With the rapid increase in online streaming platforms, the way in which we engage with music has transformed. What was once a case of buying and receiving CDs & cassettes (or records for those of a riper age among us) has now become condensed down into our laptops and smartphones without any real effort or adventure involved on our behalf. It is this change in music culture that is unfortunately destroying the optimism for alternative and new musicians making their way in the industry, as they struggle to keep afloat with what little funding they have raised themselves.
Sadly, TXFM, a glimmer of hope among the ‘bad guys’ that are online streaming outlets and mainstream radio stations, has also said its final goodbyes to its dedicated listenership. TXFM were one of the only radio stations in Ireland that truly dedicated itself to supporting new and alternative music. With the culture of online streaming, musicians could find solace in knowing there was at least one radio station giving them air-time. As former presenter Shelly Gray says: “It was the solution to the mainstream pop music” that had taken over our airwaves.
For Gray, TXFM was “always about the music,” something that is arguably absent on other stations.” TXFM provided a platform for new Irish artists to have their music heard by the masses and, unfortunately, the station’s closure means these artists will likely suffer in terms of music sales and gig attendance. A special shout out to Cathal Funge, who presented The Listening Post – a show dedicated to new Irish music.
In a world of Spotify, YouTube and repetitive pop music churning around on mainstream radio stations, it was qualities such as these that encouraged the promising musicians in Ireland, and the reality of Gray’s words can be seen in alternative rock band Fight Like Apes’ recent Facebook post announcing their break up. In their post, Fight Like Apes admit that, while being in a band in our current musical climate can be an amazing experience, at the end of the day the financial challenges that they faced were too strenuous to overcome. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your £10 subscription to Deezer and Spotify helps us at all. It does not. Look how many bands are on there and do the maths.”
A similar sentiment is shared by Hot Press Deputy Editor Stuart Clark, as he comments on the issue of online music and how “paying quids to Spotify” is doing no good for smaller musicians in Ireland. Clark also comments on TXFM as catering for a niche within a niche as Dublin is just too much of a “small market.” This is something also touched upon by Gray as she draws attention towards “the effort to find TXFM on the FM and realise it existed…TXFM relied on this organic listenership to keep the station alive.” Unfortunately, though, what gave TXFM its special quality also resulted in its demise – alternative music for Dubliners makes little to no profit.
From a musician’s perspective, Daniel Malone, guitarist of The Dyatonics (also featured on Funge’s show), explains how he is only all too familiar with the challenges of getting their music on air. As a member of a five-piece prog rock band, Malone says how “radio is non-significant to any band operating in our niche market.” The majority of the time it’s all about “who you know” in the industry when getting your music out there to the masses, highlighting the importance of TXFM’s efforts on air.
Malone portrays this best through his experience of spending “five hours walking around every stretch of town in the pissing rain handing [their] CD’s into stations” at the end of which only one gave them some air time – John Barker at 98FM. Yet, only a year later, they manage to secure themselves a slot at the Electric Picnic festival because of someone they knew. In his words, “Maximum Effort = Minimum Reward, Minimum Effort = Maximum Reward.” While Malone is positive about a potential replacement for TXFM, Clark and Gray seem to hold a more pessimistic outlook. Clark comments on TXFM’s closure as “disheartening;” the station, he says, seemed to have “exhausted all avenues.”
In Gray’s eyes, however, part of the Irish music scene died on 26th October, 2016. Her words lament the sorry reality surrounding developments of music culture on a larger scale. The demise of alternative music will only progress if we continue to choose streaming over purchasing hard copies from musicians themselves, and while we’ve had to say goodbye to a gem in the alternative music sphere, we now have the choice to invest in musicians directly, and go back to the grass-roots of music consumption.