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Six months in a leaky boat upsets some WINZ clients

Aug 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Lead Story, News

Some WINZ clients have had enough of listening endlessly to the same old tunes while waiting for a human voice to come on the line.

They have set up a new Facebook page calling for Work and Income NZ to forgo established musicians like Dave Dobbyn and start helping their muso clients.

It has had nearly 1000 people join in its first week, posting comments like: “I’m currently on hold to WINZ…’Don’t stray, don’t ever go away…’ F… off Bic!!”.

People forced to wait for service currently have tracks from the New Zealand compilation Nature’s Best – which includes Six Months in a Leaky Boat, Loyal and Sway – played to them while on hold.

The group’s founder, Dunedin music producer Nic “Sonic” Smith, says WINZ should replace music from established names with that of musicians who desperately need both exposure and royalties.

The Ministry of Economic Development pays $6500 a year to the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) for use of music on its hold lines.

“I think a better system would be one where artists can submit their APRA registered music to whoever is in charge of the hold music,” Mr Smith says.

Head of Work and Income Janet Grossman says the department needs to use music that is suitable for teenagers through to people in their 90s.

“It’s always challenging to get the balance exactly right around the choice of hold music,” she says.

However, WINZ is in the process of refreshing the music, and she expects a new selection will be in place within a fortnight.

Mr Smith says the department has so far failed to find the right balance.

“If you ask people who have to deal with WINZ hold music at the moment I’m sure they’d tell you they find the current playlist hard to listen to,” he says.

“Most of the time people are holding the phone away from their ear.”

Dunedin musician Robert Scott, of Flying Nun Records’ bands’ The Bats and The Clean, is a member of the Facebook group.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for people to hear more local music and it generates money for the writers,” he says.

Both artists say they would not mind being associated with being on hold.

Mr Smith: “I would personally love to have my music as the WINZ hold playlist.”

Phone Line Royalties 101

  • Businesses are required to pay a licensing fee for each phone line to be allowed to play music.
  • The Australasian Performing Rights Association collects data via surveys to determine
    how to distribute the royalties to its members.
  • Members are also able to make a royalties claim if they find their music being played.
  • APRA is free to join.
    Information provided by APRA licensing manager Greer Davies

Comments on the Facebook page (sic)

  • They should do it to study link as well. A man reaches his breaking point when he’s
    heard “loyal” or “sway” 58,000 times while on hold waiting to get a loan sussed…
  • Loyal is ironically making me more and more disloyal
  • Nothing quite like wondering if your benefit will go through and hearing “6 months in a leaky boat”
  • I’m not sure I want everyone to hate my music. Dealing with WINZ=angry face + having to listen to the song over and over = hating the song



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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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