Irish female artists on mainstream Irish radio
It is VERY obvious that someone is asleep at the wheel when it comes to playing new Irish female artists on mainstream radio in Ireland. I've asked so many people to name just ONE female Irish singer who is getting decent radio play.... most people can't think of any, not one. This is the sad state of affairs we have gotten ourselves into, it literally can't get any worse. Now look at the men and we can all name quite a few: Hozier, Gavin James, Dermot Kennedy, James Vincent McMorrow, Moncrieff, Niall Horan, Cian Ducrot, the list goes on... I'm happy that at least the Irish men are represented among our mainly American pop dominated airwaves but, it's not fair is it? Like NOT FAIR AT ALL. Is everyone ok with this?? No wonder we are all awash with far too much male energy these days. No offense to those men they're great! But the imbalance is still glaringly undeniable here, gender bias is sadly alive and well and it's a crying shame because it is totally obliterating the voices of half of our musical culture, the womenfolk!! What about their story? What about their legacy? How will they be represented in the musical history books? Without art and artists to represent us in our life and times we all pay the price and this huge gaping void in our national consciousness is something that should be considered with great urgency. I'm not really referring to the world of traditional Irish music here, I'm delighted to find that the women seem to be quite well represented and supported in this genre.
It's not like this in any other European country. Look at the Billboard top 10 of ANY country, they have plenty of their own artists up there, male and female. They're proud to support their own. It seems to be important to them. Imagine that! Imagine that it actually means something to the people that their own artists are represented in their own national charts. How sweet, how wonderful. Don't you just feel the national pride in something like that? What has gone wrong with us? Why don't we feel that way? We're supposed to be world experts in National pride. We used to have amazing Irish female artists represented and played regularly on mainstream radio: Mary Black, Enya, Dolores O'Riordan, Sinead O'Connor, The Corrs etc. Guess what! Recently we actually did have have a female artist in the number 1, 2 AND 3 spot of the Irish charts. It was Taylor Swift.... that's who the Irish media gave all their support to, that's who gets all the prime airtime, that's who is rammed down our throats day and night on the radio. Taylor Swift herself would surely be appalled at this, “why don't you give some of this attention to your own artists of which there are so many” she would surely say!
It's cruel, it's blind, it's lazy, it's negligent and it's so stupid. The fact that our amazing Irish female artists don't get proper mainstream radio play isn't just sad and annoying beyond measure, it's also just so STRANGE. If you've heard some of the stellar music being made by Irish women in spite of closed doors in their faces, anyone with ears would agree we have the goods. For example, Síomha's stunning album Infinite Space is one that Quincy Jones himself would be jealous of in terms of the production value. The tearfully amazing new EP Overnight by Caroline Kay whose voice is so beautiful it is beyond words, with lyrics so clever, so honest, so playful and so relevant to us all. Seeing Lisa Canny perform was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had at any concert. There is something ancestral about her power and her presence, like seeing a real life ancient Irish warrior woman in all her glory, she should be celebrated. There are literally hundreds of overlooked and disregarded talented women making music and plenty NOT making music because it's just too hard to deal with how sad it is when you write a world class song that no one cares about. There is quite frankly something very wrong going on here.
These are the women who should be singing to and influencing our Irish young people of today. Who do we feed them? A steady and consistent diet of overly-commercialized, mind-numbingly weak, dumbed-down music sung by American and English women wearing knickers and singing about boys. Give them someone fully-clothed like Joni Mitchell singing truth about the complexities of life from her heart and they'll learn to love someone like Joni Mitchell singing truth about the complexities of life from her heart. For young, confused and deeply inquisitive minds, music like this can inadvertently answer some of their most troubling and perplexing questions about life. Give them someone they can really relate to who makes them feel like someone understands what they're going through. The problem is that most people don't know they're missing this. They think they love Taylor Swift, because that's all they get, and Taylor Swift in turn gets it all, and our own homegrown artists get nothing. A child who is only fed McDonalds everyday will grow up never developing a palate for the world of varied and delicious food that's out there.. and it's out there. Good music should fulfill a deep and significant purpose in people's lives. Or... just give us a banger of a pop song to dance our heads off too. Irish women can make these too you know... and they do... if anyone would give them a fleeting chance to be heard. There should always be a fresh supply of local artists with their fingers on the pulse of what it means to be alive NOW in Ireland. Someone who lives among the rest of us, who knows our joys and our struggles because they have the same ones, someone who knows us, because they ARE one of us, these are the ones we need to have on tap from our media suppliers. Not just American pop all day everyday and the same 20 year old hits from Westlife. I'm sure even Westlife are tired of hearing them.
We so sadly lost 2 of our great Irish female artists recently; Sinead O'Connor and Dolores O'Riordan and as a recently published article in the Irish Independent by Maeve McTaggart rightly stated; who have we got coming up behind them? Who will be our great legends in the next few decades if new artists are not being supported and encouraged and played. Well, they're out there, desperately fighting to stay afloat and our media outlets pretend they don't exist, so it appears as if they don't exist! A few people have said to me in response “maybe there just isn't any good music being made by Irish women, I can only put my hand to my face when I hear this, it's literally all I can do. What a sad state of affairs we have on our hands and for Ireland's reputation on the world stage in a world which is growing ever more conscious and vocal about equality and women's rights... how embarrassing for us.
So who's to blame? I'm pointing my fingers at several people and I'll likely make enemies of everyone in the process!
The heads of radio stations: I understand they have to make money by playing the most obvious commercial choices but I believe they can still achieve this by compromising and playing more NEW Irish female artists also, the old hits don't really count, that's just plain cheating and they know it. What if it was the law, like it is in France since 1994 where 40% of the songs played on radio stations must be in the French language to protect its homegrown talent and the language. They go a step further here as they are clearly protective of their language, while we would gladly settle for just more Irish artists played in any language. Are they waiting for someone to force their hand and give them no choice? Wouldn't it look much cooler for them if they did it because they wanted to? Because they “care” about their role in cultivating this important aspect of our culture? Maybe they just need a good reminder that... that’s their job!; Bringing new music to the people of Ireland and protecting and supporting local talent. New talent needs to be sought, then supported. We are a community, we cant do anything alone, nor should we have to. They have shamelessly created an impossible system for new artists which is tailored only to the most brass-necked of us. It might suit arm-twisters, charmers, good-networkers, those with sharp elbows, but in the process it weeds out the more sensitive and shy artists with just as much, maybe more to offer. The lack of encouragement and opportunity out there discourages most artists from ever sharing their work with the world. Look what we're missing out on, possibly some of the best music this country could offer, because of sheer indifference to the plight of artists. We are not even given a chance to fail, cos we are not given a chance at all. There is no path, no system a new artist can follow whereby the pure merit of their work can be judged fairly. There is just.... nothing. I was once asked to come on national radio to speak about this on Joe Duffy. Before they let me on they asked me to promise not to say “the thing about the fact that Irish radio stations don't play new Irish music”. I promised... sort of. They know well what they're doing and not doing! They just don't care.
I'm also pointing my finger at DJs and please don't say you're at the mercy of your bosses. Be brave, fight them! Try harder. Remember what Pirate DJs did for the people? They risked everything to bring them good music, stuff that would heal them, speak to them and give them hope in dark times. They knew how important it was. That you let this happen is beyond disappointing. Again, please do your jobs.
Just so I don't leave anyone out; for my final nail I'm pointing my fingers at new Irish female artists. Why do you accept this? It doesn't have to be this way. I know none of us really want to cause a fuss, or risk our reputations or annoy anyone or get accused of being whingey. But this is too important. Make a big deal about it, be a squeaky wheel, don't accept it. Like I always say what's the worst that can happen?... that they don't play your music on the radio, some more?? Let's call them out, we can all do it together, we're more powerful that way. If you're really too scared, at least back up those who are backing you up. Whynother is out there fighting for you and going out on a limb for you. Stand next to them and show them your support, you could owe them a lot someday.
While I'm here, I want to say something about the spirit of camaraderie and sisterhood, neither of which I sense is in very healthy state at the moment. We're not in a “good place” right now and we're all in defensive mode. We are straight-jacketed into a grabby, “businessy”, cold-hearted, lack mentality and we're really not our best selves when we're all essentially in survival mode all the time. All the best parts about being an artist go out the window in tough times like these. Not least of those our creativity and our ability to be happy for each other....even for the crappy gigs some of us do manage to squeeze out of this sorry situation. I don't blame us, they kind of pit us against each other and make us feel like there's not enough work or money or appreciation to go around, because there isn't. But it doesn't mean we can't root for our sisters anyway, even if we have to dig deep. Acknowledge them when they're being great, it's the right thing to do. I believe that's the seed that's gonna get us out of this mess... girl power and a lot of squishy love and support for each other!
Hey while I'm at it and making enemies, a quick shout out to nepotism! Suffice it to say it is alive and well in our media outlets. It is shameful and it is a huge part of the problem. Those involved should hang their heads. Please please please let songs be heard, judged and played on their own merit, nothing else. Let daddy get back to his job in the radio station of finding great diamonds in the rough. He should be very busy doing this, stop distracting him.
The people of Ireland can also email, text, call their radio stations, call them out on their socials etc. We can all be a part of fixing this problem. Let them have it. Ask them why they don't value or support female artists. It's actually quite easy to fix this if people just make a few small moves in the right direction and we can get this ship back on the right track.
It really begs the question, why?? Why do Irelands media outlets seem to go out of their way to make it so hard for new artists to get a new song played? They make us jump through hoops, sell our souls, sacrifice all our dignity, reduce ourselves to pitiful, pleading wimps who would bend over for even the most pathetic promise of a glimmer of an opportunity.... that will then come to nothing. Because it is a closed shop, that's how it is set up now. There is no open door for new music, they turn us away and kick us on the way out. It's so degrading. It's one thing to fail when you know you could've done better, when you are mature enough to realise you have more to learn, but when you've done your job and fulfilled your role perfectly, then realise that there is no place for you, that is a lonely and confusing place to land in. A lot of us have been there, it's a heartbreaking place. Trying to be a player in this thankless, fruitless, pointless game of “being a female artist in Ireland” has long had its day for me. How many radio plays have I received in this country in over 20 years releasing music?? A huge resounding ZERO, despite spending all my savings and more on some of the best Irish musicians, producers and studios I could afford (turns out I couldn’t). No grants. I am never the right candidate for grants because my music is too “mainstream”. I think the Irish music grants applications office thinks that us “mainstream” female artists get mainstream media support…ah you have to laugh or you’d cry…and we do!! In general it’s traditional Irish musicians are in with a chance of a grant and even they don’t get enough support either. I did my job, I played my part, I invested in myself and made good music that would speak to people, but it didn’t get a chance to. Back to the question, why don’t they play our music? I really don't know, I would love to ask them why. Not good enough? Possibly. Not commercial enough? Definitely, but that doesn't explain the countless artists not getting played, mine's just the same old story told thousands of times.
Ireland is and always has been a country teeming with artists. It's who we are in our DNA. We have always been proud to produce of some of the best writers, musicians, actors, poets, singers, comedians, dancers etc etc the world has ever known. The female artists are still here!! Ireland is still making them, they've just been forgotten, ignored or banished into more steady careers where their creativity is often not used or cultivated at all. Returning to that spirit of creativity is the Ireland I dream about, but some of the current systems and structures may have to crumble first in order for this to happen. Maybe we're already seeing it. We may have to let them fall and start building something new that we can be proud of; Something where everyone gets to show the best of themselves. Whether that's as an artist or as someone who has the talent to discover and cultivate those artist, but then again they are one and the same. We're all artists and should all be supporting each other!