For many years now various campaigns have attempted to increase the amount of Irish music on Irish radio with little success. Despite claims of looking for ‘a level playing-field’, far too often these campaigns were led by vested interests focused on a singular genre such as Traditional Irish music which would actively make it harder for other genres to get on radio.
While these people were looking inward, the vast majority of Irish creatives were looking beyond our shores, soaking up inspiration in rock, electronic and hip hop. This infusion of new genres into Ireland has created a vibrant music scene that has produced more internationally recognised music acts than in any previous time-frame and yet there remains a hesitance within Irish radio and television to back certain subsets of Irish music.
Following a report from PR Linda Coogan Byrne into gender diversity within Irish radio, it seems that this problem is more widespread than most would think. Most stations in Ireland are currently featuring between 0-15% female artists within their Top 20, with the exception of RTE Radio One at 50%. For many with a close eye on this situation, this will come as no surprise. But for a lot of people, who are still basking in the success of the Irish Women in Harmony single and the quality of acts featured, this will be a sore introduction to this issue.
Soulé, with her single ‘Love Tonight’, is one of only a handful of tracks by women to feature in the top 50 most played tracks across Irish radio last year, the rest are male. In fact, you’re more likely to hear B*Witched on Irish airwaves than a 2020 Irish female debut single.
The counterargument put forward by Irish radio is “if they are good enough, we will play them” and, while nobody wants to be the token female play, there are clearly lots of Irish female acts that deserve to be played on radio who are being overlooked.
Take up-and-coming artist Luz, she operates in a similar musical sphere to many of her male counterparts and her songs are just as good and perfectly plotted for daytime radio. Her slow banger ‘I’m Lonely’, released this year, has 2.2million plays on Spotify, yet only picked up five plays on national radio. While cases can’t be made on one single alone, slow tracks from other Irish artists that have nowhere near 2.2million Spotify streams have featured heavily on Irish radio.
Similarly, Laoise and Orla Gartland have been producing playlist level pop for years now with little impact on radio. Fia Moon’s ‘Better Days’ is another example of a tune that sounds similar to international hits being played on heavy rotation. In many cases, these acts are picking up airplay in the UK and beyond. So why not in Ireland?
Of the Irish acts that do get played, they are predominately male and operate within the same sphere: Gavin James, Niall Horan, Kodaline, The Coronas, Picture This, The Script, Dermot Kennedy etc – this is not a dig at the success or popularity of any of those acts as we cover them all, but rather an illustration of Irish radio’s unwillingness to be open-minded and actively go out searching for new artists and sounds that meet the same standards to feature on their playlists.
Even within this, Dermot Kennedy was selling out large venues across America and featuring heavily on BBC Radio 1 playlists before Irish radio generally got behind him and started to play him as part of their A-List rotations. The same can be said for Hozier before him.
We must not forget and praise the work of the speciality shows from the likes of Dan Hegarty, John Barker, John Kelly, Tara Stewart, Ed Smith, Paul McLoone and others. While it’s great that these bastions of new and varied music exist, it’s primetime plays where the improvement must come. The reason being, simply numbers. For example, the daily reach of Tracey Clifford (12-3pm on 2FM) is 142,000*, while the daily reach of Tara Stewart (7-10pm) is 28,000. While plays later on are great, they simply don’t pack the same punch. The quality and choice exists, don’t let them tell you otherwise. *(JNLR report, Oct 2019)
Perhaps one major problem within Irish radio is that, outside of speciality shows, the would-be success and future of the music scene in Ireland is in the hands of a select few people who hold the position of the Head of Music or scheduler. So much influence sits with so few.
However, in defence of radio, it is understandable why many acts don’t get regular airplay due to the style of music rather than the quality. Vernon Jane will never receive much airplay due to the amount of profanity and song titles such as ‘Fuck Me’. Aoife Nessa Francis’ has produced one of the best Irish albums of 2020 so far, but its Byrds-inspired folk musings will never trouble Spin 103.8’s or FM104’s playlists with its hazy goodness and neither would her male counterparts such as Fionn Regan for that matter.
Yes, we want to see more Irish females on Irish radio, but to achieve that we have to be realistic. The music has to be comparable to what they are already playing in order to stand a chance. There’s no point comparing apples to oranges.
That said, radio programmers throughout Ireland need to up their game and widen their gaze. There is plenty of radio-ready music being made by women in Ireland suitable for daytime radio.
The success of the collaborative single from Irish Women in Harmony illustrates just how much female musical talent exists within Ireland, in fact, it only includes a fraction of the talent out there right now in 2020. We’ve selected some acts that we believe deserve to be play-listed by your favourite Irish radio stations.
It’s easy to compile a list of incredible female Irish musicians operating in Ireland at present, we’re beyond lucky to have a wealth of female musicians right now. But compiling a list of artists and songs that would struggle to make it on Irish radio is a counter-productive exercise and will see music programmers switch off at the first sound of bad production, unsuitable lyrical content or songs in alternative genres that do not feature on daytime radio.
We are not here to reinvent the wheel, but instead to highlight the hypocrisy of the “there isn’t anything suitable out there” bandwagon that these employees fall back on, if not publicly, then behind the scenes.
For that reason, we are selecting songs that we deem suitable for daytime, morning and evening plays across local and national radio in Ireland. This will aim to highlight the quality that exists and the clear and obvious shunning of major stations in Ireland.
The songs themselves then must fit within the mould of what Irish radio plays generally on daytime radio, must have been released in and around the last 365 days and of course be released by an Irish female artist.
There is a problem, it can be fixed, it should be fixed.
Please listen and give our playlist a follow on Spotify:
(we’ll be updating it in future with pop-friendly tunes from Irish females)
Some info on just some of the selections in our playlist:
Soda Blonde – Remember Little Green Cars who used to be all over the radio? Well, Soda Blonde are Little Green Cars minus one + a more radio friendly sound.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 217
Joy Crookes is a superstar plain and simple. You shouldn’t be able to see a car door open in Ireland without hearing one of her tracks wafting out at you.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 133
Orla Gartland has harnessed the power of YouTube like few other Irish acts to create an army of fans around the world. Her perfect catchy-pop tunes and melodies are primed for daytime airplay.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 116
Luz – This Sigrid approved balladeer has amassed over 3 million streams in less than 2 years, with her latest single outperforming Irish Women in Harmony on Spotify since it’s release on Friday.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 14
Biig Piig AKA Jess Smyth is a London based Irish hip hop act, recently signed to RCA records, who has amassed over 23 million streams on Spotify to date. She has regular BBC Radio 1 plays and recently appeared on Later… with Jools Holland.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 96
Fia Moon delivers sultry radio-friendly pop bangers such as Better Days with ease. She ticks all the boxes for primetime play but has yet to make the transition.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 92
Laoise taking her cues from the likes of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Laoise delivers on point radio ready tracks such as 2019’s Seriously? Why wasn’t it a staple on Irish radio?
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 295
Denise Chaila is the undisputed top dog in Irish hip hop right now following her monumental Courage performance. She is the voice of tomorrow, today.
// National radio plays (last 12 months): 113
Note: In the same time period (12 months) – Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’: 65, Britney Spears with ‘Oops I Did It Again’: 151, Daft Punk’s overplayed ‘Get Lucky’: 160, George Ezra’s 2018 hit ‘Shotgun’: 316. (All stats from Radio Monitor, industry standard for plays on radio)