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Here's what Ireland needs to do if it wants more Hoziers

The challenges facing Irish musicians.

Image: Antonio Calanni

THE IRISH MUSIC industry is grappling with the effects of the recession, austerity, and technology that allows people to access music for free.

But if we want more Hoziers, Scripts or U2s, we have to start with supporting musicians at home.

That was the message given by musicians Brian Kennedy and Luan Parle while at the launch of IMRO’s new report on how the Irish music industry can benefit the country’s economy.

Do Irish radio stations play enough Irish music?

V Festival 2013 - Chelmsford The Script, one of the most-played bands on Irish radio last year. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Both artists agreed that if we want to support Irish music, we have to start by getting more Irish bands on radio playlists, and playing more Irish music on radio.

“We have to start here in our own family of musicians and go: ‘Actually, this is something incredibly worthwhile, so let’s start at home and let’s play our Irish artists off the radio’,” said Kennedy.

“We absolutely have to find our own identity here now, and then how can we possibly go into the rest of the world if we don’t feel proud about our achievements? We’ve got to say to all the radio stations ‘you’ve go to do more, you’ve got to play more Irish music’.”

Can you make a living out of making music? “I’m making living out of it now, for the last 25 years,” said Kennedy. “So the answer is yes. But we need help. I need more people to play my music on the radio.”

Hoping for a new Hozier 

Hozier - iTunes Festival 2014 - London Source: David Jensen

What about the success of musicians like Hozier, who has been embraced internationally?

“It’s great to see new music like that,” said Kennedy.

As it often the case with Ireland, luck plays a huge part and all of his stars aligned, and luckily he had the talent to back it up. The very thing it will do is for people to go ‘if he can do it I can do it’. These days everyone wants to be famous… actually wanting to be famous and being a musician are different things.

He also believes it’s not always necessary to be ‘big in Japan’, as the saying goes. Kennedy achieved fame in the UK first, and knows what it’s like to “be a priority on radio”.

“You don’t have to be ‘it’s the world or nothing, or worse, ‘England or nothing’. I got stuck in that because I was from Belfast where they were saying ‘are you a British or Irish artist’ – I’ve always been an Irish artist – it was all ‘how did you do in England?’ Who cares? How is it doing here?”

But I think sometimes you have to go out of the country to be successful like the Script, come back and then they’ll play you.

Pay to play

Just last month, a festival in Killarney was criticised by musicians after it planned a stage for independent artists that involved them selling tickets to get higher slots. The plan was cancelled after what the organisers called “negative publicity”.

Parle said she’s already had calls asking her to play festivals for no fee. “It’s extremely infuriating to hear of these festivals, the ‘pay to play’,” she said, adding that there comes a point for musicians where they realise they have to make money.

“If you call a fella and you say ‘I want my house painted’, so he comes along and paints the house, and you say ‘that’s lovely, you did a great job, thanks a million. Now, I’ve no money but I’ll recommend you to all my friends’… There’s no difference there.”

“The person who’s trying to book you is getting paid. It’s as simple as that,” added Kennedy.

Read: Illegal downloading and recession led to “hollowing out” of Irish music industry>

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