Peter Dunne, founder of BARE In The Woods Festival

Music festivals, it’s fair to say, are on something of a relentless rise. Combining a weekend of hedonism with the opportunity to see musicians that would cost far more to see individually, the events present a risky but potentially rewarding opportunity for businessmen.

With the country’s biggest festival Electric Picnic selling out before even announcing a lineup this year, newcomers have been consistently sticking their head above the parapet – alongside BARE, festivals like Live On Air and BD Festival are nudging into the scene. BARE in the Woods, a growing event in Garryhinch Woods, Portarlington, is perhaps the most successful newcomer.

“We launched in 2014 with a single day ‘taster’”, organiser Peter Dunne told us. “It was really just getting people to buy into the concept, but it was also great experience for us. It’s been a slow burner, but I worked a lot on the other side of things, as a band manager, and so I understand what it’s like. It’s a slow process building trust with the acts [it’s worth noting that a couple of new Irish festivals have shut down in recent years, often without paying the performers], we just make sure we send them home happy. Now we have a lot of acts emailing us asking if they can come back again.”

“For me, it’s like seeing the festival experience from the other side of the fence. There’s a lot of correspondence, and you really have to pull together,” he says of the process. “I’ve learned a few tricks, and we’ve brought a lot of experienced heads into our top team. We’ve been using a system called Mobstar [a musical talent platform], which has made it far easier to pick acts we’re interested in for the festival.”

RECORD STORE DAY – celebrating its tenth anniversary on April 22nd this year – is a date on the calendar I prefer to my own birthday. As intrinsically ‘music nerd’ as that statement is, there’s nothing quite like being let loose with a heap of shiny new vinyl, live acts occupying a stage one after the other.

From watching Lykke Li wow Tower Records’ old Wicklow Street outlet in 2011, to snapping up one of only five copies of local label Delphi’s beautiful, partly hand-made EP collection, there have been plenty of local highlights for me, but I’ve also become convinced that the day is important in a broader sense, to the music industry at least.

It’s notoriously difficult to survive as a full-time musician. As quirky Clare dance star Daithi told us in an interview a few weeks ago, he has to play 150 shows a year to get by. That might not sound outrageous until you realise this is a man who plays the main stage at multiple annual music festivals, gets featured in NME and only has to financially support himself, not an entire band. His is one of the better scenarios you might find, and he’s very clear: selling records simply isn’t a way to survive anymore. With this in mind, Daithi largely produces a series of EPs instead.

But Record Store Day is different. It has a simple ethos: support the independent. HMV may have cynically jumped in a couple of years ago with their own ‘vinyl day’ on the same date, but the genuinely unique imprints are only distributed to independent stores, who more often than not take the chance to ask in any local or visiting international talent they can grab on the day (Kila and Ham Sandwich will play in – or in association with – Tower Records this time around).

The result is a lot of record sales, many of them, surprisingly, outside the special selection rolled out for the day itself. Many would argue that selling records isn’t important in the modern music industry, and there is an argument to be made on that, but it comes in the context of a new reality that’s hard to accept for music fans. Records are not advertising (or at least, broadly speaking, singles advertise better, and cost less). The end-game of indifference to paying for albums, in the longer term, is the death of albums.

AT 27 YEARS of age, Clare musician Daithi O’Dronai has already been through more phases of his career than many manage in a lifetime. Developing from a young fiddle player to a reality TV show star, then onwards to a Sony-signed, offbeat-pop performer and finally a unique and soulful dance act, he’s a hard man […]

  From creeping into the mainstream through the likes of Rubberbandits, Super Extra Bonus Party and featuring in Love/Hate, to the Rusangano Family’s debut album taking home the Choice Music Prize earlier this month: the rise of Irish hip-hop has been as dramatic as it has been unlikely. It helped, of course, that the rise […]

SIOBHRA QUINLAN’s taken the long road to launching her first single, released earlier this month. She trained as an operatic soprano, studying an MPhil in composition at Trinity College and broadening her musical education in Berlin. That led – eventually – to a conceptual new composition that’s being self-funded by working with and teaching her […]

TEXAS IS CALLING for breakthrough Irish musicians, as industry focused festival SxSW (South by Southwest) – hosted in Austin, Texas this week – prepares to hone in on 2017’s most likely new stars. The American festival has come under fire in recent weeks, as several artists pulled out in protest at prohibitive contracts for acts […]


View previous entries »