The live events industry is made up of a large number of workers whose livelihoods have been decimated by the continued shutdowns and the lingering lack of clarity regarding the reopening. At the heart of this industry are musicians whose live performances – where the bulk of their income is made – and careers more generally, have been affected not only by lockdowns, but also by uncertainty as to when. they can go back to work.
In recent weeks, this feeling has reached a boiling point, in light of information from the minister in charge of their sector, Catherine Martin, being refused permission to attend a meeting she requested to present a roadmap for reopening the industry, as well as reports from her cabinet colleagues, are resisting the reopening proposals she and her ministry have drafted.
This frustration was compounded by scenes around and in Croke Park on the weekends, when 40,000 people attended and socialized at the All Ireland Hurling Final, which the Taoiseach also attended.
The musicians who spoke to the Irish Times for this article understand the need for public health regulation. What they are universally asking for is a timetable, a roadmap and concrete plans for the reopening.
Jack (not her real name), who requests anonymity in order to speak candidly about the impact of the closures on his livelihood, is a working musician specializing in weddings and corporate events.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have followed the line. We have respected all the restrictions put in place by the government. I have constantly emailed Fáilte Ireland and they always reply and say ‘no you are not allowed to do that’. It’s frustrating because some bands just thought they were just going to perform anyway. It has been made very clear to us that our liability insurance will not apply if we occur when government restrictions are in place on live music. “
Jack estimates that he lost between 90 and 99% of his income during the pandemic: “We celebrated a wedding this year. Our pandemic has been all about communicating with couples and saying ‘okay, are the restrictions as follows, what are you thinking? For the most part, until two months ago, people were moving their dates, so we had the opportunity to save this business. Right now people are saying, “Well, we can have 100 people, so we’re moving forward,” but the thing that they’re not allowed to do is have a live band. So we are the loser.
“Not only are we losing now, we are losing it forever. Weddings are unique things. I’m not like they can get us back. We have been using smoke for a long time. I know people who have left the industry and have just found a job elsewhere. We all had to think about it.
Jack has no problem with sporting events like those in Croke Park this past weekend, but says live music can be safe and secure as well. “The government doesn’t understand that this is an industry,” he says, “People have put in years of hard work building what they do. The only thing we need is clarity. If we are given a date, October 1, December 1, whatever it is, just let us plan. All we have are contradictions, no clarity.
“I hear the Minister of Health say on the radio, ‘Oh, now we would imagine that this side of Christmas we could see events live again.’ It doesn’t tell us anything. What does it mean? This week? A week before Christmas? If you have the information, give us the information.
The personal toll has also been enormous. “The truth is, I am taking anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants for the first time in my life. I was diagnosed last December and started taking medication in January. Last week I was admitted to the hospital with heart palpitations and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It’s something they see in people over 60, and the doctors are there to ask me if I’m stressed. It has a very real impact. I had a business. I was paying taxes. I contributed to society. It’s all gone.
Conor O’Donohoe is a member of Wild Youth, one of Ireland’s most popular emerging groups, which has sold out all over Ireland, including at big venues such as the Olympia Theater. “I have no hard feelings against people who go back to sporting events,” he said, “I’m delighted to see things open up. But we just did a show in Dublin and we were allowed 20 people watching the show. Then you see 40,000 people in the stadium. It’s so unfair.
“What’s the difference between that and people standing in a field at Electric Picnic?” The festival, which organizers said could take place safely with only vaccinated people, was canceled when the local council refused its license.
“I think music and the arts have brought so much joy to Ireland as a country,” says O’Donohue, “That’s what we’re known for, telling stories and singing songs, and that “was totally forgotten. You’re afraid you won’t know when next time you might be doing a real show in Ireland. It’s our jobs we’re talking about. It’s a lot of jobs for people.” Your wages are gone… I just don’t know how long people will be able to survive or exist.
Elaine Mai is an Irish musician and electronic producer who is preparing the release of her debut album. “The absence of a [government] plan makes planning completely impossible, ”she said. “I’m working on my first album. Much work has gone into this. Knowing what we’re going to do in terms of live streaming and schedule shows is literally impossible right now because we don’t know what’s going on. “
Regarding how other industries work, she says, “I don’t think it’s constructive to make comparisons, but I really feel like we’ve been left behind. “
Rachel Lyons is the drummer for Irish rock band Pillow Queens, whose debut album, In Waiting, released during the pandemic became a huge hit, the group appearing remotely on James Corden’s Late Late Show in the US. “We’ve had a few gigs, and they’re all socially distant,” Lyons says, “It’s a gig, but it’s nothing like what we’re used to and fancy.
“[The government] said they had a roadmap for us and there is still nothing. We have concerts coming up in December and there is no certainty around that… It was obvious that the vaccine rollout would take place and then we would have our concerts, but if there is nothing in place, and that they are just blaming us, it’s worrying… The vaccination rate here is so high, but nothing is still happening. We can’t do this forever. “
Mango, the acclaimed Dublin rapper and half of Mango x Mathman, whose last live-in performance was on February 29, 2020 at a sold-out venue in Dublin, says that creatively and professionally he and his industry are at a standstill, “We have no answers. We can not do anything. There is no one to talk to. It is heartbreaking. I don’t know what to do about it.
Like most musicians, Mango understands the logic of restrictions, but the lack of a plan has intensified the difficulties he faces as a musician: “When you see sports stuff, it kicked me in. the teeth. Walking down Camden Street on Sunday night and seeing everyone outside I’m all for the GAA back, but looking at the crowd on a Saturday night you tell me if somebody puts on a fucking song, that everything becomes illegal? We’ve had a rescheduled tour four or five times now. We may be looking at February 2022. It’s two years without work. In music, it’s forever.