Making a Living from Music in Ireland

Neil O'Connor — of Somadrone, the Redneck Manifesto and Jape — was featured in the latest installment of the Irish Times' 'Generation Emigration' series. He talks about the difficulties in making a living from music in Ireland, and why he recently went to the United States to find work for the second time. 

I could not rely on gigs as my only source of income. I had borrowed heavily back in the heyday and I was running into problems with the banks. 

By March I was worn out. I was living in a house I couldn’t afford and signing on the dole, which felt so wrong when I had studied and worked so hard. The social-welfare officer tried to encourage me to do a Fás course, but what use would that have been to me?

The mood of the country had changed a lot too in the two years I was away. My brother was struggling, and my father had just retired on half the package he would have got a few years previously.

What was happening economically was not only affecting me, it was affecting my family, my friends.

The music scene in Ireland was also different. Record labels were disintegrating, music shops were closing down, and other bands and musicians were noticing a downturn in numbers at gigs. The demographic of gig-goers, young people in their 20s and 30s, don’t seem to be able to afford to go out as much now, and large numbers of them have emigrated too, especially outside Dublin. My last Dublin gig at the Unitarian Church was sold out, but the last show in Galway had only 20 in attendance.

Published on 17 June 2012

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