By Rachel D’Arcy
While it may seem like a thriving, blooming flower, the world’s music scene is dying – withering by the second. While Ireland’s Hoziers and Niall Horans may dominate Billboard charts and sell out gigs across the pond, our Fight Like Apes and our Republic of Looses are grappling with intense economic pressure, leading to their disbandment.
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your €10 subscription to Deezer and Spotify helps us at all. It does not,” Fight Like Apes wrote in a statement on their disbandment last week, citing financial struggles as the main reason for the demise of the band, a mainstay on the Irish scene for the last decade. They aren’t the first band to fold due to financial pressures, and are far from being the last.
A subscription to the aforementioned Spotify, Deezer or even Apple Music, means the music fan gets a whole catalogue of music for under €10 . And when the average album retails for €14.99 for a physical copy, or €9.99 on iTunes, the choice for the consumer is simple. For bands, however, it is more difficult.
“Bands are having to sell beautiful albums for €2.99, labels can’t give you as much support since they’re losing income too and our alternative radio stations are practically non-existent now,” Fight Like Apes explain in their parting letter, referring to the closure of alternative station TXFM earlier this month.
Some acts are paid just $0.006 US cents per stream on Spotify, so unless a band receives thousands of plays, these platforms simply aren’t worth it to small bands.
In 2014, American indie band Pomplamoose wrote an article for Billboard breaking down their exact costs for a 28-day tour. Ticket sales brought in over $97,000 – yet they ultimately lost money, without the financial backing of a label. This sentiment rings out across the board, particularly in Ireland. Those running a band – the equivalent of a small business – without the backing of a label, may ultimately reach a point that forces them to curb their creativity to enter a more stable financial career.
Half of Pomplamoose, Jack Conté, set up Patreon in 2013 – a crowdfunding site that ensures creators are paid anything from €1 to €500 for their work. Musician Amanda Palmer makes up to $33,000 for every post on the site, but this is as an established artist. The average donation, however, is $7 per video, podcast, song or piece of art. While the concept behind Patreon is revolutionary, those unwilling to pay will simply look elsewhere.
Fight Like Apes’ statement encourages the average Joe Soap to go to gigs, to buy merchandise – but this is a double-edged sword. While bands cannot afford to keep afloat, many individuals cannot afford to, or choose not to, spend their hard earned coin on local, homegrown music, even though we’re sort of in economic recovery.
Many are forking out up to €100 for the opportunity to see the international superstars hitting Dublin’s shores in the next few months. Standing tickets for Drake (€84), Coldplay (€96) and Shawn Mendes (€76) all cost well over what one person would earn for an eight-hour shift on minimum wage, and that’s before up to €10 in fees are added on top. Where does that leave our homegrown talent, however?
With an abundance of undiscovered, yet ferociously talented, music in Ireland, Fight Like Apes’ statement paints us a bleak picture. It’s a picture that tells us that no small band, or any band without a label really, can viably make a living through their music alone within this country in 2016.
It’s not just an Irish problem by any means, though with such a rich creative scene, it’s all the more heartbreaking that a lack of finances can mean an end for those so passionate about their craft.