Blow your horn

Making music is back in fashion. We import most of our kit, but the islands still strum Kiwi.

Making music is back in fashion. We import most of our kit, but the islands still strum Kiwi

Jason Smith


Like gardening and home baking, there is something in straitened times which encourages handmade and homemade quality. For the first time in decades, singalong sessions around the piano are popular again. Music school numbers are hitting a crescendo. People still need to be able to make music, not just listen to it.

The musical instrument industry in New Zealand counts for $75 million of GDP each year. This includes exports of locally-made instruments but most is imported. New Zealand’s quavering balance of trade in music-making machines plays second fiddle to just about everything at the pitiful end of the scale, except automotive imports.

Container-loads of guitars, amplifiers and drum kits land here and strike a major chord with New Zealand music makers. Classical instruments string along way behind, comprising about five percent of New Zealand imports of musical instruments. December sees a fever pitch in imports as Christmas gift-giving, combined with back-to-school-for-the-New-Year music lessons, ups the tempo of music instrument retail.

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Sources: Statistics New Zealand, Lewis Eady Ltd

Local luthiers manufacture handmade string instruments with a Kiwi twang. They range from rare Europe-bound cellos to roustabout ukuleles that are exported across the Pacific. Band aid from New Zealand to Pacific nations takes on a whole new meaning as Pacific-bound instruments amplify our export statistics. Most instruments in Pacific Islands churches, parade-day brass bands and rock groups are sourced from New Zealand.

Despite the rising numbers of musicians and musical instruments out there, spare parts for musical instruments barely feature. A $150 trumpet from China costs $120 to repair—effectively making it replaceable or, for the first time in history, disposable. China is changing key for everyone. How strange the change from major to minor.

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