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international librarian of mystery

Thursday, March 03, 2005


I checked my email yesterday morning, and found this one from noizyboy.
subject: reminder, film archive mediaplex - resonate, 12:30 today.

Be there.
Very direct lad he can be sometimes. I knew a bit about Resonate - it's a get-together that the British Council and NZ Music Industry Commission (amongst others) have organised over the last couple of years, where a few UK music big-wigs are flown in to impart their wisdom to the local music industry. And which, for the first time this year, has made its way to Wellington. I even posted something about it on noizyland the other day, but the details (as is so often the way when I'm editing someone else's writing) had failed to lodge in my brain. From what I could tell though, it was all going to be a bit of a schmooze-fest, and the likelihood of free wine was high, so with nothing else on, I figured I may as well pop along.

And yes, all the usual local music scene suspects were out: noizy, blink, cubey, mikee, and about two dozen more bodies that make up pretty much the entire Wellington music industry. Satchels overflowing with CDs, demos, 'zines and business cards were slung upon every other shoulder. I dodged my way between them to the bar where I ordered a wine.

"Six dollars please," said the barista.
"Oh, crikey, really? It's not free?"
"Um, no."
"Um, righto. I might have to give it a miss, sorry."
"I'll get that," came an English voice from behind me. "And another for me thanks," said the boy who was now standing next to me at the counter.
"Ohhh, thank you very much!" I said. "I was totally expecting open bar action."
"Fair enough," he said, "and no worries at all. In fact, I suspect a drink or two might make anything I say during the session all the more interesting."
"Oh, you're one of the panel?"
"Yes, hi, I'm Conor."
"Hi Conor, I'm Natalie."
"What do you do Natalie?"
"Um, I'm an unemployed librarian at the moment. I've got some tenuous links with a New Zealand music website, so usually manage to blag my way into these sorts of things. And you?"
"I'm the editor of the NME. Have you heard of it?"

I just about choked on my wine. Have I heard of the NME? It was the bible of my teenage years. I devoured every page of every issue, dreaming of going to all the gigs in London, hobnobbing it with the pasty white boy rockstars that adorned every other page, popping E and heading out to the latest superclub to dance all weekend to the latest uber-cool dance sub-genre.

"Um, yes," I said. "I used to love it."
"Used to?"
"Oh, you know, um, I kinda grew out of it a bit, I suppose. And I'm a bit more into the local scene now."
"Aha. Indeed. What's your website called?"

I gave him the rundown on noizyland. He got the pun on the name straight away, which is more than most people manage. He really did have quite a lovely accent, and wonderful bright blue eyes. And he was editor of the bloody NME! When was I ever going to get another chance like this...?

"So, are you here with your girlfriend? Wife?"
"Wife. She's just over there, actually."

Damn. That was a short lived plan, then. He waved her over - she was, naturally, lovely - and we chatted about their marriage (New Year's Eve before last - it sounded wonderful), and Conor told some stories about The Darkness and Keane that had me dumbstruck with how he seemed to know just about anyone who is anyone in the British music scene. Which, I suppose, he almost certainly does.

Eventually everyone traipsed into the mediaplex's auditorium, where the four British music bigwigs regaled the assembled locals with more stories of working with the big bands in the multi-million dollar UK music biz. They rattled off numbers that had jaws dropping around the room. They talked about photo shoot costs that would dwarf the entire budget of most indie releases here in New Zealand. And it seemed that there were specialised jobs for just about everything in the UK - TV publicist, radio publicist, international publicist, manager, and more seemingly impossible job descriptions that now fail to spring to mind. Jobs that here in NZ, would all be done by members of the band itself. It just seemed ... surreal. I suspect half the room was considering upping and leaving for the UK on the next available plane.

Then it was open question time. During a lull, I found myself piping up to ask a question...

"How hard is it to break it big if you're an ugly band?" I asked, for no really good reason, except that most big international acts seem to be, to a person, on the right side of the good looking scale.

The two publicists present hummed and hahhed a bit, but came to the conclusion that it can be done. You just need to write really good songs, or have really clever marketing, or, even better, both. They used Keane as an example. And then Conor told the story about Keane and the Darkness he had just told me in the foyer, which made me feel a bit special, but then I realised he'd probably told the same story to a hundred people already, and would undoubtedly tell it again a hundred more times over the next few days when the Resonate conference moves up to Auckland, which somewhat undermined my 'moment'.

The discussion wound up around 4pm, after which everyone else wandered off to Sandwiches for a showcase gig. Normally I'd have tagged along, but, still low on funds, and with another job interview tomorrow, I thought I should try and get home and not risk getting involved in the sorts of music-related shenanigans that have marred some of my previous nights out.

Before I headed home, I did manage to catch up with Jenny, the producer who's in charge of the SXSW documentary I'm going to be a part of (hopefully), and who, coincidentally, is helping out with Resonate. We had a quick chat about dates and our itinerary. She's got a swodge of tickets to some of the showcase gigs at the SXSW music festival gig that the NZ acts are playing at, so it looks like, on that front at least, that my entertainment bill will be relatively light.

Ohhh, it's less than two weeks before I head away now. And the closer it gets, the harder the waiting becomes.

[ps. some classic comments on my previous post. I seem to have touched a nerve. Thanks to everyone who took the time to have their say.]