Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

From the paper: music in fields is so over

After a muddy, rainy, windy bank holiday weekend, many may agree with Saturday’s opinion piece about why live music doesn’t work outdoors

Tue, Jun 2, 2015, 13:48


It’s always funny when people completely miss the point of an article and then go on to prove the main points when they comment on the piece. Given that it was the opening of the summer festival season at the weekend, what with Slane, Forbidden Fruit and Life all taking place on the same weekend, I wrote a piece for the paper on Saturday outlining the various reasons why, IMHO, live music sounds better indoors. It appears that most people read the headline and then fumed, raged and vented away to their hearts’ content without reading anything else.

As the years have gone by, I’ve found myself coming to the conclusion that music actually does sound better indoors. You have walls, a floor, a roof and a proper sound system. You don’t have wind, rain and mud, the elements which everyone was going on about in all the reports from Slane, Kilmainham and Mullingar at the weekend. The elements wrecked so much havoc in Dublin 8 yesterday that the Patti Smith gig had to be moved to a tent on the IMMA site (she even dedicated a song to me, it seems – bless her). Sadly, I’ve had to go to outdoor shows to hear many of my favourite acts – the best Bruce Springsteen shows I’ve seen just so happen to be indoors ones in Dublin, Belfast and Madrid – so it’s probably a bugbear of mine.

Yet many people take umbrage when you suggest that the outdoors does not suit live music. Here’s one of the many tweets I got about the piece (there were many more which more spectacularly missed the point and seemed to have a problem with my age – I’m 87 next birthday, by the way):

Nothing in there about live music, just as there was nothing in the original post about “lying around (if sunny) with a beer in hand, chilling, chatting & enjoying the bliss of holiday feeling”. We’re talking apples and oranges here. Many people are quite happy to go to festivals, like our friend here to enjoy lying around, chilling and drinking. But more and more people who go to festivals and those big large outdoor shows to hear live music rather than lie around and drink beer are experiencing diminishing returns because the set-up just does not work.

As the actual piece explains, there’s a reason why more and more shows take place in the outdoors and it has nothing to do with facilitating people who want to lounge around chilling and drinking, but rather how the live music business operates and the huge economies of scale which leading industry operatoes can enjoy by moving the show outdoors. Talk to bands off the record and they’ll say again and again that the real reason why they spend so much time on the festival circuit is down to the huge fees they can earn rather than any particular grá for outdoor stages and festival-fit crowds.

Of course, it turns out that I was not alone in my thinking. Hard-ass veteran promoter Harvey Goldsmith was thinking similar thoughts out loud at the recent Hay Festival. He believes we’re about to see a supply and demand problem (something we’ve been talking about at OTR since we probably started the blog) and it will be interesting to see how that one plays out. Remember that much of the live music industrial complex’s turnover is now based on those big festivals and outdoor shows so share prices and profits may take a nosedive should Goldsmith’s musings come to pass. Meanwhile, after a weekend spent working at a brilliant outdoor festival (Bloom in the Phoenix Park, in case you’re wondering), I’m looking forward to catching some shows next weekend, like Your Old Droog at the Twisted Pepper or Girls Names at Hangar. See you there unless you’ve plans to stand around a field instead.