It’s always great to see new outlets trying to make an impact on Irish music, especially when their support is direct towards those who can’t afford to push themselves into our consciousness, and the work is done right at the grass roots. While they’ll admit themselves that they’re very much a work in progress, Street Ceol TV, who will launch their new website this week, are doing just that. Specializing in producing videos for acts across all genres. Here, Gary Doyle tells us about what they’ve been up to so far, future plans, and gives us his thoughts on the Irish music scene in general.
Congratulations on the new website. For those who are new to Street Ceol TV, who are you and what are you up to?
Thanks, we’re thrilled to be taking a step forward! We’re just normal guys really. We all have full time jobs away from the project. Louie started Street Ceol TV by himself about two years ago. He set up Facebook and YouTube accounts and started recording a few musicians using a very basic hand-held camera. Myself and Adam got on board just over a year ago and Dave has come on board more recently. Our aim with Street Ceol TV is to give independent musicians a tool to promote their music with. By tool I mean, a video recording of a live performance of one of their songs. We’ve worked with 20+ different artists so far, none of whom we’ve ever asked for a single cent. Outside of that, we use social media to commentate on the Irish music scene and to try to grow our following. Everything we do is in the hope of attracting more fans which we see as being so important for us in our bid to help independent musicians. The more fans and followers we have, the more people we can introduce to the musicians we work with. The website is an extension of that and the next piece of the puzzle in our mission to connect amateur musicians with larger audiences.
How do you decide what’s worth taking on, and are their plans to expand the scope?
Our immediate aim is getting the website up and running, which is going to take a good bit of focus and attention in the coming months. We have to get to grips with consistently producing great content to keep people interested in that. We certainly intend to expand in any way we can, and I think for that to happen we need to start generating a small bit of cash for us to invest in more recording equipment. Over the past year we’ve spent almost €2000 out of our own pockets buying a couple of cameras and other recording equipment. Thus far we’ve been rather limited with regard to who we can work with due to resource constraints.
The recording interface we’ve been using only has two microphone inputs, which has prohibited us from working with bands due to the lack of microphones we can use at one time. Just recently, though, we’ve invested in a new 16 input interface which will allow us to start investing in more microphones, in turn allowing us to start working with groups. Now that we’re generating more of a following and more credibility we want to improve, keep pushing the boundaries, and see if we can turn the project into something better than we ever imagined. How do we decide what to take on? So far we’ve just been grabbing every opportunity we could. It is getting more difficult now given the rise in incoming messages from musicians looking to work with us. I think that, plus the fact that we’ve been speaking for a while now about trying to run live gigs showcasing the talents we’ve worked with, means we may look to expand the team further to deal with increasing demands. We’re currently on the lookout for people interested in contributing to written content on the website. Anyone interested can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ve already made quite a few videos for a good range of Irish acts. Who’s been particularly interesting to work with, and who were you most impressed with musically?
One thing we’ve always tried to do was cater for all genres. We didn’t want to put any restrictions on who we were or weren’t going to work with. We’ve also tried to harness that in the development of the website by allowing users to browse videos by genre.
In terms of who we’ve worked with, I really enjoyed the ‘Figured Out’ by LCG feat. Funzo video. I remember when we were doing the session and we all just knew it was going to turn out brilliant. It’s probably been the best video for us too regarding feedback from fans and the two lads themselves. They released an official music video soon after which was very successful. We were really happy knowing how much of an impact our production had on the success of the overall promotion of the song. We were very humbled to hear those words from LCG himself. I mean that’s the whole point of Street Ceol TV really – to do what we can to help aspiring musicians – and to get that gratitude from someone who we really did make a difference for is fantastic. I have to say though, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone along the journey so far and have been fortunate to work with some very talented people. Everyone has been so lovely and really accommodating. We usually just set up sessions in the musician’s living room or kitchen and everyone has always been so good to us. We’ve made some great friends along the way.
How important are music videos in developing an act’s image in 2015, in your view?
Massively important. Whether you agree with it or not is for you to decide, but becoming successful is so often more than just being musically talented. A visual can really help to communicate character, presence, creativity and other important traits in a unique way. Also, in a world dominated by social media, video is the most engaged with type of content across most platforms. It’s really important as a musician to make your music as accessible as possible for prospective fans, and I think promoting yourself through video is a great way to do that.
What goes in to making a video for Street Ceol?
It’s usually a very enjoyable affair from start to finish which almost always all starts on Facebook. We get contacted by a lot of musicians looking to work with us. We then have the tough job of trying to select who we work with before organising a time and location with them.
Normally, we’ll all get together after work during the week and head to the location together. When we get there, after a few minutes of introductions and chat we start scanning for where the best shot might be and start getting set up. Adam is our sound engineer so he gets straight into unloading his gear, while the rest of us deliberate over the possible camera angles. After a soundcheck we get straight into recording takes. Most sessions take anywhere between 3-6 takes before we get one that everyone is happy with. If we get the track recorded in good time, we try to record a second song and sometimes a third.
We’re also all using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to try and show our followers what we’re doing. Once the session finishes and we’ve done our load out we’re on our way. Adam takes the audio for post-production and Louie does the same with the video. When post-production is done, Louie compiles the video and audio together, adds the Street Ceol TV stamp, and renders to finish the process. Of course we’re always looking to improve the process any way that we can and I think comparing the quality of our most recent videos to our first highlights that.
You focus a lot on the grass roots of Irish music, which is great to see. Is the scene healthy at the moment at that level?
Absolutely. We get an endless stream of messages from musicians and bands with unbelievable talent. If only we could work with all of them but fact is we don’t have the resources. Every day we come across somebody new that we haven’t ever heard of and I don’t think it will ever cease to amaze how much talent is packed into this tiny island. It’s so difficult for up and coming musicians trying to get recognised. I mean when you consider how difficult it is trying to break out of that initial pool of talent to get to a stage where people are beginning to remember your name, and that’s before the real challenge of battling for radio play with mainstream musicians who have big budgets behind them.
The days are gone where independent musicians get signed to a record label just because they’re amazing. Yes ok sometimes you get a Hozier who comes along and takes everything by storm! But usually it takes for a musician to build, and gig, and promote in a DIY way for as long as it takes to get to a stage where they have built enough of a following to break through to a new level. Only then can a record label justify coming in with a big budget backing. I suppose that’s where we come in. We want to try and make that task a little bit easier for anyone we can by giving musicians something to promote with.
You’ve worked with a few hip-hop acts. Hip-hop seems to be a genre that’s gradually getting a grip in Ireland over the past few years, but traditionally we wouldn’t be seen as a hip-hop hotbed. How do you find public reaction to Irish hip-hop these days? Are attitudes changing?
I remember back when we started out having internal conversations around what genres we would and wouldn’t like to cover. Regarding the Irish hip-hop scene, I think we were split over whether we wanted to get very involved. We came to a decision that we would and to be honest I don’t think we’ve looked back once.
We’ve worked with some really talented lads in the scene and are very much looking forward to continuing in the same vein. I definitely think more and more people are opening up to it and I’d like to think we’ve had even a small part in that. Our two most watched videos on our YouTube channel have been hip-hop tracks so what does that tell you? We also post a lot of other content to do with Irish hip-hop gigs and song releases which always seem to get really good engagement. We’ve been attending hip-hop gigs lately – Funzo‘s album launch and, more recently, Collie‘s album launch. I think the genre is still quite niche but attending gigs really does hammer home that Irish hip-hop has a strong and loyal following. For anyone looking to get involved, keep an eye on the Twisted Pepper’s gig listings. They’re usually a pretty good source for live Irish hip-hop.
What are the greatest issues facing new musicians, in terms of getting heard, getting by and developing?
I believe the single biggest challenge facing new musicians is the amount of really good competition out there. Approaching that challenge can seem like a daunting task but perfection and consistency can go a long way towards overcoming it. Achieving perfection in the delivery of their music through a dedicated approach to practice and preparation goes a long way towards that all important first impression on new audiences. New musicians really need new audiences leaving gigs ready to endorse them among their friends. Word-of-mouth should be a musicians best friend and should be nurtured as much as possible.
If your friend tells you about a great new band that they saw, what do you do? You go and listen for yourself! Then the job of the musician is to be consistent in approach and delivery at their next gig so that the friends of fans become fans and go tell their friends and so on. The key is to build a loyal fan base and build a reputation, which will make record labels, gig promoters and critics take notice. This can often seem like a slow and tough process but that’s because it is. That’s where consistency really becomes important. If we’re talking about challenges around development, I think musical development happens naturally through experience. However, musicians also need to develop as a music industry professional which isn’t a natural development at all. Learning how to approach and leave lasting impressions on the right people is a challenge in itself and goes along way towards developing a career in music.
Can you recommend some good places around Ireland to go and catch talented up and coming acts?
Being Dublin lads we’re big into the likes of the Workmans Club, the Button Factory, Sweeney’s and Whelan’s. On any given night of the week you’re bound to find Irish music on in one of them. All four venues have a brilliant record of organising and promoting great gigs featuring great up and coming Irish musicians. If you’re a regular gig-goer in Dublin and you’ve never heard of Abner Browns Barbershop then you really need to check it out. Barbershop by day, music venue by night – Abner Brown’s hosted some fantastic musicians in 2014 and I expect that to continue this year. Most events are free and BYOB too which is awesome.
Aside from that, buskers offer a great source of free music. Glen Hansard and Rodrigo y Gabriela are well known for making their names through busking, and more recently the rise of the Riptide Movement and Keywest can also be attributed to their tireless busking efforts. 2014 was fantastic for Mutefish – again in no small part down to their presence in Temple Bar most weekends that were weather-permitting. Their strategy was brilliant – they set up in almost identical spots on a consistent basis which meant that their audience always contained people familiar to the band. Many people are consistently in the same places whether for work or leisure. They hooked me easy! After seeing them perform I went to check out their Facebook page where I saw their genre description – ‘Progressive Techno Folk’ – YES!
Who are your tips to take the step up to a bigger stage in 2015?
Raglans, Grounds for Invasion, Rocstrong, Ailbhe Reddy, LCG, Gavin James, Orla Gartland, Mutefish, the Minutes, the Statics, Rackhouse Pilfer, and Anderson. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how Knockanstockan and Forbidden Fruit are received this year after great reviews last year.
What about you. What are your ultimate aims for the coming year?
Well our immediate aim is most definitely achieving a great website launch, a goal we can’t accomplish alone. Given our lack of resources we really need all the help we can get with the promotion side of things and are basing our whole strategy around harnessing word-of-mouth….so for anyone reading this, please share share share.
We’ve also recently been working on our social media strategy, which we’re still fine tuning. One of our primary goals for 2015 is to grow our audience. As I said earlier, it’s so important that we grow our following so that we have a bigger audience to promote the musicians we work with. I think part of winning new fans over is really getting the message across that we’re in this project, not to help Street Ceol TV, but to help independent musicians. Anyone reading this can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, and Google+.
We have a very searchable name so there should be no issues finding us with a simple search. Aside from that, I think building on our equipment is also a big goal for this year. We really need to invest in a few extra microphones so that we can cater for more bands and not just be limited to solo artists. We want to be able to provide equal opportunities to everyone that needs them. Finally, on a very personal note, I’d love to be going home from work on the bus one day and over-hear some guy say to his mate ‘Follow the Music, Not the Crowd’.
State of the Nation is a blog project for 2015 focused on telling the story of the Irish music scene through interviews with some of its major players. Interviews are published weekly, and you can find a full index of all published to date here.