Musicians ‘devastated’ at lack of return date for indoor gigs

Cinema operators welcome reopening on June 7th where capacity will be reduced to 50

Musicians have reacted with dismay to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s roadmap announcement which gives no return date for indoor live music.

The Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI), which was set up at the beginning of the pandemic said its members were "devastated beyond belief" about the announcement.

MEAI spokesman Matt McGranaghan said the Fáilte Ireland guidelines announced two days “were the death of the Irish music industry and we are just after hearing the eulogy from the Taoiseach”.

The Fáilte Ireland guidelines do not allow for live music in indoor settings.

He said the MEAI had asked for a series of pilot gigs in indoor settings seven weeks ago, but nothing came of it.

“We were looking at guidelines for one-man or two-man bands to perform. We have been trying to make this argument for months and months but there is no consideration for it,” he said.

“We have tried to remain optimistic, but there has been no hope put forward.”

Musician Jackie Conboy said the “can has been kicked down the road” again for the industry. He said only a small number of musicians would benefit from the handful of pilot indoor gigs planned for June and July.

He said musicians were fearful the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) would come to an end by July.

Meanwhile, the cinema industry has welcomed its proposed opening on June 7th.

Mark Anderson, the director of the Omniplex Group, which operates 30 venues across the island, said it would be "the beginning of the end of our Covid nightmare".

However, he stressed that smaller cinemas would still need Government support until they could reopen fully.

Mr Anderson has represented the cinema industry in Ireland in talks with the Government over reopening. There are 600 cinemas in the State employing 2,000 people with a turnover of about €250 million.

They have had limited openings in June and then in December though many did not open at all because it was uneconomical.

Cinemas will be able to open to a maximum capacity of 50 people who are two metres apart and all those eligible to wear masks must wear them.

Mr Anderson said cinemas would only be operating at 25 per cent to 30 per cent of capacity. “Income is going to drop by 70 per cent,” he said.

He said the retention of the EWSS and the rates waiver would be vital for small cinemas though larger cinemas would be better able to avail of multiple screenings.

He suggested there may be a bumper summer in store for cinemagoers. “We now have what we did not have in June and December which is a huge amount of new product,” he said.

This summer will include blockbusters such as Fast and Furious 9, A Quiet Place Part II, Peter Rabbit II and Nomadland which won the best picture Oscar.

Film distributor Robert Finn of Breakout Pictures said the first big Irish release of the summer will be the Phil Lynott documentary Songs For While I'm Away.

Mr Finn said cinemas were still vital for generating interest in films although many people have become used to watching new releases during the pandemic through streaming services.

He said Ireland and the UK would be opening cinemas stimulaneously. “Compared to Christmas, this time we will have a number of new releases going into cinemas.

“Cinemas across Ireland have invested heavily in their product and that will benefit from them post-Covid,” Mr Finn added.

He believes the traditional 17-week wait between cinema and multiplatform releases was already happening before Covid-19, but the process has been accelerated.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times