Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Irish Music Industry Promotion
48. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she is taking to increase co-operation and co-ordination between the different sources of funding for musicians, Culture Ireland, Irish Music Rights Organisation and First Music Contact, in order to make the best use of available resources; if she has consulted the Department of Social Protection or the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation regarding the feasibility of developing targeted schemes for those interested in working in the music industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43483/15]
Earlier this year, IMRO reported that the Irish music industry contributes more than €470 million to the domestic economy and supports more than 9,000 direct jobs in Ireland. Every €1 invested in the industry generates between €4 and €7. However, the same report found that our industry is struggling to realise its full potential. There is very little co-ordination between the main bodies working to support the arts in Ireland, the Arts Council, IMRO and the various Departments concerned, which presents a huge obstacle to the development of an effective Irish music industry. I asked the Minister months ago whether she would take any steps to increase the co-operation and co-ordination among the different sources of funding, including the various Departments. Has she made any progress in that area?
The Government appreciates the importance of the cultural and creative industries to Ireland, including the music industry. Primary responsibility for the promotion and support of the arts, including music, is devolved to the Arts Council. The council, which is funded by my Department, is statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations and, specifically, in its funding decisions. The Arts Council sets out its approach to its statutory functions in periodic strategy documents. Recently, the council published a new strategy statement, Making Great Art Work. The strategy statement sets out the Arts Council's plans to lead the development of the arts in the decade 2016–2025. The new strategy prioritises the two policy areas: the artist and public engagement. The document outlines a range of actions that the Arts Council has set itself in order to deliver on its vision.
In addition to Arts Council interventions, Culture Ireland within my Department provides supports for Irish artists and musicians. Its remit is to promote the Irish arts worldwide by creating and supporting opportunities for Irish artists and companies to present and promote their work at strategic international festivals and venues. Culture Ireland plays a major part in promoting the Irish arts and music on the world stage. Culture Ireland funds and works closely with First Music Contact, or FMC, to promote and create opportunities for Irish bands to tour internationally. As part of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival delivered by FMC in Dublin every October, Culture Ireland supports the travel of international buyers to attend the festival. As part of the event, seminars on how to maximise international touring opportunities are held for those in the music industry. My Department also provides support for music through its funding of the music capital scheme, which is delivered by Music Network.
As part of budget 2016, I was pleased to announce a 12% increase in allocations across a range of areas, including the Ireland 2016 centenary programme and a new investment programme for regional arts and cultural centres. There will be significant benefits accruing for musicians from many of the Ireland 2016 programmes supported by this additional funding, including at international level.
The Minister refers to funding from this area and that area, but she must admit that we compare poorly with international standards. Sadly, the arts are not seen in Ireland as businesses in their own right.
Often, the State treats music as a hobby, something that people do before they get jobs. The lack of support is felt at individual level, with many people forced onto the dole or into JobBridge or Gateway. The impression given is that people who are trying to start in music should be playing gigs for free to get exposure.
The lack of support is also felt at community level by local organisations that support music in the regions and rely heavily on the Arts Council for their survival. For example, the Music in Kilkenny group, an organisation that holds 20 concerts throughout the year in the south east and is regarded as one of Ireland's most active and successful classical music promoters, found out last week that its annual grant of €11,000 was being cut completely. Music for Wexford, a similar body, endured a cut recently. This not only affects organisations and deprives local areas of cultural events but also hits artists, who lose out on performance opportunities.
Many sectors get tax exemptions and various supports that are in a different league than what the music industry gets. Despite the fact we are a small island with a small population, music is powerful in Ireland.
I agree that we need to support artists in reaching their full potential. Funding for artists is provided through the Arts Council, which is independent. The Deputy mentioned a body that did not receive funding, but that must be a decision for the Arts Council. It funds many and various artists, organisations and events throughout the country. We increased its funding this year compared with last year's budget.
My Department principally supports artists and arts organisations through the work of the Arts Council. Culture Ireland plays a major part in promoting Irish artists and music on the world stage through a number of schemes and initiatives. The Irish Film Board works hard to support writers, directors and producers by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film, television and animation projects.
Perhaps we should insist on more accountability from the Arts Council in how it operates if the Minister is raising question marks over it. I understand that there is a 10% minimum of Irish artists played on radio, in particular by RTE. Given that the Government controls RTE, perhaps the Minister will have a word with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with a view to improving this figure. For example, France insists on 40% of the music played on its national airwaves being French. It would make a major difference if we increased our minimum to 30%. That would be a threefold increase.
It would be a big break for Irish musicians.
Apart from the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, who it would not be worth talking to, given the way he controls RTE, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht stated the last time that I raised questions with her that she would discuss grants for artists with the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection. Has she done that yet?
Funding for artists is a matter for the Arts Council, which does a good job and is independent. It receives funding of €59 million, which is approximately one third of my budget. It decides who qualifies for funding, has set up a panel and does assessments. Any decision in that regard lies with it. I understand the Deputy's remarks about more Irish music being played on radio. That is a complex issue, as we all know. If he has suggestions, I would be happy to hear them.