- 21 Mar 23
A selection of Irish artists share their thoughts about the importance of radio support.
Some Irish radio DJs played a pivotal role in my career when I was getting started. It’s especially great when people make it a priority to champion Irish artists. Getting played on the radio when you’re starting out is incredibly exciting; it really translates into more ticket and record sales. It gets you in front of an audience who otherwise might not have any idea who you are.
I think it is worth observing that Irish music is so good at the minute – that it’s not about doing people a favour. It doesn’t lower the standards of what’s on the radio at all – quite the opposite. CMAT’s album went to number one, so you wouldn’t be taking a risk playing her music. She makes well-crafted, radio-friendly pop songs, and sold out two dates at the Olympia. I’d love to turn on the radio and hear her and Orla Gartland all the time. The wider public’s listening tastes are, I believe, more sophisticated than ever, so hopefully there’ll be room for more alternative stuff from indie and unsigned artists. That’s something we’d all love to see.
Sorcha Richardson is currently touring North America. She plays The Road To The Great Escape in Whelan's, Dublin on May 9.
BRÍAN MAC GLOINN
We grew up in Carlow, so it was obviously a small town – but there’s a local radio station there, KCLR. Back when we were starting out, and we were called something else, we met this local presenter, Martin Bridgeman, who we still know and keep in touch with. Any time we’re in Carlow or Kilkenny, we always drop in for a radio session there.
Our first experiences of radio were with him and KCLR. There was one really formative experience. When Bert Jansch, the Scottish folk musician died, Martin asked me to come in to sit and chat with him, play some songs, and talk about Bert Jansch’s music.
It’s super interesting, those first few times, when it’s just you and a presenter in a small studio – getting used to that nerve rush, and to the idea of how many people you’re playing to, and having this invisible conversation with. I really enjoy the experience of going into the studio and doing live radio sessions. The adrenaline rush is really intense – especially when you hear your music being played for the first time on the radio, by accident – or if you get into the car and hear one of your songs come on.
When you’re starting out, people like Martin Bridgeman really support the idea that you are a musician. Being respected by a radio presenter is like a nice pat on the back – it helps you psychologically. It makes you feel real.
We’ve developed relationships with radio producers and presenters now, which are similar to the kind of relationships you develop with a person that runs a venue. They become friends that help you find your way with the music, and find the right people who will hear it in a way that will be beneficial. It can also facilitate really cool conversations.
For any musician, being played does make a huge difference. If Jim, who’s peeling the potatoes at the kitchen sink in Laois, hears you on the radio, that might be the only way he’ll ever hear you. It just reaches so many people.
• Ye Vagabonds play Vicar Street, Dublin on March 31 and April 1. Nine Waves is out now.
When you release something, and then you hear it on the radio – particularly if it catches on, and people get behind it – it’s a buzz.
Radio is integral to the job that I do – which is to perform live and make albums. It makes such a difference, in terms of people coming to gigs, and their general awareness of what you’re doing. I made a documentary for the radio last year about my last album, The Unquiet, and it had a hugely positive impact on the whole project. It’s a really crucial component.
There’s also a bit of validation when it comes to radio – especially depending on who plays you, and what time you get played. The radio is still a curated space. That has quite an impact, because it feels like somebody has made the choice to play you.
There’s also something great about the public nature of it. Remember back in the day, everybody used to watch the same thing at the same time on the telly? Radio still has a bit of that sense of community – everybody’s hearing it at the same time. I really like that element of it – it’s exciting.
There are really great people on radio who are flat out with their support of homegrown artists. But there can always be more!
• Pauline Scanlon and Barry Kerr play Moynihan’s, Clonmel (March 24); Campbell’s, Headford (March 26); Áras Chrónáin, Dublin (May 6); and St John’s, Listowel (June 10). The Unquiet is out now.
I’ve been very lucky, being based in Cork. Michael Carr on 96FM had a great alternative and rock show. Also on 96FM, Elmarie Mawe has a show in the morning called The Arts House, which has always championed Cork artists. Red FM have been incredible to me as well.
If you think about Ireland, per head of population, what we export in terms of music is mind-boggling. And, if anything, we underappreciate it. We have some of the greatest songwriters in this country, from Mick Flannery, to John Blek, to Niamh Regan – and so I do think we need to look after artists a bit more.
I’d love to hear more people outside the mainstream on Irish radio – people that are still pop, but might be more folk-based, or might have more hip-hop influences. The cream will always rise to the top, but we have to provide more of a platform for that. If you’re considered to be alternative or if you don’t fall neatly into a genre, it’s up to those great DJs, who play a variety of music, to champion you. The more we see of that, the better!
Jack O’Rourke’s latest single, ‘Oscar’, is out now. See his upcoming tour dates at jackorourkesongs.com
The first time we were played on the radio was 2016 or 2017. It’s a crazy feeling, because you’ve got your friends and family listening to the radio station for a full hour, waiting just to hear your song! I’ve had some massive moments of hearing Tebi Rex played randomly, which is very legitimising.
Irish people are much more receptive to Irish music in recent times – people realise that Irish artists are legitimate acts that shouldn’t be looked down on. When we started making music, we were trying to get onto mainstream radio as hip-hop artists alongside Hare Squead, Jafaris and artists like that. It was tight to get radio slots. People didn’t take Irish hip-hop seriously. That’s gone now. Irish hip-hop acts are loved and so a lot of stations do a great job at getting us out there.
It’s tricky for independent artists. You’re trying to find connections with tastemakers who work in radio, and they’ve normally no incentive to put you on. Irish Music Month is excellent exposure, a chance to get appreciated by broadcasters all over Ireland. Being an Irish artist is difficult, so having that focus is super valuable for a whole month.
Tebi Rex have a new single called ‘Imthebest’ out now. It’s our first song in 497 days, or around that, so make sure to request it on every station that’s involved in Irish Music Month!
‘Imthebest’ is out now.
Irish people love radio. When I think of my mother, she had the radio on all the time. I’d have the radio on a lot of the day as well. It’s a fantastic thing.
Getting radio support can be like the difference between night and day for artists. If your music is in people’s ears and in their heads, then they’ll want to go to your gigs and they’ll want to buy your albums. They’ll stay with you throughout your whole career.
So, even for our own morale and spirit, it’s absolutely crucial. We’re not making music to sing it to the ether. We’re making music because we want to share it with people, and we want to make a deep connection. We’ve done that here for centuries: Ireland is known for its extraordinary music.
Looking to the future, maybe musicians won’t be able to travel as much because of the climate crisis, so the more local music we have the better. I’d love to hear more of Clare Sands, Niamh Dunne, Pauline Scanlon, Úna Monaghan and Síle Denvir on the radio.
Unless people hear the music, they can’t make an informed decision about it. We have such rich music here in Ireland. It should be heard.
Karan Casey's new album, Nine Apples Of Gold, is out now. See karancasey.com for details of her Irish Tour (March 24-April 30).
The first time I was played on regional radio was Midlands 103. That was followed by my local station Radio Kerry, as well as Limerick’s Live95 FM and Tipp FM. It made me feel I was being seen as an artist. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to get any recognition, and so it feels really good to receive it.
The first time I got played on Live95, my mother was there and we had a little hug and a laugh. She always supported me in everything I did. I was into sports when I was younger but I lost interest and then fell in love with music. So it’s nice to see her being proud of my achievements – even the little ones – along the way.
Music brings people together, so there should never be any boundaries between artists trying to get played. It’s a fact that getting radio play really helps you get noticed in Ireland; people then look up your music on Spotify or YouTube. Radio has a really wide reach – it spreads the music to every side of the music industry. And that’s a big help for any emerging artist.
Abe Soare's latest single, 'Oasis', is out now.
As announced by Hot Press and the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), Irish Music Month runs from Monday, March 12, to Friday, April 13 – and will see significantly increased radio play for Irish music across 25 independent radio stations. Read more about Irish Music Month here.
- Live Review
- 02 Jun 23
Irish Music Month is supported by MCD Productions, IMRO, RAAP, Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Camdem Recording Studios, Spéir Mix & Master, X-Music and Square1
Irish Music Month is funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the television license fee