Many New Zealand musicians have struggled to achieve commercial success and make a living as performers. Covering the music of overseas acts became the path for many local artists. While early televised music shows like C'mon and Happen inn brought some local talent into the public eye, they rarely showcased New Zealand music. Getting consistent exposure for local music was difficult, but the key to doing this was increasing airtime on commercial radio.
By 1995 airplay for New Zealand songs on commercial radio registered at 1.6%. A campaign was begun for the introduction of a quota system that would force commercial radio stations to play more New Zealand music. Some questioned the merits of an imposed quota and argued that New Zealand music and artists had to stand or fall on their own merits. Supporters maintained that the size of the New Zealand market meant that local talent needed help when competing with the big labels and corporations that dominated the music industry. To promote the playing of local music, a New Zealand Music Week was introduced in 1997.
The place of popular music in our society and its contribution to the cultural well-being of the nation were recognised in 2000 by the establishment of the government-funded New Zealand Music Industry Commission (now the New Zealand Music Commission). The commission sought to ensure more New Zealand music was heard and by a wider audience. To do this, it expanded the existing New Zealand Music Week into New Zealand Music Month. During May each year local acts and music are showcased on radio and television and in live performances to boost the visibility and success of New Zealand music. The statistics indicate that the concept has been valuable – airtime for New Zealand music on commercial radio stations has increased dramatically from around 10% in 2000 to nearly 23% in 2005. The amount of New Zealand music sold had also grown, from 5.45% of the total market in 2000 to over 10% by 2004.
This campaign and other initiatives have been so successful that lately some people have questioned whether New Zealand Music Month is necessary. However, others have counter-argued that the month continues to act as a prompt for New Zealanders to buy music made in New Zealand.