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The difficulty for Irish artists in trying to get radio play was highlighted again last week when Dublin band Keywest, took to Grafton street in a bid to get airtime.

KeywestHaving initially been discovered by an L.A producer while busking in Galway City, Keywest found themselves back where they started. The band’s lead singer Andy Kavanagh said they were busking to get more radio play in Dublin. He said they’ve been able to get radioplay all over the world but finds it much more difficult in their home country. The fact they’ve been hotly tipped as the next big thing by their grammy nominated producer Mark Needham (The Killers, We are Scientists, Neon Trees) and are making quite an impression in L.A doesn’t matter to Irish Radio stations. 

This struggle dates back to when Thin Lizzy fans had to tune into Radio Luxembourg to hear them, granted at that time there was only one Irish radio station. Today there is a proliferation of radio stations across the country and several Irish artists such as U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries, The Script and many more have established their place on the world stage. The talent is there and yet Irish Artists still have to campaign to get their music on the radio.

It seems Radio stations are much more interested in their commercial interests than promoting real homegrown talent. Ian Wilson (2fm) recently said “radio stations are becoming less and less relevant”. This isn’t the opinion of many bands who see getting their music on the primetime radio slots as an opportunity to reach a whole new fan base. Louis Walsh has also previously spoken out about the difficulties he had trying to get airplay in Ireland for Boyzone and Westlife even when they were topping charts worldwide. The argument that the music of many of these Irish bands isn’t daytime friendly also needs to be questioned. Keywest are easy listening pop, making them perfect daytime radio. 

Play Irish is an initiative trying to tackle this at a local level. It’s aim is to get more airplay for artists who have established themselves but still have problems getting continued airplay in their native homeland. There has been alot of comparison with the Canadian radio policy where 35% of music played on daytime slots has to be of Canadian content. This MAPL system has made a huge difference to Canadian artists who were treated with indifference before its introduction in 1971. The EU competition law, however, has made the introduction of similar legislation in Ireland very difficult.

Should we really have to enforce legislation to hear our own artists on the radio? The role of radio seems to have radically changed and is more focused on DJ’s attempting witty banter than actually providing music to its listeners. Maybe if less time was spent on speaking senseless drivel they would actually have the time to listen through the music. When they do decide to play ten songs in a row they proudly state something along the lines of ”we play more non stop music than anyone else". That maybe the case but it’s all the same music. Why does every radio station pride itself on being homogenous and blending into one another?

Perfectly acceptable songs are being made tedious by constant airplay while possibly better ones aren’t even getting the chance to drive us mad. I can honestly count on two hands the amount of times I have heard Olly Murs “oohing about his baby” on the radio today. Maybe it's time to give someone else a chance to sing about their crazy quest for love as we know there are plenty of Unsigned Irish Artists out there already doing so. 

DM

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