- 10 May 21
As part of our special feature on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish music industry, sound engineer and founding member of MEAI Jackie Conboy shares his experiences, and looks to the future...
How has the impact of Covid-19 affected you and your business?
As a sound engineer, and having worked in this business for over 40 years, this is the first time that I’ve ever been completely put off the road. With my business, it’s 100% loss. It was a serious shock. And now it’s all about trying to get back, with no roadmap. There’s nothing there saying, “Okay, once a certain percentage of the country is vaccinated, we’ll be back to this”. There’s none of that. We’re really in the dark.
Some people have been finding it hard to survive. Is that something you’ve encountered?
Trying to live on the PUP payment has been a shock. I have a mortgage, and a car loan. Before Covid, I decided to invest in a car, because of the amount of driving that I was doing. I thought, with the amount of work I had, there was going to be no issue. And then I found myself with virtually nothing coming in – so not being able to pay the mortgage, and not being able to pay the car loan.
Music is a people business – has the loss of contact with colleagues affected you?
You’re isolated. Coming from being a sound engineer, being a musician – and working in different parts of the industry as well – you’re always surrounded by people. You’re almost in this bubble of the music industry. And when that’s taken away from you, it’s like a rug being pulled out from under you. You’re not dealing with creative people, and you’re not getting to interact with people, to talk about music, or equipment, or new concepts. That’s all gone. Zoom is okay – but it doesn’t tick all the boxes.
Mental health has been a huge issue for a lot of people involved in music. How has your experience been in that regard?
Mental health is connected to a couple of different issues – the lack of performance, as well as the lack of finance. Of course people miss that energy of being on stage, but there’s also the financial aspect – someone going to a shop to buy something, and finding that their card has been declined. Or trying to figure out how they’re going to be able to pay the rent. This is something that MEAI has been dealing with since we were set up. Every week, someone contacts us, and we put them onto the likes of Minding Creative Minds or various other organisations.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Every time you switch on the news, you’re hearing about all these various variants coming out. And people asking: “Will the vaccines work with this or with that?” Or “Will people have to wear masks even if they’re vaccinated?” We’re completely in the dark. We can’t say that we’ll be back to work by Christmas. We can’t even say that we’ll be back to work by January or February. We just don’t know, because the Government don’t know how effective all of this is going to be. You’re hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel. But when you start looking at the various newsfeeds, you go, “Oh God – this could be going on for far longer than I thought”.
• Jackie Conboy is founder of the Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland
'Music Industry in Ireland: Where To Next?' is a special feature in the current issue of Hot Press, running to over 20 pages, featuring music industry professionals as well as artists including Moya Brennan, Jess Kav, Luka Bloom, Fia Moon, Kneecap, Gavin Glass, Mick Flannery, King Kong Company, Mary Coughlan, Rosie Carney and many more.