As the Ireland Performs initiative draws to a close, Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact writes for Culture about the origin, the mechanics and the impact of an online series that has brought Irish music to global audiences during the lockdown...

In early March, we got a tip-off that South by Southwest (SXSW) scheduled for Austin around St. Patrick's Day was considering postponement. Within 24 hours, it became reality and we realised that in a matter of a few days, our normal business activity would be changed utterly. It was followed by The Great Escape in Brighton and continues to this day as other live events are pulled or migrate online.

Watch: Laoise Kelly plays for #IrelandPerforms

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The shutdown of all live performances internationally coupled with the loss to many artists of prestigious showcase performances at events such as South by Southwest is a game-changer for us.

First Music Contact’s immediate responsibility was to the musicians how would they earn a living and what would the entire cultural sector respond, even as an overwhelming sense of uncertainty dominated (and continues to.).

Watch: Lemoncello play for #IrelandPerforms

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Our most frequent calls at the time were with our funders and our wider global community, Right at the time I was chatting to my counterpart in Canada about SXSW She mentioned that Canada Performs has just been announced and she and I talked about that being one rapid response answer to how the artists could be supported financially. At the same time I was back and forth with Culture Ireland (our main funder for our Music from Ireland programme) and it emerged that their Director Christine Sisk had already begun conversations about an Irish version, had received support from Facebook Ireland and was about to talk to us at to First Music Contact and Poetry Ireland to help them deliver the initiative.

Christine, quite rightly, had determined that we follow the artists - many had already begun to engage on online platforms so the scheme sought to support artists with this engagement. So Ireland Performs, a paid online performance series was launched for those who were able to deliver their practice or performance to an online audience.

Watch: Kila's Rónán Ó Snodaigh plays for #IrelandPerforms

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The artist is supported not just financially but also with technical and marketing support from the First Music Contact team to ensure that they reach the widest possible audience. From Culture Ireland’s side, the priority has been its international reach.

What has been incredible, apart from the response, is the variety of performances and genres. That Ireland Performs has reached a viewership of over 600,000 so far is wonderful and the artists have reported strong positive feedback.

Watch: The Remedy Club play for #IrelandPerforms

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It has also been a wonderful opportunity for FMC to work with artists from a wide variety of music genres and artforms.

For many artists, they have taken the technical support (provided by Brendan Millar from our team) and started their own gigs, opening other avenues of performance for them. For audiences it has taken them on a trip to peoples’ homes, to the far west coast of the Dingle peninsula, to kitchens, sheds, studios and fields all over Ireland , connecting viewers with artists in their home environment where they have found themselves during these extraordinary recent weeks.

For FMC, it has allowed us to get our Music From Ireland artists the showcases they missed for SXSW and The Great Escape in the last number of weeks by driving international buyers and professionals to the Ireland Performs channel - you can catch up with the best in new Irish music here.