“We’re seeing something of a golden age as new bands and releases come to the fore like never before”
In Saturday’s paper, I wrote a piece about a new golden age for Irish music. It’s something which has been on my mind for the past few months and, when the paper’s arts editor Shane Hegarty contacted me with a …
In Saturday’s paper, I wrote a piece about a new golden age for Irish music. It’s something which has been on my mind for the past few months and, when the paper’s arts editor Shane Hegarty contacted me with a similar thought, the piece came together.
A few footnotes. (1) Timing is everything: last week, the Irish music industry was all over the media but not because of a new record from Shit Robot or Imelda May. Instead, it was all about the major labels, piracy, Paul McGuinness and court-dates. If you were to read the runes based on that coverage, you’d think the industry was in a shocker and about to go the way of the dodo. Yet, just as the industry bigwigs, lobbyists and legal eagles continue to fight a fight which they’ve been fighting and losing since 1999, there’s another Irish music industry which has never been more vibrant, productive or alive. That, for me, was the gist of the piece, the contrast between the optics and the reality, between the past and the future.
(2) I spent the tail-end of last week in Manchester at the In the City conference and festival. The weekend before, I’d done the binge-gigging thing at Hard Working Class Heroes in Dublin. What struck me in Manchester again and again was that the standard of acts just wasn’t at the same level as the bands I’d seen in Dublin the previous weekend. Sure, they sounded fresh and were tackling the post-punk angles with relish but the musicianship, the chops, were nowhere near as developed as the bands I’d seen the previous week. That’s something which you couldn’t have said 10 years ago. The overall standard has shot up. This also applies to bands who might not necessarily be my cup of tea – I’m not a huge fan of bands like The Chakras or The Rags, but the quality of the former’s live show (as seen at In the City) and the latter’s album has to be acknowledged.
(3) Another point to make about the self-release culture. While there were undoubtedly bands who stuck out their own releases in the past, they just didn’t get the same amount of attention as today’s crew. Back then, as I say in the piece, the established labels still had a grip on the mechanics of releasing and promoting a record. Today, a release by an Irish band off their own back or on a small label is likely to get as much unpaid-for attention as any major label release. As a result, the releases get way, way, way more attention and coverage than was ever the case a decade ago. And yes, of course, just as not all major release records are terrible, not all self-released Irish albums are works of great art either.
(4) A small but important clarification: there’s a line in the piece which says “while you could lament the fact that we never managed to set up a self-sufficient Irish indie network”, this line read “while you could lament the fact that we never managed to set a self-sufficient Irish indie label infrastructure and network together,” when submitted by me and before it was subbed. As I say, a small but important clarification. There was always an indie network, but the indie label network has never happened and probably never will. Many will argue that we don’t need one, but an old label head like me will always regret that that never happened.
Now, over to you