David Coffey Thesis

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SO303 Special Research Topic- Third Year Sociology

How has austerity impacted on a local music scene and how is this issue being addressed or explained?

David Coffey13314626Third Year SociologySpecial Topic Leader: Colin CoulterSubmission Date: 29/4/2016.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements (page 4)

Abstract (page 5)

(1) Introduction and Research Question

(1.1) Introduction (pages 6-9)

(2) Literature Review

(2.1) Contextualisation: Make it a pop song so we can sing along (pages 10-13) (2.2) Come back to the house where nobody lives: The rise, fall and anticipation of Droghedas music scene (pages 14-17)

(3) Research Question, Methodology and Methods

(3.1) Aim (page 18)

(3.2) Qualitative Methods (pages 18-19)

(3.3) Data Sources (page 20)

(3.4) Ethics (pages 20-21)

(3.5) Positive and Negative Aspects (pages 21-23)

(4) Discussion of Findings

(4.1) Introduction (page 24)

(4.2) Working for a livin: Singing on the job (pages 25-30)

(4.3) Pay me my money down: The financial struggle (pages 31-34)

(4.4) Build it up, tear it down: the rise (again) of dance music and reflections on where the scene is heading (pages 34-36)

(4.5) Conclusion of Findings (page 36)

Conclusion (pages 37-38)

Bibliography (pages 39-43)

Appendices (pages 44-52)

AcknowledgementsI would like to thank everyone who has helped me throughout the last few months in completing this research project. I would like to thank all the interviewees who gave up their time and provided me with some invaluable information and insights. In addition, I would like to thank my thesis supervisor, Colin Coulter, for his steady guidance and patience over the course of the year. Finally, I wish to thank my parents, Mary and Pat for their unwavering support in all my pursuits. The early morning lifts and scrambled egg breakfasts mean more than youll ever know.

AbstractThis piece of research addresses the lived experience of the musical community in the town of Drogheda during the most recent period of economic recession and supposed recovery. For all the media attention that has focused on Irish international musical exports and historical musical tradition, little to no investigation has been carried out regarding what is an integral part of every Irish town and village- a music scene. Through the use of qualitative interviews with selected figures, ranging widely in age, a picture will be constructed of the sharp decline and now apparent improvement in such a scene, in a town consistently noted for its musical and artistic prowess. The course it has taken correlates with existing literature on music scenes in times of economic downturn and in addition, is reflective of recent academic and political commentary on the state of the nation.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Research Question

(1.1) Introduction

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe- The National, Bloodbuzz Ohio

Not so long ago, while scrolling mindlessly through the political host of comedy gold that is the Journal.ie article comments, I stumbled upon one of the strangest yet thought-inspiring websites I have encountered in some time. Its called Free Ireland, and its two most prominent features are entitled Bailout and Recession Songs and Punk Economics, a video blog created by renowned economist and broadcaster David McWilliams. Both of these titles jumped out immediately to this suddenly intrigued final year undergraduate, whose ideas for a thesis seemed to have run as dry as the taps that were beyond repair in a crumbling Maynooth student house. The woes of the Irish economy and its people have been given ample column inches and media coverage since the fateful issuing of the bank guarantee on 30th September 2008 by then Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan- a sum which amounted to 440 billion, more than twice the value of the Irish economy (Coulter 2015: 7). This, from a country that had been ranked third on an economic Index of Freedom only one year previously and had, from 1994 to 2001 registered economic growth of around 8 per cent, an unprecedented figure (Allen and OBoyle 2013: 4; Coulter 2015: 5). McWilliams emerged during the so-called Celtic Tiger (a phrase actually coined by a UK economist, Kevin Gardiner, who compared Irelands rapid economic growth with that of the Asian tiger economies) as a staunch critic of the rapidly expanding and ultimately unsustainable housing bubble that lasted from 2000 to 2007. His expert opinions, after years spent working as an economist in the Central Bank of Ireland and Banque Nationale de Paribas to name but a few, expounded in the form of not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of words remained a constant irritant to politicians, bankers and others who continued to gain immeasurably from exceptional economic expansion (McWilliams 2015). However, as an old Irish psyche replaced a new one and post-nationalist ideals began to express themselves strongly in the new millennium, voices like McWilliams were shunted to one side and only recalled ruefully when the damage was already well and truly done (see the Report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis- David McWilliams Early Warnings, Divergent & Contrarian Views) (Coulter 2003: 14-15). Currently, you would be hard pressed to find avid, total support for the governmental regime (or lack thereof) in place. There is widespread revisionism promulgated throughout Irish politics, where the section of people who grew comfortable, prosperous and powerful in southern society during the boom who were reluctant to challenge prevailing ideologies of greed and excess are now the same characters set to form a new government, advocating the tightening of belts to a country that once again was living way beyond its means (Ferguson 2011; Hogan 2011). The huge injustices that the majority of Irish citizens have had to endure since the bank guarantee and the subsequent IMF-negotiated bailout two years later has led to a cacophonic response but one without unity. My question to you is: in a time of economic and social upheaval that this country has not experienced since perhaps its formation, where is the unifying voice of song to express the blatant anger and frustration felt by so many for the last number of years? Regarding the second feature of the website mentioned earlier, the Bailout and Recession Songs, whose titles include Session thru the Recession and Brian Cowen song, their corresponding meme-based, political caricature videos are more reminiscent of Livelines Funny Fridays segment than a serious artistic expression of revolt against societal injustice. Historically, music has served as a unifying expression of emotion towards a particular event or existing structure and can act as a powerful means of recruitment and strengthen a sense of community (Pieslak 2015). The research I have carried out draws on the experience of a variety of people, some who I have built relationships with over the last few years and others who I sought out to provide me with greater insight into an aspect of local community that has intrigued, involved and excited me for most of my teenage years. I have played in different bands for almost five and a half years at the time of writing, but have been raised and surrounded by music from a much earlier age- it is a central ingredient of my day-to-day life. As someone who had just begun secondary school when Minister Lenihan made the momentous decision to save the big six banks at the expense of the Irish taxpayer, my understanding of gargantuan policy decisions was limited to quick scans of newspaper headlines- there was probably a new album on release that I had a much keener interest in buying. Now, my aim is to unite a newfound knowledge of how this country entered into such a dramatic financial meltdown with my ever-present interest in all things musical. Music and politics have for centuries been intertwined, from the proclamation in 1734 of then-governor of New York, William Cosby, promising a reward for the detection of Scandalous Songs or Ballads and the subsequent public burning of broadsides collected to the biting protest songs of Bob Dylan, campaigning for justice for wrongly imprisoned boxer, Rubin Carter (Dunaway 1987). My intention is to cast some light on how political decisions have had repercussions for musical expression on a much smaller, much less celebrated scale. As will be explored further in this work, it will become clear that music has meant something very different to each of the people I have been in conversation with. For some it is merely a passionate pursuit, a hobby that they indulge in away from work and family commitments. For others, it is their primary source of income, whether through gigging, organising gigs or on a grander scale, stemming away from a purely local setting, radio work, public relations and marketing. For the rest and for so many others, it is something that they are aware of in the background, existing as noise to be shouted over- much like the political rhetoric that has being spouted for best part of three decades.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

(2.1)- Contextualisation: Make it a pop song so we can sing along

Last month, an Irish singer-songwriter by the name of Gavin James won the prestigious Choice Music Prize for Song of the Year 2015 with his ballad, Bitter Pill (Laverty 2016). He did this in the face of stiff competition in an eclectic category, which included songs by artists experiencing phenomenal success presently, such as Hozier and Kodaline, and promising upcoming artists like Mullingar-based band The Academic and stalwarts of the Irish music scene, Fight Like Apes. The winning song deals with the familiar subject matter of a