State of the Nation: VannMusic

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VannMusic have just released their latest EP Running, which quickly found its way to the top end of the Irish charts, including a number one ‘physical single’ in Boy (you can get hold of the new releases through their site, here). The Dublin-based rockers have been slowly inserting themselves into the upper echelons of the local music scene over the past few years, and have stuck to their guns impressively, not least in their insistence in valuing their art (they won’t play for free no matter how big the gig) and in their determination to stay independent. Bizarrely, they were recently recommended on Twitter by none other than Piers Morgan.

For the latest ‘State of the Nation’, I spoke to Aaron about the learning process involved in breaking into the Irish music scene, their philosophy on live shows, taking bookings and music in general, and if there’s enough support out there:

Irish music seems to be on a high but the music industry in general on an ever declining spiral. Is that your view? Do you wish you’d been doing this two decades ago? 

Back two decades ago hardly any Irish bands were signed, there were less labels on offer and it was harder to get a record out then than it is now, unless of course you were U2 or The Cranberries.

If you were lucky enough to have a label you would’ve gotten more money from your label than you might get now if you were signed. I think I read somewhere before that the frames got £150k from ZTT to do “Dance The Devil” in the late 90’s. That kind of money just isn’t around now to make records. In saying that though, you can’t live in the past, Its easier to make records now as an independent due to the availability of good recording gear

Two decades would we be doing the same thing as now? Yeah, we would. We’d be trying to get ourselves on the next rung and grow the band both inside and outside of Ireland.

Is the industry in decline? That’s the business side of things & our secondary focus. Our main goal right now is getting our album together, writing good songs. I think we need to let the industry figure things out for itself. Two decades ago there were two main outdoor gigs in Ireland, Feile and Slane. Now there are a couple of festivals on every weekend from May to September. Most of these festivals are populated with Irish artists, who two decades ago wouldn’t have gotten the chance to play.

What are the greatest pros and cons of working on the Irish music industry at the moment?

I think the pros out weigh the cons. There are so many great Irish acts right now that are creatively pushing each other to bigger and better things. The level of music now doesn’t compare to any other time in recent memory.This has led to burgeoning communities amongst artists. More bands are getting on Irish radio /TV / newspapers. The only cons would be maybe if we had one or two more labels to help artists get their music to a wider audience that would help.

What are the biggest challenges you come across starting out as a band? Are they financial/ publicity related/ building a brand/ simply writing good music?

Thinking back to day one, there was too much excitement about the sounds we were working on to interfere with the start up phase. I guess the fundamental things like getting the music recorded properly, getting the CDs made, deciding on artwork, planning a show and so on, this was all fun and interesting to us. It was only the next stage which was seeking the correct team to manage our affairs. The music industry is full of excellent go-to people, for example a booking agent or a publicist which I guess for a new band, is the number one priority when wanting to get out there, show your music off and play gigs. You need to have the following; No.1 decent music. No.2 a decent fan base and No.3 a decent level of exposure and track record of selling out shows and an over all presence online and in your region. We have had the experience of several different avenues which we learned a great deal and one thing we had to get a hold of early, was where to spend the little bit of money that we had. Money is always going to be a thorn in the side of any unsigned band but we have learned to utilise it as best we can. It’s all about strategising. We have an a1 size white board which we regularly work from and if we have a problem we brainstorm how to get around it. When there’s a will…