Ray Wingnut recently interviewed Martin Mackie, who is helping to put on the Fire Escape festival in Rathmines, Dublin, on June 27 and 28. Firstly, you can expect a stellar cast of Irish bands over the weekend, including the North Sea, Mossy Nolan, Idiot Songs, Fiction Peaks, Otherkin, Crowhammer, Percolator, Elastic Sleep (pictures above), and Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, among many more. Tickets are €20 and are available here. Mackie and the festival want to make sure that all of the bands playing the festival get paid. He tells Ray that there’s a two-tier system in Ireland, particularly among some festivals – though no names are mentioned – where Irish bands don’t get paid but huge fees are handed over to bring over “Pitchfork acts” and “buzz bands. You can hear the whole interview below, while I’ve also transcribed a couple minutes where Mackie discusses why the argument to play for exposure and beer in lieu of pay is bullshit.
“We are fundamentally against this two-tier system in Irish music that is paying people and other people don’t get paid. It happens too often. So we basically said, we’re gonna have a festival and everyone is gonna get something. Because if you go to a music festival, the person selling the burgers gets paid, the person doing security gets paid, the person putting up the tents gets paid. But very often, lots of the Irish artists don’t get paid because they’re used as stocking fillers to fill up the lineup and I’ve done the sums and there’s no excuse for any festival not to pay any band. It’s a cop out; all they’re going to do is make slightly less amount of profit but they’d rather not do that. They sell it on the big lie that it’s good for exposure. It’s not good for exposure. It just doesn’t work.
“Thing is, right around this country, everybody’s rents are going up, everybody’s struggling to make ends meet; you cannot take somebody who makes music as a living and offer them beer, three beers. Last time I checked, my landlord doesn’t accept beer in lieu of the rent. So even a hundred euro here or a hundred euro there for a band can make a difference when it comes to paying your rent or to get your fuel down to Clonakilty, wherever it is. Very often we’ve spent money to get to somewhere and then the fee barely covers the travel, which is fine as long as you’re not out of pocket. We tried to push this a couple years ago but it didn’t really work because basically bands are selfish: as soon as a band starts to do well ‘forget about the people who aren’t getting paid, we’re getting paid’, and that’s all they think about, and on and on it goes. So we’re somehow trying to instil this sense that we’re all in this together, all the bands should unify, all the venues should do the sensible thing and the morally right thing and that is to pay a band who comes down. Lots of them already do, but if we try and build a new Irish music industry – for wont of a loftier term – from the bottom up, if we know we can drive to Clonmel and we’re gonna get a hundred quid, great, you’ll do it. And you can sort of look after yourself in that way. You can play, get your music out there and it’s not costing you. So we’re just trying to make that the norm.
“More bands who say, no we’re not playing for free, you’re gonna have to pay us; then the more promoters will have to play along. And who knows, maybe one or two will say, you know what – because lots of people in Irish music are decent people, even the ones who are working in festivals and working in a sort of culture of them and us. They’re used to treating you like a dog, like a second class citizen, simply because that’s what they’ve learned. But they say to you backstage of in the pub, we’d rather pay you and everything, because they’re decent people. So really we want to shame the music industry into behaving in a moral way. … We’re just trying to put on a festival and lead by example: pay every band, have a lot of fun, have a great festival and send everybody home happy…
“What I object to is when you’re spending huge sums of money bringing these bands in from around the world. You get good bands, but usually you get these Pitchfork bands through, you read about them on Pitchfork and people go, oh have you heard of Tinkering Bells or Howling Feet or whatever they’re called this week? Everybody goes, yeah they’re amazing, and then they piss off and you never hear from them again. It’s the same rubbish all the time and you’re meant to swallow this amazing band from the States. It’s a lie. So when they’re getting paid and the Irish aren’t getting paid, I go, why can’t we get paid too? it’s just this basic thing of saying to the promoters, you’ve got to pay everyone.”