Remembering Malcolm Black, APRA Board member and NZ music champion

Thursday, 30 May 2019

With great sadness we learned of the passing of Malcolm Black on 10 May 2019. Malcolm 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.

In a career across four decades, Malcolm made an indelible impact on the New Zealand music industry in his many roles: songwriter, band member, entertainment lawyer, A&R director, label founder, artist manager and industry advocate.

Alan Perrot wrote about Malcolm on Audioculture:

“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. 

He began his career in music in the early 1980s as lead singer and guitarist for the Netherworld Dancing Toys, and he co-wrote the hit song and iconic New Zealand anthem For Today, a song which won APRA’S Silver Scroll Award in 1985. When the band broke up, Malcolm was just 24 and went on to study Law and Commerce and received a Master of Laws from Otago University.


In Dunedin, Malcolm established his first legal consultancy, providing legal services to the burgeoning number of bands succeeding internationally from that beloved local scene. Clients included included Straitjacket Fits, The Verlaines and the Chills.

He would found Sinclair Black, the country's first dedicated entertainment law practice, with clients including Dave Dobbyn, Supergroove and Shihad, putting fair artist-focused contracts into circulation – a legacy that exists to today.

As Director or A&R and Business Affairs for Sony Music NZ and General Manager of Sony Music Publishing NZ, he worked with artists including Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Stellar, Che Fu and Brooke Fraser, and ushered in an era of local artists being embraced by the NZ recording buying public as equals to the international artists who dominated the market.

From the early 2000s onward, Malcolm continued shaping and nurturing the local industry. He helped establish what would become NZ export agency Outward Sound; he formed Heart Music an independent record company with a roster of contemporary Maori and Pacific Island artists including Dam Native, Emma Paki, Ermehn and tha Feelstyle; and he managed Neil Finn and Crowded House for 5 years. 

He established Les Mills Music Licensing, leading to many millions of dollars being distributed to music writers and publishers the world over for music used in the Les Mills exercise classes. Malcolm was a founding trustee and supporter of the music charity, MusicHelps.

While in his home town of 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 the song that started it all, For Today


APRA AMCOS Chief Executive Dean Ormston shared, "Malcolm made his mark on the APRA Board in a very short space of time. Considered, charming, diplomatic - the master of the calm word, and a guiding voice. A champion of Kiwi songwriters, artists and the wider NZ music industry, he will be enormously missed in his homeland, and on this side of the ditch.”

Head of New Zealand Operations Anthony Healey says “Malcolm’s contribution to music business in New Zealand was the most important contribution of anyone in the last 30 years. As a songwriter, lawyer, record label A & R executive, label owner and writer advocate his impact and legacy will be long lasting. Most sadly though we’ve lost a great mate, a friend and mentor who was a loving father, husband and human being.”

Our condolences go out to Malcolm's 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. 

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