Pushing Play: Flying Nun proved fit for the long haul

(Clockwise from top left) Robert Scott, of The Clean and The Bats, Shayne P Carter, and HDU.
(Clockwise from top left) Robert Scott, of The Clean and The Bats, Shayne P Carter, and HDU.
Next month, legendary New Zealand record label Flying Nun celebrates its 30th anniversary with a host of shows up and down the country.

In Dunedin, Sammy's will host The Clean and HDU, The Ghost Club and Shayne P Carter, while Urban Factory hosts The Bats.

Label founder Roger Shepherd spent time away from his baby, buying the brand back in late 2009, and has been strengthening its market share since.

Catching up this week for a chat, he's immensely proud of the label's first 30 years.

"There is no ignoring that 30 years is a long time. A very long time for a record company, [which] often don't survive the first year or so. So I am very proud that Flying Nun has kept on going and released lots of absolutely fantastic music with AND without me."

He's remarkably chuffed to be back steering the ship.

"I didn't think I would get to be back at the helm ever again and the FN ship would slowly drift and eventually sink.

"So it's fun sorting it all out and getting re-releases out and some new compilations of 'lost' older material, as well as releasing new music by new bands.

"We can't just be a reissue label. We need some new things to propel us forward and help keep us fresh."

The music-buying public has changed significantly in the past 30 years and Shepherd says online and file sales are a strong part of the future.

"I do think it is roughly the same but that we have to run the business from a digital perspective. CDs are still the dominant format but that won't be for long.

"The development of digital has democraticised the industry in that anyone can release a CD or put a song up online, which is a good thing." He says Flying Nun is ready to take on the world again.

"After spending most of the last 18 months generally sorting things out, we are now very much in new artists and new-release mode, having just signed T54, Pop Strangers and Surf Friends, with more to come."

At the 25th anniversary, the label released a special beer: Roger's Ruin. This time, it's the 30-year ale.

Tough times hinder take-off
Monkey Killer Records have been around a tenth of the time of Flying Nun and label founder Dave Ager says running a record label is always tough, especially in stretched economic times.

"Unless you have a bottomless pit of money, then running a label is going to be tough. Although, when I first started it in 2008 ... Real Groovy Dunedin closed its doors pretty soon afterward and there wasn't anywhere for Dunedin music lovers to buy new vinyl. And since I only make vinyl, that's a pretty niche market anyway."

He says that even though the planet is coming out of recession, it's still hard going.

"Things are definitely tight at the moment, so you've got to steal ideas and do different things. I stole the third-birthday idea from MUZAI in Auckland, and coupled it with the dunedinmusic.com birthday celebration idea. Hopefully, the result is a mix of what was great about those two events."

Generally, in this day and age, keeping a business afloat is a success beyond six months, although Ager doesn't think the label has achieved much in its three years.

"To be honest, I don't think it's been much of an achievement. The label has only managed one release per year, which is very poor in comparison with, say, Flying Nun. It basically comes down to your reserve of finances, and determination to release things.

"The real achievement - looking back at each of those releases gives a real swell of pride. Each one is so incredible in its own right. I love them all. And working with your absolute musical heroes as well as great friends has been the best bit."



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