Radical media, politics and culture.

Musicians get yourselves a union

New Year's eve was an orgy of illicit substances, as is practically traditional within a city now awash with drugs. A night spent gyrating madly to KLF and Sabres of Paradise was punctuated by excursions to the kitchen, which was more social than amphetamine boom-boom. A few familiar faces appeared amongst the crowd, for the most part new acquaintances. One was a musician whose brothers I've been friends with for years. For reasons I can't recall, we began talking about Dublin venues. He explained to me that in recent years it has become impossible for a band to play live without paying the venue. I was flabbergasted. Ten years ago such places did exist but were the exception, today apparently they constitute the rule. In order to play in Whelan's for example, a medium-sized pub-venue they pay 350 euros, for the benefits supposedly attached to association with the Whelan's brand(!!!). The tyranny of the venue managers doesn't finish there: they also retain control over the bill and choose who will do back-up. Bands are expected to make money through the balance taken at the door and selling CDs at the gig. Needless to say no-one receives a cut of the bar.

One of the reasons for Dublin's historically strong music scene was the relatively easy access to venues. My late teens and early twenties were spent in the upstairs venues of places like the White Horse, Barnstormers or the Cobblestones. The first two are now tatie bread under new managemwent, the last is now exclusively a trad venue to my knowledge.

Anyway, it's pretty humiliating that the parasites who have built made their profits on the back of promotional work done for them for free, during years of hosting small gigs, should use that as a pretext to help themselves to another slice of musicians cake. Fopr the performers themselves thwe situation is pretty grim: they are being fleeced by labels as well as venues, their only lucrative form of income derives from CD sales and hired entertainment work. Inevitably as the venues get their nails deeper into the cover charge at the door they will have to pump up the price of the CDs. Concert-goers will feel resentful and the goodwill that fuels purchases at gigs will dwindle as the music is available digitally from a friend anyway.

However the situation is worse still for bands whom are young and skint, unable to guarantee the 350 to the venue. What are they to do? If the discussion about a social center comes to fruition in dublin it should obviously try to address constituencies like this in a fair way. On new year's eve I inquired from my pal as to whether he'd play in an unauthorised venue to rid himself of the venue-manager's plague. His answer was affirmative and I know he's not the only one.

Otherwise they could learn an interesting lesson from the intermittents and get themselves if not a union, at least a coordination and stir the shit.