'What’s the reality of trying to make a living ... as a musician in Ireland?': An Interview with Mark Graham of the Irish Music Industry Podcast
As well as being founder and host of the Irish Music Industry Podcast, Mark Graham is a member of the group King King Company, teaches music technology at Waterford Institute of Technology, and is an author, with his first book A Year of Festivals published in 2014. His podcast explores the Irish music industry through interviewing musicians, band managers, radio producers, festival organisers and other practitioners in the field, and explores themes such as music publishing, touring, promoting your music as well as wellness and mental health issues that can arise from working in the industry. The first season of the podcast concluded in June of this year, but season two is currently being planned, with new episodes due in January 2020.
Graham grew up in a musical household where his father played several brass instruments, piano and guitar and performed in showbands. Taking an interest in drums, Graham began teaching himself: ‘I think it was the… film The Blues Brothers. I saw that as a very small child, and when I saw that, I wanted to be in a band… and drums particularly appealed to me’.
After studying computer programming at university, Graham became involved with the Waterford street art company Spraoi, as a drummer, and later started composing, recording and compiling music for their shows. His background in technology merged with music in a way that benefitted both:
Having a knowledge of computers helped me to record and edit and create sounds, soundtracks and sound designs. And what I became more immersed in was the creation of music through computers using… digital audio workstations [and] synthesisers. I could enhance what I was doing acoustically by recording it and processing it and editing it.
This led Graham to complete an MA in Music and Media Technology at Trinity College Dublin, and he now teaches the subject at Waterford Institute of Technology. Through his teaching, however, he discovered that music students are not always aware of how the music industry works and will often come to him with questions relating to his career as a performing musician and how to handle certain elements such as booking gigs.
I was starting to discover that… there were a lot of music students who weren’t getting an honest picture of what they could expect when they graduated into the workplace. A lot of the stuff that I do with students is teach them how to use… tools in relation to technology to create music. But what happens once you know the tools? What’s the reality of trying to make a living for yourself, as a musician, in Ireland at the moment?
Along with a general interest in the music industry as a whole, this drove Graham to create his podcast: ‘As an educator, I feel like I have an obligation to… paint as full a picture as possible for the people who are aspiring to make a career in that field.’
His own experience with performing sold-out shows at venues such as the Olympia and festivals like Body and Soul and Electric Picnic gave him a certain amount of knowledge to share, but for the podcast, he has spoken with musicians such as electronic artist Daithí, songwriter Jinx Lennon and Bitch Falcon frontwoman Lizzie Fitzpatrick, as well as RTÉ 2FM’s Dan Hegarty, music law barrister Willie Ryan and journalist Niall Byrne of Nialler9.
Season two is currently being planned and Graham plans to discuss issues such as the social welfare scheme for musicians and the budget cuts at RTÉ. He has also been taking part in a number of live podcasts, at the Cork Podcast Festival in October, and has a show next week (7 December) at the Róisín Dubh in Galway, interviewing music record label owner Alan McGee, and in the new year at Music Minds festival in Clare (18 January).
Published on 27 November 2019