TV presenter John Campbell emotionally observed, after his workmates on Campbell Live surprised him with a special and personal performance from one of his favourite musicians (the brilliant Sharon Van Etten), that “music just keeps you afloat sometimes”.

This year, more than any other, music has kept people afloat.

But it’s also true that while music helped make some sense of the massive societal reset of Covid-19, the industry and many artists have financially struggled because of the impact on live events.

The local music scene is bouncing back with its familiar resilience and in a talent sense is, perhaps, healthier than ever.

The sheer range and quality of talented musicians in Aotearoa is incredible. This year I’ve been lucky to see Reb Fountain blissfully launch her new album at the Mercury Theatre, a fiery Tom Scott documenting injustices of Aotearoa at Theatre Royal in Nelson, the Beths confirming their pop status as next big things at Laneway, a regal Troy Kingi on fire at the Hollywood Avondale, had my ears pummelled by The Subliminals at the Whammy Bar, and more.

Music has enormous power to transport listeners somewhere else and provide a different perspective on things. It’s a cliché of course, but music really matters. And, like all creative industries, it must be nurtured and supported to thrive.

Here at Vodafone we are proud of our long history of supporting the New Zealand music industry. We were the principal sponsor of the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards for 15 years (since 2004), and only parted ways with the awards this year to focus on other music partnerships.

It is clear to us that so many Kiwis have a deep love of music and the live experiences that often accompany it. Given so much music is now delivered via phones and streamed across the internet, we’ve always felt we have an important role to play in supporting the industry.

In September 2019, we announced a partnership with Live Nation, one of the biggest promotional companies in the world. The plan was to bring the best live experiences to New Zealand, and take the best of New Zealand to the world. This year, because of Covid-19, it’s been more about taking the best of Aotearoa to Aotearoa – but the partnership has thrived.

While the nation was in lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’, Live Nation and Vodafone brought Vodafone Lounge Jams to New Zealanders, live performances streamed directly from the living rooms or studios of musicians to the living rooms of thousands of Kiwis. Then, once we were able to hold events, Live Nation has been one of the biggest contributors in bringing back so many in-person performances.

Looking around the world and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on live events, it seems New Zealanders are still in a very privileged position to be able to attend concerts.

Over the last 12 months, Live Nation and Vodafone have held a large number of music events in New Zealand, with hundreds of tickets sold early to Vodafone customers and magical unique experiences won through competitions. Benee has just completed a hugely popular tour of New Zealand and in 2021 the partnership is looking forward to so many more huge names performing, including Crowded House.

In October, we announced the New Zealand version of the international Ones to Watch programme with a showcase launch event at Hopetoun Alpha in central Auckland. The programme includes an online platform featuring emerging Kiwi musicians, showcase events, mentoring of the artists and much, much, more. The four artists so far launched on the Ones to Watch programme include Paige, Imugi, RIIKI and Park Rd with another four to be announced shortly (there will be 12 in total over the year).

Supporting grassroots artists helps Vodafone play an authentic role in supporting music – not just the big-name artists but those that have yet to be discovered.

Art and commerce are not always the easiest of collaborators. Corporate support has a hugely important role to play, but it should not compromise the vision of the creator in any artistic endeavour. The history of music is littered with a tension between artists and the ‘suits’. My teenage dreams of creating music that will move people to tears of joy have collided violently with my profound lack of musical talent.

So, as the saying goes, if you don’t have the talent, you should support those who do.

It helps that so many of us who work at Vodafone are music fans, which makes us feel that our mahi is making a difference, by actively celebrating and promoting the music, making tickets more available to fans, and helping to make it more financially viable for the artists to create.

Vodafone is also a key supporter of the upcoming Rhythm & Vines festival over New Year’s in Gisborne. R&V has been going for more than 17 years now, and has been a festival rite of passage for thousands of young New Zealanders.

We are looking forward to an exciting 2021 full of discovering more new local artists and perhaps even international artists being able to travel to Aotearoa once more.

*Vodafone NZ is a foundation supporter of Newsroom*

Richard Llewellyn is Vodafone' Head of External Affairs and self-confessed music nut.

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