I went see Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris this week. I have always been a fan of Allen’s laconic style and his twisted take on relationship neuroses. The movie delivered all of that and more. It is beautifully shot, and has a highly engaging  script delivered by a great cast. And Paris by night is a feast for the eyes.

The subtext of the movie is how we romance our perceptions of eras gone by; how we yearn for earlier times when life was sweeter.

As the elections loom and we contemplate possible futures I am thinking back to earlier times in the New Zealand music industry and wondering if they were in fact better.  The pendulum swings across decades between cultural bust and boom reflected in both the volatile economics and the artistic highs and lows of the music.

In the wake of the culturally impoverished Muldoon  years I spent the 1980s on the road touring with a band called the Narcs. Signed to a major label, wearing big shoulder pads and with a few hit singles under our belt we criss-crossed the country with a host of other bands. Every weekend The Narcs, The Mockers, The Exponents, Hello Sailor, Blam Blam Blam and DD Smash drew huge crowds.

However, after the Black Monday market crash of 1987 Kiwi music was in a bad way. After  8 years of touring  I came off the road in 1990. Less than 2 per cent New Zealand music was being played on radio and television. Musicians protested, went on strike and campaigned for a music quota system. Fuelled by resentment and full of new found punk bravado they raged against the machine. On and off stage they were politically active.

For 10 years musicians hunkered down or fled the industry.  Helen Clark’s Labour government was elected in 2000 and the immediate injection of $80M into the arts and the establishment of the New Zealand Music Commission turned the industry around. In a few short years the industry flourished. By 2005 Kiwi radio stations played up to 25% local content and New Zealand music was part of a new national identity. We are still living on that legacy.

Thanks to the implementation of the Caddick Report and the steady-as-she-goes approach by the current National government New Zealand music is in reasonably good health as we go into the 2011 elections. But the pendulum keeps on silently swinging, the musicians and their fans blissfully unaware of the political and funding forces that shape the industry and ultimately the music.

The current times of plenty were  hard won by those who went before. Right now young musicians and fans of New Zealand music should be thinking about how the outcome of the pending  elections will affect the future musical economy - not to mention health , education and  the environment. It would be great to see them unplug their iPhones, put down their guitars and talk politics. And on election day  do something which will really affect t how the pendulum swings: vote.