Friday, 10 May 2019

FAREWELL MALCOLM BLACK

We are very sad to advise that our great friend, colleague, writer director and New Zealand representative on the APRA board passed away peacefully in Auckland Hospital today after a battle with illness. It is a massive loss for the music community and we send our collective love to his beautiful family and his many, many friends at this terribly difficult time.

Malcolm Black joined the APRA board as the New Zealand elected writer director in 2016 and immediately began an important contribution to the organisation he had been a member of since 1983.

The role of a writer director at APRA is a considerable one, as it generally requires governance skills and experience not normally attributed to songwriters and composers – especially complex when the organisation is a $400m business with almost 400 staff. Malcolm was however imminently and uniquely qualified to take on such a challenge.

Most well known as the lead singer and guitarist for the Netherworld Dancing toys in the early 1980’s he co-wrote the hit song and iconic NZ anthem ‘For Today’, a song which won APRA’S Silver Scroll Award in 1985. When the band broke up he was only 24, but with degrees in Law and Commerce he quickly was offered a position at NZ’s largest legal practice Russell McVeigh. After 3 years in the mid-eighties in Auckland he returned to Dunedin to complete his Master of Laws at Otago University. Here he established his first legal consultancy providing legal services to the burgeoning number of bands succeeding internationally from that Dunedin scene. These included Straitjacket Fits, The Verlaines and the Chills.

Soon he would move back to Auckland to establish NZ’s first dedicated entertainment law practice Sinclair Black, acting for the likes of Dave Dobbyn, Supergroove and Shihad ensuring artists for the first time had good advice, putting fair artist focussed contracts into circulation – a legacy that exists to today.

He was appointed Director or Artist and Repertoire (A&R) and Business Affairs for Sony Music NZ and General Manager of Sony Music Publishing NZ.   During his tenure in the role Sony Music NZ dominated the local NZ music industry with artists such as Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Stellar, Che Fu and Brooke Fraser. Previously local NZ music had struggled for exposure and sales however these artists out sold the biggest international artists in NZ at the time and and were embraced by the NZ record buying public as their equals. Significant inroads into overseas markets were made by artists Malcolm signed.

He facilitated and chaired the Music Industry Export Development Group in 2003 which led to the establishment of the NZ Music export agency Outward Sound. Malcolm formed Heart Music an independent record company specializing in contemporary Maori and Pacific Island artists releasing albums by Dam Native, Emma Paki, Ermehn and tha Feelstyle. He managed Neil Finn and Crowded House for 5 years. He established Les Mills Music Licensing (which supplies Les Mill International with all its music for its exercise to music classes) responsible for many millions of dollars being distributed (through APRA AMCOS) to music writers and publishers the world over. Malcolm was a founding trustee and supporter of the music charity, MusicHelps.

While in his home town, Dunedin for the 2017 APRA Silver Scroll Awards Malcolm was diagnosed with cancer. In October 2018 at the Silver Scroll Awards in Auckland he closed the show with a remarkable performance of that classic song ‘For Today”. On May 10 2019 Malcolm quietly passed away.

It is a massive loss for his wife Julia and his four daughters and whole whanau. The entire music community and we at APRA will miss his wisdom, thoughtfulness, guidance and humility.

In his profile of Malcolm (on the excellent NZ website Audioculture) Alan Perrot says “We’ll never see another music career to parallel that of Malcolm Black. Which may prove that there really is a place in rock and roll for the quietly spoken, fair minded and humble” and never a truer word has been spoken.


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