Music Seminars: This is an exciting time for Irish music

Posted: April 20, 2015 in working musicians

One of the interesting things I did this week was attend the Music Futures Seminar in Smock Alley Theatre, part of the Musictown festival. It was thought provoking, and I particularly welcomed hearing from delegates from abroad on the issue of creative spaces and audience development. As somebody involved in a lot of ‘arty’ gigs that run at a (financial) loss it was also reassuring to hear from other artists in the same boat. Without wanting to be cynical though, there are two things that you always, always hear at events such as this:

1). ‘This is a very exciting time for Irish music’. It’s always a very exciting time for Irish music. When the recession first hit we heard a great deal about how the arts thrive in times of economic difficulty, and there was certainly no shortage of articles written on the subject. Some of the evidence cited didn’t stand up to much scrutiny though; trad sessions that had been going for years, jazz clubs which had likewise been going long before the Celtic tiger roared its last – and for which in any case nobody is paid – were all suddenly being linked to a recession-related thriving arts scene in a way that as an artist I don’t find plausible. So, that was an exciting time for Irish music. Things are beginning to improve on the economic front, however slowly, and that makes this an exciting time for Irish music too……..

2). ‘The political will isn’t there’. This country has an abundance of creative talent but the political will isn’t there to support it and consequently artists can’t make a living. True, but perhaps we need to be a little more honest with ourselves about where ‘political will’ comes from. It comes from voters. If there were votes to be gained by supporting the arts you can be pretty sure our politicians would make it a priority. But as a nation we have a huge resistance to linking the arts & money; we value music so much that we think it should be free. Ask any musician. If I could pay the bills with positive feedback – or better yet with advice!- I’d be sorted.  But look for a wage and the reaction you’ll get is very, very different. The political will isn’t there because the cultural will isn’t there. If I had a solution to that conundrum I might consider a career in politics.


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