Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.11 3 Oct 2020


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Two prominent Irish musicians say it's fans who will keep musicians in business while live events remain heavily curtailed.

Musician and songwriter Phil Coulter says more and more musicians are turning to livestream concerts.

The 78-year-old says it's not just about musicians themselves adapting to the current situation, but also persuading fans to 'do something new' to support their favourite artists.

Singer-songwriter and producer Jerry Fish, meanwhile, says it's fans who are 'coming to the rescue' of artists who aren't able to perform their usual live gigs.

Recent weeks have seen live event producers call for more supports to save a 'vibrant and viable' industry.

While some music events are now taking place in person, venues are limited to a maximum of 50 patrons - making many events financially unfeasible.

In Dublin and Donegal, meanwhile, venues have had to close their doors entirely again to the ongoing level three restrictions.

Phil told Down To Business that the industry has 'fallen off the edge of a cliff', but musicians can't sit around feeling sorry for themselves.

How are musicians faring without live events? Jerry Fish and Phil Coulter offer their thoughts

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He suggested: "The only game in town is to have some kind of a presence online - and that is a whole new learning curve, not just for performers but for fans as well."

While Phil has been doing livestream videos on Facebook, the challenge is to turn that activity into income.

He's now holding three nights of gigs at the Venue Theatre in Ratoath, Co Meath - with tonight's performance available to watch online for €25.

He explained: "They've reconfigured the auditorium into a sort of night club scenario where there's ten tables of four - that's 40 people.

"It doesn't make sense to run three nights playing to 40 people - I've often had more than 40 people in my house. It doesn't make any sense financially.

"The payoff is you live stream the Saturday night, online, in the hope that your followers are going to do something new: click on a link to the venue... and buy a ticket to watch that livestream concert.

"Whatever it takes to keep it going... we just have to get inventive."

He said the most painful thing for musicians is not knowing when they'll be able to return to work.

However, he observed: "In the meantime, we have to get active, get creative, and find ways of reaching our audience - and find ways of monetising that.

"We've never needed music more than we do right now. My belief is that it will survive... it has done for generations."

Jerry Fish

In recent years, Jerry Fish is perhaps best-known for his events at Electric Picnic shows - where he even runs his own stage called Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow.

Jerry told Bobby that the current situation is a 'nightmare' for a musicians who were already relying on live events due to the sharp decline in record sales over the past decade or so.

He said: "We have no live gigs, and no record sales.

"I don't really trust the Government will help us, but on a positive note the saviour I see is the people. I think fans can see our struggle, and are coming to our rescue."

He said €6 million Government support for the industry to support making records is good for ensuring musicians 'aren't sitting around twiddling our thumbs' - but the challenge comes when trying to monetise any  resulting record.

He suggested that music streaming giant Spotify should put some of their money 'into creating art and music', similar to how Netflix produces its own content.

Main image: Jerry Fish (picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Archive/PA Images) and Phil Coulter (Picture by: Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images)

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