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However ordinary you think your environment might be, you’re exotic to somebody. Use that as a selling point.

Deepest, darkest Pakuranga

I’m from New Zealand. I can’t think of anything more mundane than growing up in Pakuranga and spending the vast majority of one’s life in Auckland.

And yet, when I exported myself to the UK, two strange things happened. First, I became somehow more ‘impressive’ and quotable back home, because I was suddenly an ex-pat kiwi teaching at a British university (I think perhaps they imagine Hogwarts). And second, over here in the UK I’m looked at as an ‘International Expert’, and thus accorded far more attention than many of my peers who have every bit as much to say as I do, but suffer the ‘misfortune’ of being local.

I can’t imagine I’d get anywhere near the amount of attention I get if I’d just stayed in Auckland, or if I was just another English lecturer in an English university. Being displaced has conveyed an air of extra significance to what I do. It might be slight, and it might even be subconscious, but it definitely seems to be a real thing.

One thing I noticed from the Dutch people in the music and media industries was that they prioritised their unique national character. Language was obviously important, but pretty much everything they did highlighted the sense of place, which was really nice.

And the people I spoke to were really enthusiastic about the Dutch media environment. There’s a real sense of optimism there, not entirely unlike the music industry optimism I encountered in Belfast not so long ago. That stuff’s really contagious.

New Zealand music has a sense of cohesion about it in terms of marketing music to the world. And while the concepts of Dutch-ness and New Zealand-ness are deeply problematic (especially in the light of colonial histories), there is something unique about the environment within which music is created that cannot help but contribute to the sound of that music.

Put it down to the psychological effects of geography, architecture and town planning.

What to do with this? Well, when exporting music to the world, you could use the place of origin as a good hook on which to tell the story of the music. When selling the music locally, never underestimate the instinct of local pride and parochialism.

The people who need to get this most, and — at least here in the UK — seem to understand it least, is local radio. Don’t make their mistake.


What’s interesting about where you’re from? How could that be used as part of the story through which you promote and sell music?