Craft Beer and Independent music are peas in a pod. Both industries are in adverse markets. With Craft Beer, it sometimes doesn’t matter how good the Beer is for some buyer to be tickled enough for it to land on the shelves of major retailers. And in Music, when Record Companies work with the right PR people who know big press you end up “on the shelves” quickly. Quality can be an afterthought. Money, the catalyst.
And then there is the Long Tail element. The Long Tail (left) is explained here. About 15 years ago I did a songwriting workshop with Canadian Songwriter Emm Gryner in the Droichead Arts Centre. At this point I was green when it came to networking and etiquette. Almost rude I admit! So not a lot went in despite having a good teacher. (Sorry Emm)
Emm was a pro and delivered the workshop in style. At the end of the week Emm gifted us all with a copy of Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail. The book sat in my bedroom for about 6 months until I started to read it. Many years later I found myself realising it had predicted how diverse the music industry would become. And Craft Beer boomed too. Independent Musicians took more and more market share. The Long Tail it seems has come to fruition. What a nice gift. Thanks, Emm.
"What makes the ‘Tail” so healthy?"
Well for example Craft Beers can get launched with hilarious names like “Fresh Prince of Kildare” by Trouble Brewing. They don’t just get launched after a million meetings with suits. They get launched FAST. Which means trends can come and go but the agility is breathtaking. And the names are hilarious. In music it's possible to release Grammy winning pieces of work from your bedroom. A la Billy Eilish. Its also possible to quickly record and launch a single in a matter of weeks. To be more opinionated. And Independant.
What’s more there is a great community. And success stories to boot, like Brewdog and Hozier (Rubyworks). Both Craft Beer and Independent music is still growing. Yes it might cost a little more to grab a vinyl from a self funded Indie but a massive chunk of that money isn’t covering 4 star hotels and meeting room expenses or rates in some City Skyscraper. It's a small manageable set up cut to suit it's needs.
"Heres a stat for you"...
Craft Beer is SIX TIMES more labour intensive than Macro Beer. Meaning only one thing - lots more potential jobs!
"But I just don’t like Craft Beer its really bitter"
Craft Beer makes all styles of Beer. Not just IPA’s and Pale Ales. You can buy Helles, Lager, Kolsch, Cider and Table Beers. Non alcoholic beers! And the Alcoholic strength varies too, Table Beer and Micro IPA’s can range from 2.0% to 3.8% whilst Lagers are generally 4.0% to 4.8% the same as the Marco Lagers. And what’s more in Ireland the Barley is generally Irish, made by Irish workers, labels by Irish producers with the only imports being the Bottles and the Hops. Some breweries, like Wicklow Wolf produce a small quantity of their own hops in Locavore - a fantastic seasonal beer.
"I don't pay for music. It’s not worth it when I can stream it"
Then don’t pay for the music! If you like the Artist, share what they do on social media. Go to their gig! Stop at the Merch stand and see if something floats your boat. In the long run this will matter more to the Artist. Just like Beer there isn’t one choice and your hard earned wonga will land in the right places if you want it to!
This Christmas have a think about the little circle that society has. Where do you fit in? Are you taking in or giving back? Nobody is asking you to go all out with this. But it would be nice to imagine where that Euro actually goes just before you buy.
For a list of truly independent beer producers check out BEOIR. Don’t get hoodwinked by the big boys!
Happy Listening and Boozing this Christmas,
Zoom / Whatsapp / Skype etc. Portals! This ability to connect through a device. Anyone remember the movie “Demolition Man”? Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock have this sex scene. Are we going that way?! Holy Mother of Divine baby Jaysus - I hope not!
Music sessions have been a tiny bit like Demolition Man. Headset on, visuals engaged, doing our best! And in fairness, a bit of a buzz. But is it the same? Kind of!
The joy in virtual sessions for me has been seeing older people really buying into technology. I go to singing sessions on Zoom. One in particular has many older folk. And they have really gotten into it. And I think Jaysus, what a leap it is to get into it. Fair play to them. I really hope I never abandon technology! Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to be a Peter Pan but there is a joy in discovering or even speaking the same language as younger people.
This is why I like Tik Tok so much. I howl every time I log onto it even though I'm 34. So much funny stuff and clever comedy. For me Tik Tok is a big laugh. Facebook is community. Instagram is for vanity and Twitter is for people with notions. That’s my take - don’t shoot!
But with Zoom music sessions in mind I have to mention Sean Faulkner, Dara Yeates and the Goilin crew. There are so many more. I’ve heard Robbie’s first Friday and the Bray Singing Circle have dipped their toes in Demolition Man world. Fair play to you all. As an observer I’m delighted to hear about the singers you have hosted. I commend your diligence. And adore your passion. I wouldn’t be great with words but I hope you catch the sentiment. Keep on keeping on!
All the best,
How are things? You have probably seen that the single launch for Welcome to Ballsgrove was cancelled. I was 99.9% sure Level 3 would mean the proper opening of pubs. It was not to be chaps and chapettes!
Let’s talk about the brass tax.
Recording of Video & Song: 1000 euro
Promotion, Graphic Design & Photography: 400 euro
Bandcamp net sales to date: 32 euro
Radioplay royalties etc: < 100 euro (not in yet)
Hours of contacting stations / publicity etc: 100 + hours
The single launch gig was important. It was to recoup some losses from the months of saving to get the Welcome to Ballsgrove out. To have some craic and feel the buzz of a gig again! Recoup enough to get the wheels turning again.
Spotify doesn’t pay anything. Well it does if you get connected to a playlist curator, get regular national exposure or if bloggers/tastemakers get the horn for what you do! One thing doesn’t usually happen without the other unless you have the contacts built up. But everyone needs Spotify. Isn’t it all a bit catch 22? And all a bit sore on the Póca.
I shouldn’t dwell on this. But I am letting you know about the costs because Artists have basically no Gigging income now.
Consequently the whole Welcome to Ballsgrove album launch is now delayed by a few months. One must weigh up paying the bills against pursuit of anything. There's maturity needed. And that’s it.
All this talk reminds me of when I graduated from college into a recession. I took a job in an office checking invoices. Nothing to do with what I studied. But the student loan had to be paid. So off i went travelling 12 hours a week to Dublin for 330 euro a week. When you take out 60 euro for bus and another 30 euro a week or lunches I wasn’t far off the Dole (less than the COVID payment!).
Sometimes you have to swallow your pride for the greater goal. Which is why I am happy to share why the Album has now been delayed.
Take it easy and talk soon.
All the best,
How are things? Something occurred to me. It was that I haven’t been in a real music session in ages. If I was getting a session together in Drogheda I have my hitlist of people to call! These people pop into my mind now although there are dozens more who grace us with their presence from time to time!
I’ll start with Breifne Holohan and Trudy Maguire who play in a group called Uisneach. They both have collaborated since their college days in Dundalk IT and continue to play together. At the 2019 Fleadh, Uisneach played a set on RTE Radio 1’s John Creedon Show.
Donal Ó Maoileán is another man who would get the whatsapp nod! Donal has a ton of talents in his locker. I remember watching him act in a play called “The Stag” just days before the first lockdown in March. He has a big ballads voice. Loves the craic. He’d be my favourite teacher if I had him teaching me in the Gaelscoil!
Seamus Walsh would also be contacted by whatever means necessary and between Seamus and Donal the bodhran duties would be exchanged!
How could I leave out the Tí Chairbre gang? Every Wednesday for over 30 years an unaccompanied singing session takes place in Tí Chairbre. Is it the longest running weekly session in Ireland? It’s a Zoom session at the moment! It moved around over the years in day, place and time but has been a constant in Drogheda. Too many names to mention here but I will mention three. Seán Faulkner, Ruth Campbell and Dessie Howard would be getting a bell and some more of our mutual friends from Tí Chairbre would oblige them no doubt!
Dromiskin based Fiddler Roisín Ward Morrow would be getting the oul texsht as well. Roisín and her Drogheda Mammy Maria Clarke are always good for a song! Roisín has an album out called By the Light of the Moon. This is an album of slow airs in which she collaborated with Breifne Holohan. Go check it out here.
SJ and Barry from Kern, Niamh Parsons, The Dunne Family, Seán Conway, along with Fearghal and Bronagh Barnes have all been in and around Drogheda many times. Both Niamh Parsons, Eimear Carroll and Seamus Sheils now help run a session called The Black Bird Singing Club every second Tuesday of the month in a pub called The Punt in Drogheda.
Last but not least is the pivot point in the Drogheda Folk Scene, Darragh Ó Heiligh. To be honest it’s likely Darragh would be making the calls. As they say in Drogheda, “he’s an oul neighbour of mine” as he lives a 5 minute walk from me. Darragh began to play at Drogheda’s landmarks long before I did. He has started something that is continuing now and that he is reknown for. I won’t always keep up with Darragh in a session but I will always have my ear turned towards the pipes when he is playing. PS - he’s a savage bodrhán player too!
What I like about this collection of people in Drogheda is that none of them are precious about songs and song collecting. Us younger ones could argue we never knew the joy of song collecting as it was a generation ago when you had to get the old tape recorder out and meet people. This type of work is a craft and I would urge any of the old collectors to inspire us younger folk. There are still plenty of great songs out there waiting to be heard.
The world has niched many of its its niches. And in this there is a pigeon holing of values both musical and in etiquette. I say boo to that. Folk music is always about the people so lets make it up as we go along again like our ancestors did. Like Frank Harte said “"those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs”.
So what about Drogheda then? Is it that mad place you heard about in the News? Absolutely not. A little homework will leave you in no doubt that the issue with trouble in Drogheda always was Garda resources. Notice how everything kind of stopped around the 2018 Fleadh and at Election time? Notice how it hasn’t kicked off since? There you go. Drogheda is no different to any large town. There are no demographical anomalies (although there might be if the Dart line goes any further North!).
Drogheda is a relatively normal town with a commuter class on its fringes and the soul of an old medievil town that has origins over 1000 years old. It has so it has!
Have I sold you on Drogheda yet?