RELEASING music into the world has never been easier. With the growth of social media, and digital platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud, Ditto, Youtube, iTunes and Tiktok, singers and musicians have instant access to engaged audiences worldwide.
In fact, Chance the Rapper made Grammy history when he became the first winner to have never sold physical copies of his music.
So, if you have a song, a smartphone and a dream, there’s little stopping you from following the likes of Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Macklemore, and even Ed Sheeran into the international independent music industry.
The changes in technology for both the creative, and also the consumption side of the industry, have created a sort of digital democracy for music. Twenty years ago - in a predominantly physical market of CDs - you really needed a gatekeeper to back you, a label to invest in you.
Now, it’s entirely possible to manage and own all of your music, explains Gill Dooley, the new CEO of the Association of Independent Music in Ireland (AIM Ireland).
“The diversity of what we are now producing, and the ecosystem that’s evolving here for music in Ireland, is certainly more buoyant than a decade ago,” she said.
As a result of the increase in independent artists coming out of Ireland, non-profit industry trade association Aim Ireland began operating in 2021.
“We are at a point where we need to harness that talent, and the talents of the teams who work with these artists,” says Gill.
“We need to create sustainable career paths in music in Ireland.”
AIM Ireland represents more than 100 members who work with artists, including managers, producers, recording studios, live agents, publishers, services and indie labels.
In Cork, members of AIM include Jawdropper Music Management, Blue Monkey PR, and the In Bloom Agency. They also represent CWB who manage Cork-based musician, Jack O’Rourke.
“Most major music markets have an independent trade association - A2IM in the US, VUT in Germany, AIM in the UK - but Ireland had never established one,” says Gill, whose father’s family are from Ringaskiddy.
“With the growth of the independent scene here, we felt a collective voice and representation for Ireland was needed.”
Gill has been working professionally in the music industry for nearly 20 years. Having grown up with a passion for music and music magazines - “Smash Hits was my bible!” - Gill always knew she wanted to work with musicians.
She began by volunteering for a local radio show, went on to study Media Management with a focus on music, and in 2003 got her first big break working for major record label, EMI.
In 2007, she joined Universal in Dublin, rising up the ranks to the role of Director of Digital & Business Development.
Eleven years later, Gill left Universal to embark on a career as an independent artist manager and music consultant.
During her career, Gill has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry – Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, Robert Plant, Lady Gaga – and has always been struck by their level of courtesy and professionalism.
“I honestly don’t know if you can be at the top tier without that,” says Gill.
“The biggest names in the world rarely resulted in a 'Don’t Meet Your Heroes' moment. Quite often it can be artists who are not at that level yet... and more specifically their teams, who can prove more difficult to work with.
"But I feel very lucky to have worked with so many strong and influential female artists, writers and producers too - that’s inspiring to me as a female executive.”
What remains uninspiring in the music industry is its continued sexism. Recent research from Music Business Worldwide found that the mean gender pay gap across the major record companies is 28.2%, while at Spotify, it’s 15.3%.
In the top-earning quartile of Apple UK in 2020, 87% of employees were male and 13% female, while the average hourly rate of pay across Apple’s UK business was 18% lower for women. Fighting back against this are organisations such as KeyChange, Women in CTRL, and shesaid.so.
“Here in Ireland, us female and non-binary managers have a network called the Irish Women’s Music Manager Forum”, adds Gill.
“But really it comes down to women needing to not have their gender used as a threat to their earning potential and career progression.
“I would like to see more female Irish artists backed by meaningful support across streaming and radio - there’s a lot of conversation around that right now.
"But it’s telling that we haven’t broken a female pop star out of Ireland in years. We have them - we have Ruth Anne Cunningham, Soulé, Aimée, Lea Hart and more - but it takes a collective support to make an impact outside of Ireland.”
It’s clear that releasing music into the world has never been easier, but there are still barriers preventing women from getting heard and paid equally.
“And that,” says Gill, “will take some time to change.”
To find out more about AIM Ireland, go to: www.aimireland.ie