- 21 Apr 20
For a long time, many Irish musicians have been hugely frustrated by the lack of play for Irish music on Irish radio. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the issue has become more urgent than ever, says Maria Walsh of Zrazy.
Irish radio should support Irish musicians. Does that sound like a radical proposition to you? It doesn’t to me. And here’s why.
To quote the website of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO): “It has been well understood that consistent commercial airplay accompanies significant music sales, generates public performance royalties, and burnishes a recording artist’s profile.”
Indeed. So here is a simple idea that will not cost any money to the Exchequer but instead will inject cash back into the Irish economy.
At the flick of a switch, a new decision from every Head of Radio in Ireland – with, if needed, the encouragement of a strong arm from the Arts and Finance Ministers, Josepha Madigan and Pascal Donoghue – can, overnight, achieve success.
Right now, on Irish radio, music created in Ireland gets about one play to every six plays for international artists. That’s less than 15% of all radio plays. As a result, foreign payments running to millions of euro leave the country every 3 months. This is real cash, being paid out by Irish Radio as well as commercial users like bars, restaurants etc., through the three copyright/collection bodies, IMRO, PPI and RAAP.
By switching radio airplay for Irish artists immediately to, say, four plays or more in every six plays, Irish musicians and composers would receive an income that they have heretofore never had, but fully deserve. That money would be injected back into the Irish economy, supporting all of the ancillary musical, artistic services and general life.
The Irish people rarely if ever get to hear the smaller artists, that are dotted throughout the country, on the radio. There are countless ‘undiscovered’ artists in every style – ‘with talent to burn’ (Hot Press), and critically acclaimed – that audiences are, in effect, deprived of hearing.
Despite great work done by Sinead Troy of IASCA in improving some radio play figures, the reality is that a play here and there on Irish music specialist programs will never make, or properly support, an artist. And both on national and local radio, it is mostly a small number of artists and genres that get the majority of that Irish airplay – whereas the majority of artists get very little.
The result is that a tiny fraction of Irish artists get played on Irish radio, with consequent career-boosting results; and the remaining almost-90% of available airtime is devoted to international acts, who get played endlessly and repeatedly, thereby haemorrhaging money out of Ireland.
France has it in law that French radio must play 40% music created in France. In Finland all musicians are able to make a living on music alone, because it is fully supported and valued by Finnish radio and media.
Ireland loves to boast that this country is full of musicians and artists, yet we are not paid or valued properly. It is a hypocritical position. And this is apparent right across the board – as reflected in the paltry conditional sum announced recently by the Minister for Culture, and the Arts Council of Ireland, for Covid-19 Artist supports: Ireland sets aside €1m, in contrast to Wales £7m, England £160m and Germany – where the figure will run to several billion euros.
We are ready to give a list of the ‘unknowns and disappeared’ to the Heads of Irish radio, who have mostly ignored the packages arriving in their postbox for the past 28 years that we have been making music. In my own experience with Zrazy, our songs have been played on Irish radio about 50 times in that 28 years. This is the experience of most Irish-based musicians and it is soul-destroying and energy-sapping.
There is real music, across every genre, of excellent quality – imaginative, groovy, innovative, soulful – all made in Ireland. Well, it is time we finally heard it consistently on Irish radio.
The IMF is forecasting that we are about to be hit with a recession akin to the Great Depression. It is time for Irish radio to don the green jersey for Irish musicians. This is long, long overdue. Getting defensive is not an option.
This is creative thinking. It ploughs the money back into Ireland and it doesn’t cost you a penny. The time to act is now.
– Maria Walsh, Zrazy
• Zrazy pic l to r: Carole Nelson and Maria Walsh) by Grace Hall