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Celebrating 15 Years Of UnderTheRadar

Celebrating 15 Years Of UnderTheRadar

Chris Cudby & Annabel Kean / Monday 30th December, 2019 12:10PM

Emerging from Tāmaki Makaurau's underground music community all the way back in 2004, this year we're celebrating our fifteenth anniversary of bringing you the best musical good stuff from all across Aotearoa's alternative spectrum and beyond. Founded by Daryl Fincham and Angela Windust, UnderTheRadar grew organically from humble roots as an online record store and local gig guide to the multi-faceted 100% independent website you see right here – providing NZ's music community with such crucial resources as our ticketing service, nationwide gig guide, up to the minute music news, interviews, fun competitions and so much more!

UnderTheRadar exists for the love of the culture – huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported and contributed to the site in any way, shape or form over the past fifteen years, and all the artists we've featured for your inspiring and invaluable works. As we get ready to slice up UTR's birthday cake and look forward to a whole new decade, Chris Cudby and Annabel Kean gazed through the mists of time to bring you the secret origin of and some personal highlights from fifteen years of UTR.


Daryl Fincham working on the site.


Early days

UnderTheRadar was born in early 2000's Tāmaki Makaurau, which was undergoing a bit of a cultural upheaval at the time, as a fresh wave of musical faces were stepping to the forefront of our indie / punk / DIY scene. The Mint Chicks, Coolies, Die! Die! Die! and the party-loving acts centred around Edens Bar and Paradise Bar were attracting crowds, mainstays such as Little Chief Records (The Brunettes, Tokey Tones) were continuing to gather steam, and the monthly A Low Hum tours were helping foster a new nationwide touring network. Daryl Fincham was keeping busy in Kingsland with independent labels Kog Transmissions and Midium, releasing records by Jakob, Day One and his own band Meterman. He needed an online platform to sell them, so why not add in a few useful features like a gig guide as well?

Daryl Fincham: Basically I was in bands and had vinyl out that wasn’t selling so I thought I’d build a store to sell them; a vinyl store. I did a media design course and learnt how to database items and I built the site from that. Back then you’d see a desktop optimised site for 600 pixels wide, which is about the size of your phone now, crazy little side banner things and just a small bloggy type post of news. It was beautiful.


A snapshot of the site in 2004


Daryl:
It was after-hours. It was sharing the dial-up connection on the laptop type operation in our Kingsland flat and we just did it all evenings, adding gigs, adding things we liked. Just me and Angela... there was no money in it, there was nothing, not even plans to have money – we didn’t really care about that so much and we made sure we had the best gig guide in Auckland.

Angela Windust: It was originally an online record store selling local vinyl mainly and then he started doing a bit of news and adding some gigs and it grew from there. I didn’t get involved in any serious way until we launched the ticketing service in 2008.

Daryl: I was working at MediaWorks at the time and Angela was working in recruitment. It just became a factor of her being quite bored doing recruitment and quite excited to do UnderTheRadar stuff, so she eventually left to do UTR full time.


Courtney Sanders, Angela Windust, Daryl Fincham 


Ticketing & growth

In 2008 UnderTheRadar made the bold move of expanding with a ticketing service. This enabled Angela Windust to step in as full time editor, joined in the office by Courtney Sanders in 2011.

Angela: Launching our ticketing service is by far the most significant event, it allowed us to grow as a site and I like to think it also allowed the scene to grow by providing that bridge between the local music scenes and their audiences. Once ticketing took off I had to work on it full time and that allowed us to expand on other areas of the site too. It was an exciting time for me, I’d always wanted to work in music and I finally had this way to connect with the scene and it was great!

At the time (ie pre 2008), very few shows that we wanted to go to were ticketing online – this included internationals. The main ticketing companies like Ticketmaster and Ticketek weren’t really accessible to smaller promoters due to pricing. We considered ticketing for awhile before doing anything about it, thought about how we could do it, costs and so on – at one point we decided against it but Daryl went ahead and just tinkered about as he does and got something together and we launched with a Sommerset show at the Kings Arms and a Bats show in Wellington and people took to the service instantly – I think the Sommerset show sold out?

Daryl: Just some mates were like "Hey, you guys should sell tickets to these gigs too" and we were like "Okay that’s a good idea, that can’t be too hard" (disclaimer: it was). So we got to building it and about three months later we started selling tickets to, I think it was Summerset Reunion through Chicks That Scream. By doing that, we sort of just jumped the market by about three months on a bunch of other ones ticketing sites.

I think it was definitely a little bit scary, especially because anything to do with any kind of business is scary, but to do something in the music industry is pretty up and down in the first place. But mostly just kind of excitement, I think to be working in the industry on our own terms.

Courtney Sanders: I did a little bit of everything – interviewing, writing news and reviews, assisting with ticket uploads, manning the door at shows we were ticketing – and loved all of it.

Ange, Daryl, and I went to All Tomorrow's Parties in Melbourne together for our Christmas Party (so lucky), and it was (despite it being 40 degrees and the whole thing taking place indoors) one of the best weekends ever – the UTR team hanging out, listening to music together, feeling ill together because Swans was so hot and so loud. Fun times! While I was working at UTR I was also booking MUM at Cassette, which was presented by UTR. The Sneaks had not played a show for ages, and when we booked them for MUM, around Christmastime one year, everyone in Auckland was so excited to see them again, and the gig was so joyful, it made me feel so privileged to be part of the UTR and wider New Zealand music community, and it still does!

Angela Windust in the UTR office

New Faces

Danielle Street was invited to take up UTR's editorial reins in 2014, when Angela and Daryl gave birth to their son Eddie. Danielle helmed the editorial side of UTR with assistance from Fluffy until late 2017, when she moved along to RNZ. Chris Cudby stepped up to the editorial plate after serving a nearly five year stint at Tāmaki Makaurau's Audio Foundation, joined this year by assistant editor Annabel Kean.

Danielle Street: I came to UnderTheRadar not long after I finished journalism school. I started writing for a few music publications and had been working at Groove Guide not long after I graduated. It doesn't exist anymore but I was working there for a while as the intern and getting a lot of music writing experience for various publications, and UTR was one of them. It was a slow build up really from writing reviews and doing some interviews and stuff for Angela and Courtney was with her at the time.

The one thing that people don't seem to realise or didn't realise when I was there is that it's a really small team! When I was there it was me and Angela and Daryl later and Fluffy later, but for a couple of years there it was just me and Angela. We had contributors, but we were doing the lion's share of the work editorially. Readers think there's a whole office of people working on that content but there really isn't... I think what you see at the front end is so impressive taking that into account.

Chris Cudby: I love how keyed in UTR is to live music culture, and Angela and Danielle were both so supportive at crucial points in the careers of so many amazing breakout talents I feel – my original aim when I came on board was to maintain that lofty tradition. I had to adapt fast for the sheer volume of submissions and press releases we receive, it was like someone threw a laptop at me and shouted "go!"

Danielle: I don't remember my favourite (interview), I remember my least favourite, I think that’s what stands out. It was J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr who has a legacy of being one of the most difficult interviewees... I think we had a minor argument on the phone where I got annoyed at him and he said “is that it?” We continued for a little bit longer, but he’s very stubborn and he won't answer questions properly, he’ll give you one word answers. I was so annoyed when it finished, I didn’t publish it for some time because it was really short, there was nothing to it, but after a while I put it up for a laugh for people to read.

It took a really long time for me to actually enjoy interviewing people. Some of the ones that were the best ones were surprising people, I had a really good conversation with Matt Pike from High On Fire and Sleep. He was this gruff doom guitarist, really good natured and openly talked about conspiracy theories but for him was fact and he openly talks about his beliefs and stuff. A lot of variety there over the years.

Fluffy: My first contribution to UTR came in form of a small live review from the 2016 iteration of Laneway (the last to be held at Silo Park). The incomparable Danielle Street put out a call for contributors on the bastion of connection and opportunity that is social media, which I jumped at – having just arrived back in the big smoke of Tāmaki Makaurau from an extended period living in the South Island. I frantically listened to a score of otherwise unfamiliar artists on the bill and submitted my preference list. I lucked out! I was assigned the task of giving my thoughts on the momentous reunion of Dunedin’s HDU.

I’ve been able to tick off almost all of my musical bucket list in my time at UTR... There was a period between 2017 and 2018 where I would be able to attend almost any medium to large scale show that tickled my fancy and I was part of the dynamic live coverage duo with photographer Connor Crawford, who I saw at every gig. I’ve just read back on that first review from Laneway and the love of that performance (and indeed the festival) was very real and very immense.

 


Changing media landscape

When UnderTheRadar first started social media didn't exist as we now know it, instead we had carefully curated lists of Top Eight friends on Myspace, and print media was still probably still your best main source for music info, alongside message board sites like NZmusic.com and Punkas.

Angela: There were music magazines, street press, music TV (off and on) none of which are around today really in any major capacity. Event photo sites were popular for a time there and blogs were huge toward the end of the 2000s.


Daryl:
It’s been interesting watching that landscape change with all the music mags that are out there and websites and music television stations and music sections on sites and famous blogs like nzmusic.com. It’s quite a different landscape from then to now, online was just one small part, there were heaps of street gig guide presses happening as well with The Fix in Auckland and The Package in Wellington.


Angela:
We’ve never been super reliant on social media but yeah it’s definitely been a benefit. It feels very labour intensive these days, when there was just Facebook it was pretty easy and early algorithms allowed you really great access to your followers – it dropped right back a few years ago which took some of the fun out of it.

Looking back & thinking ahead

Angela: We’ve always wanted to create a place where alternative, creative and interesting music was prioritised irrespective of popularity and we wanted to put music created in New Zealand up against similar music from overseas, so people could see how good we are here at making music – we really are fucking great at it.

I’ve worked with so so many great people working so hard at often great cost to create and support our live music scene – artists, promoters, venues, labels, fans – it’s a tough business and I have so much respect for the people who keep it going around the country.

Danielle: The thing about UnderTheRadar that I always appreciated before, during and after my tenure there is that they will cover acts the nobody else covers from the squealing noise acts that play in the basement to the doom acts to rap and hip hop and indie. I just really appreciate the breadth and depth of the music that they cover that might not get covered elsewhere. It’s a really small music media industry in New Zealand, so I think it’s so necessary to have sites like UnderTheRadar.

Daryl: I think we’re still doing whatever we want to do. If we want to post a Dead C article next to a Led Zeppelin article, that’s fine.

Angela: I imagine we’ll just keep trucking along and keep trying our best to support the scene and have fun.


The team today: Annabel Kean, Fluffy, Hunter Keane, Angela Windust, Daryl Fincham, Chris Cudby


UTR Today:

200,000 members


The team:

Daryl Fincham (2004+)
Angela Windust (2008+)
Nicola Clark (2009-2010)
Matt Williamson (2010/2011)
Courtney Sanders (2011-2014)
Danielle Street (2014-2017)
Glen Metzler (2016)
Fluffy (2016+)
Hunter Keane (2017+)
Chris Cudby (2017+)
Jess Fu (2018)
Annabel Kean (2019+)
Amelia Berry (2019+)
Lara Marie (2019+)


Big thanks to our longtime supporters and to all those that have helped us at key times along the way.

Thanks to all the folks who came to the site, bought a ticket and went to a gig!


Links
undertheradar.co.nz/

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