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I want my MTV

No one made the music show they wanted to see - so they did it themselves

Low budget, big plans.

the parlour

“Ireland has so much going on, something to cater for everyone, from weirdo to indie, punk, metal, electronic and all the rest” – John Breslin, The Parlour

WE LOVE MUSIC in Ireland. So why don’t we see more of the tunes our musicians make on TV?

Though our national music scene encompasses everything from pop bands to weirdo outsider music, the independent and DIY corners of it aren’t always represented in the mainstream media – particularly when it comes to television.

The way we were

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From 1993 – 2003, we had the glorious RTÉ TV show No Disco, with respected music-lovers Donal Dineen, the late Uaneen Fitzsimons, and then Leagues O’Toole all at the helm throughout its run.

When it ended unexpectedly, 6,000 people signed a petition demanding its return.

After its demise, we had The Last Broadcast, Under Ether (named after a lyric in a PJ Harvey song), and the still-running Other Voices taking up the mantle, followed by the great Irish-focused Ceol Ar An Imeall on TG4, which began its latest 10-week run in January of this year.

Now joining the fray is The Parlour, which is somewhat of a different beast.

Taking its cues from No Disco’s focus on alternative international acts, but also from Ceol Ar An Imeall’s focus on Irish bands, it’s fusing the two – but adding in a discussion element also.

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It’s also demonstrating that, because it’s hard to find a home for music shows these days, the makers of these shows have to turn to the internet. But that doesn’t mean an audience automatically falls into your lap.

The crew, explained John Breslin from The Parlour team, all came from community TV station DCTV. The show is funded by the Sound and Vision scheme.

“Barry and I had identified the independent music community as something we are part of and something we felt was under-represented a little bit,” said Breslin. “When the show Community of Independents on DCTV came to an organic enough conclusion, Barry said it’s time to get this a bit more structure.”

COI was always a lot of fun – it was like a cannonball run every week. We would film stuff and you weren’t sure if it was going to happen. It was off the bat.

Though that approach can lead to creative results, they wanted to do something more concrete with the new show. They partnered up with Whelan’s, which has an upstairs room called The Parlour. They set up a new company and invested in better equipment, and got presenter Danny Carroll from COI and 2XM on board.

They were also inspired by the Practice Tapes, the work of their DCTV mate Sean Zissou.

It’s about like-minded people and it’s about just supporting music you think is deadly.

Production and curation

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As the quality of the production is important to them, they also got Gorilla Studios on board.

We felt that the music was so integral to this show. The emphasis has to be more about curating the acts we select a little more, and making sure we can create a good sound for them.

They are, said Breslin, “still learning”.

“It’s our first ventures into putting a lot of emphasis on audio quality.”

The show features live performances previously recorded at Whelan’s, by international acts like Sleaford Mods and the Handsome Family, and then live performances in front of a studio audience by Irish acts like Katie Kim or Lynched.

The Parlour / YouTube

“There aren’t many production companies or broadcasters that have budgets that have the money to make something like this to high quality,” said Breslin.

“Our budgets are still relatively small, but we’re very much committed to quality. Through our production process we’ve developed a way of working that we can be pretty high quality in our operation without breaking the bank.”

They are conscious that the Irish music television arena is under utilised. “RTÉ only has Ceol Ar An Imeall, which is doing good stuff. But there was nothing since No Disco,” said Breslin. “There is a bit of a dearth on Irish TV. We just wanted to up the quality.”

Finding an audience

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Who are they aiming the show at? “We are not too concerned with appeal to a mass audience,” said Breslin, adding that their partnership with O’Hara does give them some money and exposure.

The show goes out every Sunday for 12 weeks on DCTV and is then available to subscribers who have signed up on the website. It’s a bit of a risk to take.

“We’re testing things out,” said Breslin. That has involved discussions about the nature of making people pay to watch the videos.

“Even having something up on YouTube for free, that’s not free media,” said Breslin.

It’s one of the biggest commercial entities in the world. There’s a conflict at every turn. It’s somewhat unlisted on YouTube, in the hope that people will share it. We’d like it to go as far as it can. I guess the whole change is in the way people watch stuff. It’s all on demand as well.

The Irish music scene

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“It could be a scene of clique-ness but there’s so much of in Ireland that it’s not really ‘clique-y’. There’s so much that’s good music,” said Breslin of the current state of the Irish scene (or more accurately, scenes).

We are making a show that we feel is considered and represents people that really consider their craft.

They don’t see their audience as just Irish, and hope they can “reach further” with their work.

But whether they go international or not, “at the end of the day we’re providing a platform for artists that we believe need to be heard more, so the further it goes, the better for everyone – if we get more hits, they get more hits”.

Read: David O’Doherty ‘interviewed’ Conor from Villagers and it was everything>

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