Musicians News Section

Talking Points from Jazz Connector 27th August

At Jazz Connector on Thursday 27th August, members of the Irish jazz community came together to discuss:

The State of the Nation: The Irish jazz community and IMC’s musician survey results.

In early 2020, IMC conducted a survey amongst Irish jazz musicians, and gathered valuable information from the respondents on income streams, payment models, and different career structures amongst other things. Our conclusions from the survey will be published at the end of September. Please subscribe to our Musicians Newsletter for a first look.

Some discussions which emerged around the results of the survey are outlined below. 

Systems of payment (pay-to-play etc)

  • Anecdotally, musicians are familiar with some different models
    • Showcase events involve a fee to apply (e.g. WOMEX)
    • Large festivals often pay a fee that barely covers expenses, fundamentally ends up as just a free ticket to a festival - which may be an option for young musicians who just want to attend.
    • Discrepancy with how much the audience are paying for these large festivals and how much most artists are paid (apart from headliners).

On the changing relationship of venues to artists.

  • Venues used to actively book musicians. This put the onus on the venue to get enough people through the door to cover their expenses and the musicians’ fees.
  • Now, in many cases, the risk, or liability has been passed to the musicians, who are not as financially stable. Venues charge rental to cover their expenses, so they are limiting their risk. In essence, they have become rental spaces. This may work for some young bands who can bring in all their friends and cover rental with door, but is unsustainable.
  • More niche genres of music need subsidy, but venues are no longer willing to risk subsidising due to the aforementioned risk/liability issue.
  • Venue rentals have risen sharply.
  • Theoretically, arts centres should provide the platforms for these kinds of music, for development of culture. However, from the perspective of musicians working in niche genres, there appears to be a disconnect between their role as creators and certain spaces as collegiate receivers of work. Has this become similar to commercial venues mentioned above?
  • To highlight this point, some artists indicated they have experienced being charged by arts centres for promotion work they were doing.
  • Some arts centres seem to be losing existing audiences. Devolving responsibility for ticket sales on to the artists means they have no reason to build a community around the venue or a sense of trust in the venue’s programming.

The Guaranteed Fee Concept

  • The fact that artists, by virtue of their craft, need to perform regularly means that some will work for no fee or variable/indeterminate fees. This constantly undermines the guaranteed fee concept and by association the true value of music.
  • Nowadays, any fees guaranteed for artists are mostly dependent on funding from the Arts Council etc., which is itself dependent on successful grant applications. It was noted in the survey that respondents who had applied had on average had a 90% success rate when applying for Arts Council funding.

Lobbying in the wider arts scene

  • NCFA are underscoring their needs with surveys, some success in lobbying. Resource organisations need to re-amplify NCFA’s messages through their own networks and encourage artists, in turn, to do the same. This is important to underpin and highlight any gains made by such organisations and to be as effective as possible as a sector in broadcasting core messages.
  • Give us the Night have had some quite effective lobbies.

Recording

  • There isn’t a direct way of funding recordings since the end of the Arts Council recording scheme.
  • Artists will always need to document their work via recordings of some sort. This needs to be acknowledged and nurtured.
  • NARLI are preparing a letter to the Arts Council for clarification on funding for recordings specifically to
  • Having high-quality videos and audio recordings is essential for artists now, and costs are increasing. Some are learning to do it themselves, but it is effectively an entire new skill set for many.
  • There is a change in the process of developing recordings.
    • People used to create an album at the start, now they may release a piece, and then bring out an album for a run of concerts.
    • There are major problems for artists in insufficiently promoted recordings.
  • Some artists are good at promoting themselves, some aren’t, aren’t interested or don’t necessarily have the requisite skills or know-how. Promotion again is a different skill set that artists don’t always have.
  • Low video view counts on the Youtube platform can cause an artist’s prospects to be automatically dismissed by certain venues and promoters because they pay close attention to these metrics

Calendars and development

  • Because of dependence on annual or indeed project-by-project funding, there is less incentive for arts centres, organisations or indeed artists to think about or focus on longer-term development which can hinder overall development..

Future of survey

  • From artists perspectives, some surveys seem to be only taken during times of economic prosperity. During downturns, the emphasis is on survival and things like this are ignored. Real continuity is needed to make these surveys worthwhile.

Future of Jazz Connector

  • Would be good for artists to be able to compare experiences in certain areas, e.g. dealing with arts centres.
  • There are other areas that affect a lot of artists which would be good to explore.

Find the minutes of other Jazz Connector meetings HERE

PLEASE let us know about any topics that you would like to be discussed as part of Jazz Connector. This can be about experiences that you would like to compare with other artists, or advice you would like to gain on specific topics. Where feasible we can contact guest speakers with specific expertise to give their advice. Pop in your suggestions for topics and your preferred time for meetings below.

For specific advice in relation to projects or applications, we can also take personal meetings, details HERE, or send us an email and we can chat by phone.