- 24 Jun 19
Speaking up about being ill-treated as a musician is not the done thing. But the truth is that, over the seven years Mongoose have been gigging as a band, we’ve had our fair share of discourteous, dismissive, condescending and unprofessional encounters.
From the face-to-face moments of rudeness to dismissive attitudes towards musicians, it’s generally a given that we should feel lucky to be wherever we are; and that, should we have any qualms, there are a hundred bands that will take our place. It is widely known that most musicians do not earn money – you’re in it for the love of it. Yet sometimes it’s hard to love an industry that all too often reinforces your bottom-rung status.
Festivals are a massive culprit on this front – many are built on a foundation of hundreds of bands playing in less than inspiring conditions for no fee. It’s a lovely idea to have a picturesque acoustic stage in the middle of the woods – but when this tiny stage is sandwiched between a bar pumping club hits, and a massive tent showcasing hard rock bands, it’s clear that whoever planned this event had the musicians quite far down their list of priorities.
There are festivals with nowhere to store gear, forcing musicians to leave instruments in cars overnight. In the rare and blessed times where an appropriate fee is offered, we then enter into phase two: waiting for payment. On one occasion, we accepted an offer to play for an agreed fee at a well-known festival. Communication was open and easy right up to when we performed. Afterwards, complete radio silence. When, after months of calls, texts and emails, as a last resort we enquired on Twitter as to a way of contacting them, we were met with shock and disapproval, as if we had committed some shameful faux-pas.
In a way, raising such issues in public is considered a faux-pas. In that particular case, two other acts spoke to us privately and revealed that they hadn’t been paid months after the event either. One of the acts went into further detail of bad treatment from the festival organisers. These conversations, and no doubt many similar ones, take place in person, privately. In raising issues publicly, you run the risk of offending organisers and having your name taken off all manner of lists (and put onto other kinds).
We have no doubt that in our attempts to be paid in a professional and timely fashion, we eliminated our chances of being invited back to that festival, despite a successful and well-received performance.
Ireland is such a goldmine of talent and music that people running festivals big and small are spoilt for choice. Speaking out about basic issues like payment and conditions lets organisers glide over you to the next hard-working band who will grin and bear it. It’s high time for the artists of Ireland to be able to ask for better treatment, without fear of damaging consequences.
• Mongoose’s new album Suck The Wound is out now.