What to expect at Music Cork this week

Don O’Mahony looks forward to Music Cork, this weekend, the conference in its third year, which offers delegates who attend a chance to network with the movers and the shakers in the industry
What to expect at Music Cork this week
Pillow Queens, showcase band.

EVEN in a country as small as Ireland not everyone involved in the business side of music has met each other. This was a fact brought home at the inaugural Music Cork conference in 2017. Now in its third year, Music Cork has played its part in creating a focus point for the domestic music business and fostering greater links between the industry’s players.

“I always find it very interesting mainly getting just a group of Irish people within the industry in the same room,” remarks Jim Lawless, one of the event’s founders.

 “Even though we’re all working the same market we still only end up meeting each other at events like these.”

It was this very observation that spurred the organisers of Music Cork to create the event. The core group are involved in different sectors of the industry and developed a friendship through their intersecting areas. Lawless manages The Coronas and Fangclub; Shane Dunne is the person behind Indiependence music and arts festival; Alexis Vokos runs the Delphi label, home of We Cut Corners; and Willie Ryan is a barrister who specialises in intellectual property law and whose expertise has been called upon by each of the other principals at some point or another.

Jim Lawless - Music Cork organiser. Picture: Dara Munnis
Jim Lawless - Music Cork organiser. Picture: Dara Munnis

Through attending internationally renowned music conferences like Texas’ South by Southwest, Eurosonic in The Netherlands and Brighton’s The Great Escape the idea of doing an Irish event was hatched.

Says Lawless: “You’d meet all these people who were from the Irish industry [at these events] and you’d be ‘We must meet again. We must have a chat,’ and we don’t see them until the next year at the same event. The whole point was creating a focal point for the Irish music industry that we’d be able to meet in Ireland and network.”

The scale of Music Cork is far smaller than those more illustrious events. It was the organisers’ intention to create a more intimate event, capping the number of tickets at the 300 mark in order to make access to the guest speakers a lot easier for the delegates.

“We want it to be a three prong thing with Music Cork where the delegates will come [and] get access to the speakers,” explains Shane Dunne.

“So you get five minutes in the pub on either Wednesday night or Thursday night, or over coffee in the hotel on the Thursday or brunch on the Friday morning; get that five minutes to maybe make a face to face contact that might help you down the road.

Philly Taggart - BBC Radio 1 DJ, Music Cork speaker
Philly Taggart - BBC Radio 1 DJ, Music Cork speaker

“Then you want the panels to be informative and people to learn, to take something away from it. But then you want someone to be somewhat entertaining. So you want people to really enjoy it across all the panels and across the three days and that the networking is enjoyable and it’s really informative.

“Me of the other the ten nearly of us involved in this. We’ve been to so many of these things, to Eurosonic and The Great Escape and to South By South West, all of these much bigger international conferences. The stuff we didn’t like from those, the queuing, or the cost, or how difficult it was to talk to a speaker, they were the things that we said ‘Right, we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen here. That everything as easy and as free flowing as it can be. I think we’ve done that for the first couple of years. Hopefully it will continue this year.”

Since the end of the last century the music business has been in a massive state of flux. The decline of traditional record companies and industry structures might lead more cynical types to believe an event like Music Cork overplays the importance of traditional industry models, but Lawless is quick to point out the importance of networking.

“Like any business, you’re as good as your contacts really,” he states. 

Mango X Mathman - Music Cork showcase artists
Mango X Mathman - Music Cork showcase artists

“And the whole point of this is to be able to put people in a room who may necessarily not actually be able to get a chance to meet James Whitting (Imagine Dragons, Ellie Goulding) or Lucy Dickins (Adele, Hotchip, Mumford & Sons) or the likes of Paul Craig (Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand, INXS).

“For a band or manager to be able to say hello to this person and say ‘Hey look, I have something that you might be interested in,’ or even just get advice it’s invaluable.

“The real value in Music Cork is being able to get in a room with 200 people and be able to talk to the people who are at the pinnacle of the music industry.”



It felt immediately apparent during the inaugural Music Cork in 2017 that this was an extremely significant addition to a vibrant calendar of events taking place in the city.

Its free music trail showcases the best of up and coming Irish artists.

But more importantly, the three-day event, running from Wednesday, May 1- Friday, May 3, makes it possible for those artists to be in the same room as some of the top national and international music industry figures and gain an insight on the complicated workings of the business while offering networking opportunities. musiccork.com

Shane Dunne - Music Cork organiser 
Shane Dunne - Music Cork organiser 


When you invite a legion of music industry people to town, it’s up to you to provide the music and the line-ups at the various showcases and these demonstrate that Irish music is in very rude health.

“When you look at the amount of talent coming out of Ireland, you can’t deny it,” says Music Cork’s Jim Lawless. While talent is cyclical, a stream of Irish artists is signing deals, be they publishing or label-related.

Of the artists selected for the four free Music Cork showcase gigs, Lawless says: “We try our best to ensure every act that we put on that we would stand over and be confident they’re in a position to make the most of it.”

Music Cork kicks off on the Wednesday with the 2FM Rising Showcase with SEAT, in Cyprus Avenue.

Drawing from the 2FM Rising list, which champions 12 of the very best new and upcoming Irish acts, the line-up draws heavily on urban and hip-hop styles, with Westmeath’s Flynn; Dublin emcee and producer duo Mango x Mathman; and JyellowL, whose on the bill despite taking a pop at the music industry on his single ‘Medussa’.

Proving there’s always a place for melodic riffs and punk rock guitars, all-female quartet Pillow Queens completes the bill, before heading out a in support of SOAK’s UK and Ireland tour.

Doors are at 8pm. The event is free, but ticketed and tickets are available through eventbrite or musiccork.com.

Thursday’s showcase gigs take place in three adjacent venues. The first, commencing at 8pm in the Crane Lane, is the IMRO showcase, which features Belfast singer-songwriter Aislinn Logan, Mullingar leftfield urban pop duo Xo Mo, and Dublin indie rock outfit Milk.

Around the corner from the Crane Lane, the Music Cork Showcase begins at 8:30pm at the Old Oak.

This is the most mainstream pop stage of the event’s three years. And no Irish female vocalist has been more unabashedly pop as Dubliner Aimée. Joining her on the bill are not one but two former boyband members. Not only that, they’re both refugees from the same outfit, Hometown. Who would have imagined seeing two former wards of Louis Walsh at such an event? It will be interesting to see what kind of audience will be there, for both Ryan Mack and Josh Gray.

Sanity is restored upstairs in Cyprus Avenue, at the Nialler9 stage, with the variously noisy and energetic alternative and indie rock sounds of Thumper, Inhaler, and Somebody’s Child, quirky pop of Elkin, and the more experimentally leaning Kitt Philippa.

All Thursday showcase gigs are free and un-ticketed, but access is on a first-come first-served basis.


For delegates, the second day of Music Cork involves lively discussions about the music industry. Syncing (the acquiring of music for film, TV dramas, and advertisements) will be discussed from an independent artist’s point of view. Streaming, branding, and management are other topics for discussion, but it’s not all technical.

‘Being The Artist’ is the title of one of the panels. Moderated by BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart, the panel features Danny O’Reilly (The Coronas), Lar Kaye (All Tvvins), producer Philip Magee, and Louize Carroll.

Louize is a composer and bass player with The Blizzards, but, as a chartered occupational psychologist, she brings a different insight to the table.

Recently, for IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation), she gave a talk about mental health in the music industry, a topic that needs to be discussed more.

“I think, particularly in the last ten years, the conversation has been getting louder and clearer and more assertive about mental health in this country, but I think, now, it’s moving its way into specific arenas, where, maybe, it had been a bit underground, and the music industry being one of them. I think each industry has its own difficulties and, particularly when it comes to mental health, the music industry is quite a serious one,” she says.

Noting that the stress points involved in music have increased with the demands of social media, she adds: “There are lots of nuanced little toxic things that underpin behaviours in the music industry.”

Having been a solo artist and session musician, Carroll says she became jaded navigating the music industry.

“Hitting a lot of those pockets of stress,” she says. “I’m one for pushing yourself forward, but it was quite difficult.”

The decision to take a break for a year was important for her.

“I didn’t touch a guitar and it was a real rediscovery of what I was on this Earth to do,” she says.

Setting her mind on composing for film and TV, she did a course with the composer Christopher Young (Hellraiser, The Rum Diary), which she credits with rekindling her spark.

“Honestly, it was like discovering the reason for what it is I need to do here on this planet,” she says.

Delegate passes are €109, and passes for students are €30.

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