New Zealanders can now view music videos over the internet or on music channels C4 and Juice TV. But after TV was introduced in 1960 several generations of New Zealanders kept up with the music scene through dedicated music shows on mainstream TV. Popular shows included C’mon in the 60s, Happen Inn in the 70s, Ready to roll, Radio with pictures and Shazam in the 80s, and RTR in the 90s.
There were many more short-lived shows. Far fewer people will remember Norman, hosted by Paul Holmes, A dropa kulcha, named in response to a comment by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, or TV3’s first popular music show, Shakedown.
In February 1962 AKTV2 started screening New Zealand’s first TV music show, In the groove (1962–64).
TV had only been officially launched in the country in 1960, and a national network wasn’t established until the following decade. So In the groove screened on other regional channels later in the year.
Kevan Moore produced the first series of the show. It featured a ‘panel of young people’ giving their views on ‘current pop records’. Compere Stewart McPherson introduced guest artists. Moore was also responsible for the short- lived Let’s go (1964) and On the beat site (1965), and the more popular C’mon (1966–69) featuring the groovy Sandy Edmonds. All were hosted by the radio and television personality Peter Sinclair.
According to Moore, C’mon was axed by mutual consent after he accepted that the public wouldn’t put up with the increasing numbers of records that were ‘glorifying drugs and weirdo sex’. He felt ‘uneasy’ that they were ‘ignoring a lot of songs or changing the lyrics’.
Moore’s mild-mannered replacement for C’mon, Happen inn, screened from 1970 until 1973. Its cancellation ended his decade-long partnership with Sinclair.
A number of TV icons got their start on music shows. Chief among them were Karyn Hay, who hosted Radio with pictures from 1981 to 1985, and Philip Schofield, who hosted Shazam! during the same period. Less well known is Paul Holmes’ brief role as a music show host on Norman and The grunt machine.
Moore followed up Happen inn with the country’s first colour music show, Free ride (1974), hosted by pop star Ray Columbus. By this time the national network had been completed and this series appeared on network TV.
In the mid-1970s the break-up of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation led to the establishment of separate TV networks. Two of the next decade’s staples debuted on the competing channels: Ready to roll (1975–87/94) with host Roger Gascoigne on TV1 and Radio with pictures (1976–88) with host Barry 'Dr Rock' Jenkin on SPTV (TV2).
A number of other music shows screened during the 1970s. They included Pop Co (1972–73), The grunt machine (1975–76), Norman and The good time show (1975).
The first half of the 1980s was a period of relative stability for music show lovers. After the two networks amalgamated under TVNZ in 1980, TV1 and TV2 no longer needed to compete. For almost half a decade Ready to Roll, Radio with pictures, and then Shazam! (1982–87), screened year in and year out, shifting between the two channels.
Following the cancellation of the existing shows in 1986 TVNZ introduced True Colours, hosted jointly by Shazam’s Phillipa Dann and Radio with pictures’ Dick Driver. The show featured local bands recorded live in Wellington and Auckland. Only seven of the ten planned episodes went ahead.
In 1986 TVNZ took all music shows off the air following a dispute with record companies, who were demanding payment for video clips that were becoming increasingly expensive to produce. TVNZ refused to pay to screen them on the grounds that this was ‘a form of sales promotion’.
The dispute was resolved by the end of the year and the shows returned to air. But stability never returned. Heading into the next decade they were shaken once again by the arrival of competition. All of TVNZ’s music shows had by now moved to TV2, so it would be them versus TV3.
A number of other music shows screened during the 1980s. These included two offshoots of Ready to roll, RTR video releases (1982–86) and RTR mega-mix (1988–90), and the short-lived A dropa kulcha (1981–82), Heartbeat city(1987–88) and CV (1989).
Several significant changes took place during the 1990s, among them the launch shows on of weekend mornings. TV3 made the first move with Shakedown (1989–91). TV2 responded by putting RTR Sounz (1989–92) up against it.
The RTR brand dominated the scene at the beginning of the decade. No fewer than four offshoots – RTR countdown, RTR mega-mix, RTR new releases (1990) and RTR Sounz – coexisted in 1990. Later that year Pepsi was granted naming rights to the programmes. TV3 followed this lead with various offshoots of Coca Cola TVFM (1991–93). NZ On Air began funding New Zealand music videos in 1991 but it supported shows devoted to local music; chart-driven programmes such as these continued to be commercially sponsored. The RTR brand itself had disappeared by the mid-1990s, but its successors continued well into following decade.
The 1990s also saw the arrival of the first music channels, Cry TV and Max TV (1993–97). Both were forced out by TVNZ’s failed experiment with New Zealand’s own MTV (1997). Juice TV also started in the 1990s, as an offshoot of Sky TV’s Orange Channel.
Evening music shows continued to screen during the 1990s. In addition to RTR countdown, Radio with pictures reappeared briefly in 1990, followed by Frenzy (1993–97), Music nation (1995–97), Ground zero (1999) and Squeeze (1998–2004).
The early 2000s was a time of rapid change. TVNZ revived early-evening RTR (2000–04) and launched late-night Space (2000–03), all-night M2 (2001–03) and even a local version of Top of the pops (2004–05).
From 2006 to 2009 the privately owned and operated 24-hour music channel Alt TV provided an irreverent and at times controversial alternative to the more popular music options available.
TV3 and TV4 screened the phone-in request show Most wanted (2000–03) and the Pepsi chart (2001–02). Even Prime TV got in on the act with the week-night music show Cue (2000–01).
Despite all this activity, the early 2000s was really the beginning of the end of music shows on the main channels. In 2003 TV4 was transformed into a music channel, C4.
The number of music shows on the main channels has decreased steadily since then, and none screen regularly on these channels in 2010. Viewers are now getting their music fix from Juice TV, C4 and the internet.