Ripple effect of cancelled gigs is very far-reaching

Nolan Sound in Castlepollard is a three-generation family run business that has been wiped out by the loss off the live entertainment industry.

Alan Nolan has told the Westmeath Examiner how his father Patrick, a Collinstown native, first set up the business in London in 1967.

“He started making valve amplifiers successfully through the 70s, and then he moved over here in 1978. He was involved with Joe Dolan for 20-odd years, supplying the sound and production.

“Then we got in with Daniel O’Donnell and we do all his productions, Tommy Fleming, The High Kings, Three Amigos, and some festivals as well.

“There’s a lot being made about the festival side of things, which is not the whole picture either. We did a lot of work with the country and Irish bands who’d be involved with actual dancing, and there’s a huge thing there that Dublin doesn’t see because there’s is no dancing venue in Dublin.

“Every weekend there’s five or six thousand people out dancing to these bands, not Electric Picnic at all, but all that’s gone and that was a big social thing for people.

“There was a time when the whole scene changed with the drink driving and it evolved into social dancing. Older people would meet up at these dances.

“More and more it was lending itself to concerts, people going to a show at eight o’clock, they were our the door at half 10, and home by 11.

“A lot of business was the concert industry. This year, we had the world tour with Clannad, my son Jamie was doing lighting for that tour. And they had just embarked on that, had done about seven or eight dates and the next thing the whole thing was cancelled.

“We would have been looking forward to the fleadh in Mullingar as well, and we’d also do a lot of sales.

“It’s just gone off the edge of a cliff, a complete stop.”

Above: Three generations of Nolan Sound – Jamie, Patrick and Alan Nolan say their business was wiped out overnight due to Covid-19 restrictions. They want to thank the likes of EPIC and MEAI who have worked to protect companies such as theirs.

“I did say at the start that it would take three years for the industry to come back, and people looked at me as if I was mad, but I still believe that,” continues Alan.

“My view on it is even if there was a vaccine out tomorrow, to vaccinate everyone on the planet is going to take two years. And unless everyone is vaccinated, Covid will never be gone.

“Even if they were to continue the PUP payment, I’m ok, I don’t have a big mortgage and I don’t have huge payments, lucky enough I own all my stuff. But I know other guys who are really in big trouble, renting big premises and owing thousands.

“There are mental pressures of course, I mean, how many times can you walk the dog.

“It has completely stopped. I do everything from a needle to an anchor, I do everything from a little church to a cattle mart or a school, to big concerts. There’s little bits here and there but nothing that would set you on fire!

“Honestly, I’m nearly 60, so if I had a chance I would sell everything and get out of it, because I’ve had enough of it anyway. But my son loves it and while he has degrees the length of my leg and could do something else, he wants to continue it.

“In this market, I would have to sell it out into Europe or a broker worldwide, but the reality is you’d lose half of what you paid for it. The reality is I’m sitting on half a million worth of stock here.

“And of course, because it’s technology driven, you wait three or four years, it will be worth nothing.

“The thing is, a lot of people in the music game are in it because they love it, and it’s got nothing to do with money or a business at all.

“I know a lot of musicians who would head off in a car with €10,000 worth of gear in it, and drive down to Cork and back for €200 – sometimes that doesn’t make sense, but they do it because they love it.

“It’s hard to describe it, there’s a certain buzz to it – if the night goes well, and there’s a big crowd and the crowd are with you, it’s like a drug. So a lot of it is nothing to do with business, .

“I tend to do a lot of folk bands, country bands, where it’s an older audience, the young people are fickle, you could be huge one week with a band and the next thing they’re gone, there’s no loyalty with the youth.

“I’d often see the women arriving with the pumps on and the high heel shoes in the bag, and the men coming with a couple of shirts and bottles of water. They’d be serious dancers and it’s purely for the social interaction.

“Westmeath is not a great place for that type of thing, The Well in Moate is probably the only venue, but there’s loads of places up and down the country, especially in the northern countries, where you could have five or six hundred people.

“In Dublin, all they know is Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan and Lisa McHugh, they don’t know anyone else. And yet the likes of Jimmy Buckley would get seven or eight hundred people into a hotel in Donegal.

“I feel sorry for the musicians, and yet if you were a sculptor, you’d be supported. The arts were given so many million, although that won’t go far.

“A lot of my friends in the business are telling me to sit it out, but sure you can’t sit it out unless you have something to live on. As long as the payments were kept going in some shape or form. People are telling me I’m going to be on Jobseeker’s Allowance, I mean where am I going to get a job at 60 years of age? And I’m a one-trick pony, you know, I do what I do and that’s it.

“And towns like Mullingar need things like the fleadh. Even the street festivals that were on there 20 years ago brought a great buzz to the town and I was involved in quite a few of those. The street festival in Longford last year was a massive success, it brought thousands to the town.

“In fact the night the High Kings were there, they had something like 12,000 people on the street in Longford, and you couldn’t get a hotel room for miles. It does so much to boost a town.

“I can’t really paint a glowing picture because there isn’t one. But if they could support people in some way, that’s the main thing.

“Taxi men, fast food, doormen, even the person hanging up the coats, depend on the gig economy. There could be 40,000 people involved in the music end of the gig economy alone. I don’t we will really see the impact of it for another few months, when people can’t insure their vans or their cars, that’s when you’ll see the insurance companies letting people go. Sure why would you insure your van when it’s not going anywhere.

“By not supporting this sector, it’s a brick out of the foundation, and the ripple effect will continue.”