protecting that asset...and making sure that the profits being generated by our music and our arts actually come back to us."
Now in its 14th year, the Pacific Music Awards celebrates Pacific musicians and artists across more than 14 award categories. It’s now an iconic industry event recognised by the New Zealand mainstream music industry and media. This year's awards attracted nominations and entrants from as far as Europe, USA, Samoa and around Aotearoa New Zealand.
At Thursday night's awards ceremony, Mr Sio recalled the events of 2005 when Reverend Mua Pua, Sina Wendt Moore and Petrina Togi-Sa’ena came to see him when he was Manukau City Councillor to sponsor and support a new initiative called the Pacific Music Awards.
“I didn’t need to be convinced about supporting it. We just had to work out how we could get the funding from Manukau City Council.”
Last night on Pacific Media Network's radio programme, he said, he, and others like Manukau City Councillor Alf Filipaina, could already see back then that it would become the iconic event it is today. "I immediately said yes" when the awards trustees asked for support and funding.
“I’m so pleased from 2006 the Awards have stayed in South Auckland," he said. "So that vision that was captured by the Pacific music awards trustees at the time, and a number of us, including the sponsors that came on board, businesses, industry sponsors and public sector sponsors - we’ve realised that vision.”
“I listed out last night just the growing number of artistic talent that are well known, they’re iconic names in our every household in New Zealand…”
In his Thursday speech he also asked the awards audience: “So where to now? Where do we need to go now? Is this it? Is this all we’re capable of achieving? I say, resoundingly, no. We can and must achieve more."
Video: Keynote at Pacific Music Awards
Are Pacific artists making money from their arts and talents?
“That’s the challenge because I’ve been observing what’s been happening in that industry, I’ve been listening to some of the artists, I’ve observed what’s been going on in social media," he said. “There’s a real need for us to lift our game to ensure that we’re not just celebrating our artistic geniuses, but we’re also looking at developing and growing and protecting the interests of our young artists coming through.”
“...so many of our artists, which is a question I posed (Thursday night), create original content, those songs are being played in the airwaves but many of them aren’t getting royalties, " he said, questioning how the trustees and APRA could help in this space.
In his speech on Thursday night he said: "The Pacific Music Awards is an asset, a Pacific and national asset in the new Aotearoa-New Zealand that is now emerging around us. What we need to do now is protect and develop that asset and increase its value...I'd like to see the Pacific Music Awards Trust open up to the community and see how it can better capture and serve the talent we see here tonight."
Mr Sio said he would like the Pacific Music Award Trust to “operate as a body that not only celebrates Pacific talent, but also protects, develops and grows our musical talent, our knowledge of the industry and our influence.”
The Pacific Music Awards website says its committee (PMAC) was formed in 2004 to “realise a vision and result was a resounding success of the inaugural Pacific Music Awards” debuting at the 2005 Pasifika Festival “to develop the infrastructure to make this an annual event.”
Discontent Within Industry
Pacific Music Awards Trust Board spokesperson Reverend Mua Pua, one of the award trustees since its inception 14 years ago, took to the stage at the awards night to address the discontent of Pacific artists that spilled over into social media.
Artists complained about a lack of transparency in relation to the selection criteria and the judging process including no information on who the judges are. Their dissatisfaction and concerns were aired on New Zealand's Pacific Media Network radio, in news coverage, and on television on Tagata Pasifika.
Video: Tagata Pasifika story on complaints by artists
“ I want to do some of our family duties first," said awards trustee Reverend Mua Pua at Thursday night's awards. "For those who are aware, we had our artists who were quite upset at the beginning a couple of months ago and we would like to say to you: you are our family. We have taken on board your concerns and we will begin to enact some of the things you’ve requested, telling us how we can make this better and we appreciate that.”
On Pacific Media Network’s Tuvalu Programme last night, which is broadcast nationally, Reverend Mua Pua, who was interviewed after Mr Sio, said he was disappointed by the earlier experience with the artists who complained about the Awards. “I was disappointed when we were being criticised that we weren’t doing enough. I was really disappointed when we had the meeting with those artists...and they turned around and said, 'Why are ordinary people with us? (in the meeting)..."
“Our committee was shocked...we were going, sole, ‘This is the Pacific Music Awards. Everyone has the right to be here. We celebrate the professional to the amateur to nana who loves singing her songs to her grandchildren to the young people that want to sing in the garage’. It’s everybody’s.”
Referring to the Pacific People’s Minister, Reverend Mua Pua said of the awards night, “We were challenged by our awesome Mangere MP so he’s looking at setting up a meeting so that we can go further with...more funding and more resources to help our music Pacific industry.”
But in the Minister's keynote speech at Thursday night's Pacific Music Awards, he said that the Board would need to do more before he would provide any further support.
“I was on air before the Reverend Mua, challenging them to do more and take the lead to protect the musicians, but they need to come up with a viable plan and strategy that the artists are part of," said Mr Sio in response to Reverend Mua's comments about funding.
"They’re not going to get anything unless there is greater accountability from them and greater involvement from artists," he said.