Bill Whelan
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Monday, July 20, 2009

MAKING OVERTURES 2009

I would like to begin by telling you a little about how I am going to approach our session together today. Firstly, I would like to give you a piece of my own personal history - my early studies, my first jobs as a musician and a producer and my eventual progression into full-time composition. Then I'll continue with some of my reflections on what changes have taken place over those 30-odd years in Ireland and internationally, together with some broad guesses as to where I think a future in music might lead today.

I won't bore you with too much early history other than to say that I was born and grew up in the city of Limerick, and was educated at the Crescent College. My early music education was somewhat sketchy - there was no music programme at school - so I attended a number of private music teachers, finally ending up studying piano and violin at the newly-formed Limerick school of Music. Like many young kids in the 60s though, I had taken in large lungfuls of what was going on in the international music scene. I had taught myself guitar and drums and by the time I was 15 was playing in a number of local bands. I was also writing songs with a group of pals, and with the help of my father, had built a small recording studio in our attic, where us aspiring Beatles would sit long into the night, recording demos and experimenting with all kinds of recording techniques. (I remember recording a vocal while raising and lowering a microphone into one of my mother's flower-vases, which gave an eerie phasing effect.)

Unless you are long enough in the tooth – and that excludes nearly everyone in this room– you will not have experienced quite what it was like in the 60’s. Much has been said and written about this explosive period in popular music, but when I look back upon it as a musician, one of the things that endears it most to me was its utter chaos and, paradoxically from an artistic point of view, its fundamental democracy. The rules had not been invented yet. The doors of the sweetshop had been thrown open, and new breeds of excited youngsters were hungrily helping themselves to whatever was on the shelves.

I will return later to what this all meant for Irish musicians, and indeed how in some ways I believe we are living through a very similar time today, but for the moment let me continue with my personal journey.

I arrived in Dublin in 1968 to study law. I really had no idea why I was lining up to register in the Great Hall at UCD Earlsfort Terrace (now the National Concert Hall) other than that my parents, who had run a newsagent shop for their entire married lives, did not want to see me heading in the same direction. Like many of their generation, they believed passionately that education would liberate their children from the kind of drudgery that they had endured. I would love to have found a credible way to make a case for a career in music at that time, but unfortunately I couldn’t do it, and so found myself lining up with a throng of equally bewildered undergraduates. We were like those small novice sailing boats you see in DunLaoghaire, all putting up our tentative sails with no real idea which direction the wind was going to blow us.

In my case, this was particularly true. I was a very unfocused law student, and spent a lot of my time in Dublin trying to hear bands, playing a regular Wednesday night in the Pembroke pub in Pembroke Street, and then catching the train home to Limerick at the weekends to continue making demos and writing songs up in the attic.

My personal radar for any opportunity in music was permanently turned on. I had a modicum of success with my songs, and had two songs recorded - one by the Freshmen – the most progressive of the crop of showbands around at the time, and the other by the Pattersons, a folk trio who were enjoying considerable success on TV and in the dancehalls.

It can’t be emphasized how much the Irish Music Industry at that time was powered by the dancehalls and particularly by that unique phenomenon - the Showbands. The only outlet that was there for musicians who wanted to make a career in popular music was via the showbands. In fact many well-known musicians working in Ireland today would have cut their teeth “doing the steps” behind some country and western singer from Mayo or admiring the receding Irish countryside from the rear-window of a Ford Transit van.

The money generated by the showbands funded the infant recording industry in Dublin, and soon there were a number of facilities where The Royal Showband, Joe Dolan, Dickie Rock, Larry Cunningham and many others made their records. Eamonn Andrews Studios in Harcourt Street was the pre-eminent facility, but somewhere in 1968 a young guy, John D’Ardis with no connection to the showbands, opened Trend Studios – the first 16-track recording studio in the city, and a magnet for the more rock-oriented bands - the “beat groups”. In some of the older studios a “joint” described the actual building itself, whereas in Trend it described something the clients might consider smoking in the building.

It was to the door of Trend that I made my way while still a college student. I knew that somehow, this was where I needed to be to push my boat further out into the water. Gradually, by dogged perseverance, and through friendship with John and others, I finally got my songs to be heard by Polygram Records, and was given some money to record my very first “proper” demos. My Limerick “attic” recordings were considered somewhat too primitive for sophisticated taste.

It is worth just taking a moment to consider how different things are now from those days. In the 60s and 70s, virtually all recording was done “live” in the studio by the bands themselves or with session musicians. To be a session player was to be in a highly prized position, and the top guys were looked up to and much sought after. Through access to John D’Ardis’s telephone book, on my earliest demos I was lucky enough to have Louis Stewart, Tommy Halferty, Des Moore, Desi Reynolds – all names who were to become pillars of the Irish music scene for years, and some of whom were to become good friends and very influential figures in my musical career.

So we sat down in Trend for a few days, and recorded 5 or 6 tracks. Nearly everything had to be done at the one time, and the luxuries of extensive overdubbing and multitracking were still somewhat in the future. Anyway, I now had a collection of songs, well recorded and produced, and couldn’t wait to unveil them to the world. The world, as it turns out, did not share the same enthusiasm for the idea.

What did I have? Well I had a collection of songs that were never likely to be recorded by any Irish artists who were popular at the time. For example, to give you a flavour, I will if I may quote you from the lyrics of a song that is appropriate to today's topic. It's called The Company Line, written in 1968 about record companies and the music business. It was set to a blue, 12-bar (sort of) structure.

I want to assure you, your future is safe

The company will protect you; we’ve your interests at stake

Well, we can see you’ve got the talent, and we know just what it needs

To turn that kind of talent into LS and D

Well you’ve heard some scary stories, and you’re naturally slow

To commit yourself to something when you need the room to grow

Well we believe in your development, Integrity’s the name

Just sing it as you feel it and we’ll sell it just the same.

One more thing and then we’re fine

Another glass of Company wine

And sign along the dotted line.

It was clear to me that whatever Polygram might do with the songs, I still needed to keep pushing to try to get other artists interested in recording them. Though I sang and played piano on these demos myself, I never saw myself as a recording artist. I was always more attracted to the composing, arranging and production end of things. I thought that if I could get these songs to the attention of UK music publishers and record companies, something would break for me, and a career outside of Ireland might beckon. So, John D’Ardis and I set about targeting a number of top record companies and publishers, and with our reel-to-reel tapes in hand, headed for London with a basket of hopes and buckets of naïveté.

It must be remembered that this was in the pre-U2 days, when an Irish artist trying to excite interest in the UK was something of a joke, and when you asked for a meeting, you generally got handed down to the janitor or at most, a very junior A&R man. However, in a few cases, we did get to meet some senior players, one of the most memorable, and demoralizing, being the music publisher, Cyril Shane, who had had a massive hit with the Hollies “He Ain’t Heavy – He’s my Brother”. I will never forget sitting in Cyril’s plush offices, the walls heaving with gold discs, as a very glamorous secretary poured out real coffee for us while Cyril’s assistant, Richard, threaded my precious reel-to-reel into his fancy Revox machine. “OK, let’s hear this stuff then” said Cyril, as, eyes closed, he adopted a suitably attentive posture in his leather office chair. The opening few bars of the first song rang from the high-end speakers. It is funny how, in sensitive circumstances like this, your own ear immediately runs to the imperfections and things that you wish you had done better. So, it would appear, did Cyril’s. After the first chorus, he turned around and with supreme nonchalance announced, “Spool on the tape Richard”! So it was with all 5 songs. Cyril prided himself on being able to hear a hit within 16 bars, and considered bar 17 a bit of a waste of time if he couldn’t hear the sweet sound of cash-registers by then.

This was not the first, and certainly not the last of my experiences of rejection. However, something significant came out of all of this. Around the time I was waiting on the results my final law exams, I got a call from Desi Reynolds, who had played drums on these early demos. He said that Noel Pearson, the theatre producer, was looking for a pianist to play in the pit of Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat that was currently running at the Gaiety.

Well, I didn’t know the show, and my sight reading was poor, so Desi got me the piano part, and I studied the recordings and learned as much of it as I could expecting to get a call for an audition. Eventually, Desi phoned and said that Jack Bayle, the MD for the show, would like to meet me in Sheahan’s pub at two o’clock on the following Saturday just before he had to go in to the afternoon performance. I arrived at this well-known musician’s local pub to be greeted by Jack’s legendary warmth. “So you’re Whelan, are ya?” he inquired skeptically, as if it was the most unlikely thing imaginable. I assured him I was. “D’ye know the show?” I sort of mumbled something that sounded like I might. “Well then, you can come in and play the matinée now.”

I know that it was not the most perfect audition ever done, and I admit that parts of it sounded as if Frank Zappa and John Cage had both been let loose on Andrew Lloyd-Webber, but for me, despite the terror of it all, it was a baptism that ushered me into the world of professional musicians, a world where I was to spend the next 20 years, while my law degree hung, like Cyril Shane’s Gold Discs, useful, but more of a testament to a life passed by.

So I now had to try and pick up the pieces of my music education that were missing. I had no notion of how to approach formal arrangement or orchestration, but over the next number of years, I began to pick things up along the way. I did an unconscionable amount of music copying for the busy group of orchestrators who worked for the theatre and for RTE at the time. In fact, RTE was a major casual employer for freelance guys like us – mainly because there were so many home produced music shows at the time. It seems hard to imagine now, in a world where only Ryan Tubridy has a regular live band. In those days, there were countless TV shows requiring music and musicians, and the Concert Orchestra constantly needed new arrangements to written for all kinds of broadcasts.

Had it not been for this environment, and for my ready access to and support from people like Noel Kelehan, Jim Doherty, Johnny Tate, Mike Nolan, Des Moore, John Drummond, all of whom encouraged or inspired me to keep learning, to keep gathering skills, I would never have had the ability or bravery to start putting my own notes on the page and to take my chances. Writing a song is one thing. Standing in front of 60 musicians and waiting for the first notes of a new orchestral arrangement is quite another. But what was unique about this method of learning was that it was nestled right there in a working environment. Theory and practice slept in the same bed and were intimate daily. Work done was subjected to immediate examination, and the opportunity for further employment depended on the performance of the job in hand.

If I may “Spool on the tape Richard”, I will skip over many years of playing or orchestrating or writing the music for theatre and for TV shows, working as an MD, touring on the road, sitting in recording sessions, writing 30-second TV commercials, composing the occasional film score, producing a wide range of albums and singles for Irish and International artists. I never had any kind of manager until later in my career, and I worked very much from project to project. Sometimes, work was so intense that it was hard to catch a breath and take an overview. Other times, memorably in the 1980s, work was so sparse that I was forced to get out there and start beating the bushes.

In the context of this week’s lectures and discussions, perhaps it is worth looking at just such a sparse time to examine when the artist might become an entrepreneur, even for a short while, in order to survive.

In 1987, I had been asked by Noel Pearson to write a concert score of the film music of Seán ÓRíada. This brought me into contact with the legendary American film composer Elmer Bernstein, who Pearson had invited to Ireland to conduct this score as part of his ÓRíada Retrospective at the National Concert Hall. Over the week or so of working together, Elmer and I became friends, and one night at dinner, he was complimenting the standard of musicianship in the Irish orchestra and said he would love to bring a film score here. In those days, American film composers had begun the practice of recording some of their scores in Europe. London, Rome and Prague had become favoured locations for recording, as the Hollywood Unions had managed to raise the session fees so high that it became sensible for producers to look elsewhere. In addition composers were attracted by the high standard and indeed the caché of conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, or by being greeted with the kind of bright enthusiasm they met in Prague as opposed to the rather condescending, newspaper-reading, clockwatching malevolence of the jaded American players.

Anyway, what emerged from these early conversations with Bernstein was a plan to promote the notion of film scoring in Ireland. I set about putting the package together. I had absolutely no money whatsoever, but

I approached Russ Russell at Windmill Lane and asked if he would make a short video of an orchestral recording in the studio for free. He readily agreed.

I then phoned a wealthy friend of mine who had once intimated that he might be interested in investing in the music business, and he came on board. Irish Film Orchestras Ltd. Was formed.

We then met the Irish Export Board and got a small amount of money from them.

My friend called a contact in Aer Lingus and their promotions department agreed to give us a few free flights to the US.

Finally, I called John McCambridge from McCambridge Foods, and asked him for a large quantity of smoked salmon and brown bread. Ever generous, John enthusiastically agreed.

So, armed with a very impressive video, a CD of the orchestra at work, some brochures and the finest Connemara smoked salmon and nutty brown bread you could find, we headed for the city of Lost Angels. Elmer Bernstein, true to his word, had assembled a roomful of composers and/or their agents. I still recall my sharp intake of breath as I saw Henry Mancini arrive and take a seat in the front row.

As a direct result of this initiative, I am happy to say that Irish Film Orchestras went on to record in excess of 50 film scores in Dublin. All kinds of producers, directors and composers flew in over the following years, and either Windmill Lane, Ringsend Road, or Westland Studios played host to everyone from Robert Redford to Barry Manilow.

In terms of the title of this talk – “Navigating the Industry – a Composer’s perspective”, I would have to say that my experience with Irish Film Orchestras had both negative and positive results for me personally and as a composer.

Firstly, in spite of all the activity that surrounded it, and while it generated a lot of revenue, it delivered very little profit. Unfortunately, the margin for the contractor, which is what I had become, was tiny, and very often when you took care of all the extras along the road, you came away with just a pittance.

Secondly, in terms of my own musical development, it achieved very little. In fact, my musical career was virtually put into suspension whenever I was working on a film.

On the positive side, I did gain quite a lot of experience from observing the composers and orchestrators who came in to score the films. And, I have no doubt that exposing Irish musicians, engineers, and other support services to the discipline of film scoring was invaluable.

I suppose the biggest lesson I have learned from Irish Film Orchestras, and can pass on to this room today relates to the question of focus. There are two aspects to focus – one is how you see yourself and your music, the other is how others see you.

Let’s look at both of these individually. How one sees oneself is of course a complex question. If you are a soprano with a burning desire only to sing Wagner, then your path, while requiring lots of hard work and muscle may be clearer than someone who might really want to be a jazz guitarist, but is also a dab hand at computer music and has a job waiting for them as a music teacher if they want to take it up. Whatever the diversions and distractions may be, getting your focus right, and checking the lens regularly to make sure you are still in focus, is vitally important both for your career and for your music, and dare I say it, your mental health. Education can have a key role in helping us to discover which route to take, but I am a firm believer that looking within oneself will more often deliver the right answer than not.

I often think that we have been gifted with two very seful organs, the nose and the heart. If it smells wrong, then don't go near it and if it feels wrong, then just don't do it. Of course, we have to remember to check with these touchstones regularly. Sometimes in periods of enthusiasm, or desperation, we will head off down a route that really is just a railroad siding, and which we will eventually have to reverse out of.

I am a strong believer that you will learn something from most adventures in the music industry, even if it is never to repeat the current experience that is driving you to distraction. But the important thing to know is that if the train is heading to Belfast, and you want to go to Cork, then get off at the next stop.

I would have to put my hand on my heart and say that for me, focus came later than it should have. Sometimes, it was a question of confidence. I didn’t feel I should push myself forward, when perhaps I could have. Other times, it was pure panic. If I didn’t take on another TV jingle, then there would be no money this month. Understandable, I suppose.

The other kind of focus I spoke of is how others see you. Well, most times they will see whatever you are presenting them to see. When I formed Irish Film Orchestras, I admit to some notion in the back of my mind, that this might open a route for me as a composer. By associating with LA agents, film directors and producers, I had begun to imagine that I would be able to get myself some work as a composer. How absurd was that? Picture this scene – I’m in a studio control room with a director, a producer and an agent. I’m looking at them and seeing a highway to a career in film composition. They are looking at me and seeing an orchestral contractor from Dublin who has probably failed as an oboist. It may be a peculiarly Irish thing, but sometimes we think that coming in by the side is preferable to confidently entering by the front door. Of course we know that coming in from the side is an offence in rugby, and it should also be an offence in music! If I have learned anything, I have learned that we must give other people clear signals in helping them to focus on what we are.

Around 1990, I made that vital decision. I decided to refuse anything that did not involve composition. When I was offered to write some ambient music for the Irish Pavilion at Expo in 1992 in Seville, I turned the job description around and offered instead to write an orchestral Suite based on Hugh O’Donnell’s flight to Spain after the Battle of Kinsale. To my surprise, they went for it, and that led to the Seville Suite, which in turn led to Riverdance.

So this brief personal history may help to understand how a teenage songwriter from Limerick navigated himself and his music through both the storms and doldrums of a music industry that offered little in terms of support, security, permanence or predictability. Well I suppose we knew that when we came in, and I suspect that little has changed today from what it was in the 70s 80s and 90s. While it must be acknowledged here in this room that Music Network and other Arts Council initiatives have made access and support more readily accessible to aspiring artists, I am afraid that the winds of insecurity, impermanence and unpredictability will always whistle around the edges of the music industry .

But how have things changed? To begin, let us look at the Irish Industry.



TRAFFIC

The first, and perhaps the most fundamental change that has happened in Irish music in my lifetime relates to the question of traffic. When I started out in the 70s, the Irish Music Industry was, as we have noted earlier, based on the showbands. It was essentially a local industry, producing artists and musicians for home consumption. We imported an enormous amount of music from abroad, sometimes repackaged it for our own market, and exported almost nothing in return. Our artists stayed at home, and those who went away and were successful, stayed away and were managed and controlled by foreign companies. The success of U2 in the 1980s did much to fight against that one-way traffic, and to create the impression that we could initiate things here, manage and control them from here, and bring home some, if not all, of the bacon.

Suddenly, it became very easy to get interest in the US or the UK with an Irish artist. I remember that when I produced those wonderful kings of quirk “Those Nervous Animals” in the mid 80s, on one night alone there were 7 A&R men attending their gig at the Baggot Inn. The air bristled with rumours of signings for The Hothouse Flowers, Aslan, The Blades, Les Enfants, Engine Alley, Cry Before Dawn, InTua Nua, the Fountainhead, the Bogey Boys and a myriad of other artists who 10 years before wouldn’t have been seen by Cyril Shane’s cleaning lady!

Around one large success story, there often gathers an hysteria and a hunger for replication, as if lightning were going to do us all the favour of striking twice in the one place. Not to be too ironic though, there was undoubtedly a new energy around Irish music and a belief that we had broken through some kind of barrier, and were looking out at a wider and more attainable world.

CONTENT

The secondly profoundly different thing that happened to Irish popular music relates to content. Writing a few days ago in the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole observed,

“It is hard for anyone who wasn’t around at the time to imagine how important Horslips seemed. It was not just that they were a terrific live rock band at a time when the only big indigenous events were a few visits home every year by Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher. It was also that they had invented for us a way of being both Irish and modern. They tapped into the noise and glamour of rock but also, apparently, into the native tradition.”

What Fintan is referring to here is something that was to gain momentum over the coming decades. We had grown up listening to UK and American music and were happy enough to try to copy that music and adopt it as if it were an expression of our own culture. No one thought it at all bizarre that a girl who spoke with a thick Leitrim accent might sound like a Southern Belle when she stood up to sing. Or that a man from Artane or Ballymena might suddenly morph into a black Chicago blues singer when he strapped on his Fender and stepped up to the mike. There was a long tradition for this kind of mimicry – not least in classical music where tenors still insist on pronouncing English lyrics as if they were Italians with only a few days tuition in the language. Go to any Tokyo bar and you are likely to hear a crooning Diana Krall with beautiful Asian features telling us that she loves you “Just the Way You Are”.

But what was really happening was that we were starting to sing about ourselves. We were doing something that our poets and writers had been at since the early 20th century. We were beginning to pull threads from our native traditions and weave them into our contemporary musical apparel. We were late, perhaps, but our engagement with the native tradition was at least as intimate and penetrating, if not more so, than our literary counterparts.

So to find an artist like Damien Dempsey, singing in a thick Dublin accent about the greed of the Celtic Tiger to a packed audience in a New York venue might have been unthinkable 15 years ago, but it is happening today.

To move from our local interests for the moment, I would like to have a look at the changes within the Industry internationally. Firstly, may I outline a few of what I see as endangered species.

LIVE MUSICIANS AND ORCHESTRAS

I will get to the Internet of course, but first let us take a step further back and look at what happened when we changed from analog to digital recording and when the electronics revolution began to have its effect on the whole creative process.

I remember when the first drum machines appeared in the recording studio. As I mentioned, there was a time when we all sat down together, put on our headphones and played each song until we got an acceptable take. But the arrival of the drum machine and later the sequencer began to erode what had been fundamentally a group activity into a series of isolated individual performances, layered on top of each other to create a whole. Okay, so it gave the producer and engineer overall control, but something organic flew out the window, and even though I have embraced the new technology with as much enthusiasm as the next guy, I long for those rare moments when something special happened in the studio simply by dint of people sitting down, playing and responding creatively to each other.

Hot on the heels of the drum machine came the digital sampler. Soon, we would have no need to bring any musicians at all into the studio. Not only that, but we could chop large chunks from other people’s records, and knit them into our own work. It was the beginning of the move towards collage and assembly that was to become a large part of the early 21st century popular music.

A&R MEN

As I mentioned, in the 80s, we saw the rise of the A&R man. These worker-bees of the music industry who buzzed from gig to gig, scouting for the new big thing, and vying with each other for their abilities to break the next Blur, Oasis or Radiohead. They were quite powerful and the enthusiasm of some A&R man could change the career of a young band and put them on the road to a “signing”. In fact, there was a period in the 80s when a signing almost constituted the zenith of a bands career. It general meant an advance of money and a commitment to a recording contract. Very often it was also the last we heard of the band, and probably of the A&R man as well. They had a notoriously short shelf life, and were dumped by the record companies with the same regularity and lack of ceremony with which they dumped their bands.

Our present-day music business barons have decided to dispense altogether with the A&R model, and bring the acts directly to the public and let them decide. The music business becomes a model for democracy, where our Simon Cowells and Louis Walshes wheel out the hopefuls and under the charade of entertainment, snigger and snide their way through hours of sub-standard television, finally crowning the “winners” and then benefitting in as many ways as possible from both the successes or failures of their careers. In fact, the recent sickeningly cynical use of Susan Boyle displayed this mawkish voyeurism in all its tasteless glory. It seems that the industry may have temporarily sunk to a new low where the people who choose the acts are the enduring stars, while the artists themselves are flushed down the dispenser on a weekly basis accompanied by mock shows of sympathy and regret.

RECORD COMPANIES

There is no doubt that the old model record company is, like its foot soldier the A&R man, sick and ailing, with a poor prognosis for any kind of survival. Young composers can now write, perform, market, distribute and collect revenue for their works without ever leaving their bedrooms. Of course, as the Internet Tower of Babel grows larger and larger, the challenge will be to be heard at all above the general cacophony. If the record companies are to have any future, they will have to return to their traditional role of nurturing an artist, and then bringing their works to the public attention.

WRITERS AND COMPOSERS

It will appear many times during this week, but the effects of the Internet on the creation and use of music in the future is only being hinted at. Already the industry has been decimated by piracy, and I am becoming personally quite active in standing with others to protect copyright. I have no problem with people giving away their music for free over the Internet. But I am adamant that writers and performers must cling steadfastly to the fundamental legal principle that links them to their created works, and gives them the power to benefit financially and morally to control how those works are used.

Frederick Delius, the English composer wrote in 1920

“There seems to be a very prevalent belief that any Tom, Dick, or Harry has the right to tamper with a work of art, even to the extent of altering it beyond recognition and forcing it to serve a purpose its composer never dreamed of…..It is time a law was passed to keep good music from violation”

THE ARTISTS

Significantly, I think the species most endangered at the moment are the artists themselves. Not for any of the above reasons, but because over the past 50 years, so little has happened that marks a progression. In a letter to his father in 1782, Mozart wrote

“In order to win applause, one must write stuff which is so inane that a taxi driver could sing it, or so unintelligible that it pleases precisely because no sensible man can understand it”

How well this describes our current situation. On the one hand, many of the classic songs written by the popular writers of the 60’s onwards have hardly been equaled in recent years. Nor do they have the same cultural significance in the lives of their listeners. The hackneyed harmonic structures and forms appear and re-appear ad nauseam, as the public drifts off toward computer games and the composers are left to invent ringtones. On the other hand, contemporary classical composers are desperately vying with each other for inaccessability and inscrutability while losing their audience in droves.

I realize that much of the above may sound very pessimistic when in fact I am actually quite hopeful that out of this rather chaotic time in music, some new voices will appear to regain the ground that has been lost. There are undoubtedly realities that we have to face as the clamour for peoples leisure time is taken up by much more competition than existed a few decades ago. Equally, their method of experiencing music has changed.

The challenge for musicians and creators of music in the 21st century is to re-engage our audience in a more vital way and to reintroduce them to the sublime joy of making and experiencing music together. We must sneak up on that archipelago of isolated souls wandering around with their iPods on, and pinch them in the bottoms. We must re-connect to the real source and forget about merch, teashirts, monetising, endorsements, deals and signings. While those whose job it is are busy trying to figure out new models for the music industry, I would like to suggest that musicians need to get back to the drawing board and create something so new and original that its excitements will be undeniable and its social relevance irresistible. The rest of the industry can then tuck into that slipstream.

Hopefully, whatever happens, the next 18-year old songwriter in Limerick will not feel urged the write this second verse of the song I quoted earlier

Well there are a couple of minor changes we would like to have you make

We’re gonna need a hit song, to help you make the break

It’s a big year for nostalgia, it’ really going down

Like those old Bill Haley classics and the Buddy Holly sound

Oh and while I remember, we’d like to change your clothes into

Something more in sympathy, like winkle-picker toes

And if the mood suits, well then we’ll just augment the show

With a rock n rollin big band to really make it go

One more thing and then we’re fine

Another glass of Company wine

And sign along the dotted line.