IRISH MUSICIANS are arguably as successful today as they’ve ever been. Hozier recently topped the Billboard Top 100 in the US, only the fourth Irish act ever to do so. Duo Picture This, a homegrown pop-rock act, headlined an incredible five consecutive nights at the 3Arena earlier this month, in front of nearly 70,000 punters. A stunning and internationally acclaimed hip-hop scene has emerged, seemingly from nowhere.
From an industry perspective, though, Ireland does still struggle. There’s a lack of joined up thinking. Irish radio plays a disappointingly small amount of homegrown tracks, and even the PR link ups between musicians and journalists are convoluted and could use some simplicity, joined up thinking, and targeting.
Sinead Troy, one of the founders of PlayIrish, knows all about the issues. Troy runs the Irish arm of Yangaroo, a PR concept aimed at delivering new music digitally. She manages singer-songwriter Cathy Davey, and also manages IASCA, an organisation focused on increasing Irish radio play. PlayIrish is her team’s attempt to push the radioplay agenda forward.
“There’s a bottleneck in artists getting out there,” the extremely enthusiastic Troy tells the Gazette over the phone. Her passion for her work immediately jumps out: the names of Irish acts to explore drip from the conversation, from the obvious – Kodaline, and Picture This – to lesser-known acts like Nina Hynes and Conor Walsh.
“We’ll be playing the big acts and the little acts. The playlist is very much dictated by quality,” Troy tells us. “We love seeing anyone doing well. A lot of the big acts bring Irish support acts on tour, and that really helps everyone along. One of the tracks we have on the current playlist is a debut single. I think it says a lot about the quality of the scene that we can have a really varied playlist. I was listening earlier and I Shazamed a couple of tracks as I just had to know who they were. I hope that’s the effect we’ll have, the quality is really high.”
The primary issues with the industry Troy identifies are largely financial, but PlayIrish is part of an attempt to find solutions, rather than dwell too much on the problems. “Take managers,” she says, “not many bands have the money to pay them, and it’s a lot of work. Nobody is going to work for years for no money, so you don’t have the quality of managers you might find in the UK, for example. Then there are issues like DJs receiving tracks in the wrong format, so they can’t play them.”
“It’s hard to get a spot on Radio Player, and we have been offered that to do this with PlayIrish. It has to be managed well. We’ll really be focusing on just the music, not on mixing it with talk or anything else. I hope, down the line, we’ll have shows for different genres, for example. We’d love to have a classical hour highlighting Irish classical music. There are a lot of possibilities.”
“We’re at the point where we really need to push ourselves forward. I won’t name the station, but we’ve already had another Irish station put a couple of tracks from the PlayIrish playlist onto their playlist. That’s the kind of thing that matters, and a great result when we’ve only been streaming a couple of weeks. It shows people are listening. We’ve been making a point of saying to the artists that if they aren’t tuning in, why would anyone else? For the Irish music scene, this is about taking our power back. It could be something really special.”
To listen to Play Irish, visit their website at PlayIrish.ie