Music Industry in Ireland – Ellie Byrne: “I crave live music and real interaction with the people I work with”

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As part of our special feature on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish music industry, Ellie Byrne, owner of EB Promotions, shares her experiences and looks to the future …

How has the impact of Covid-19 affected you and your business?

It was catastrophic at first. Every project I had in progress from March to December 2020 fell off a cliff. Visits planned for a year with some of my clients disappeared overnight as the places were canceled. It was a confusing and terrifying time.

What’s the worst part of all of this for you?

The feeling of loss of control, and also the fact of witnessing the disappointment and anguish of the musicians with whom I work; the sheer tearing of it all. And ignorance. I think if we had known how long this was going to last we would have felt completely hopeless.

Did you have to lay off the staff?

I have a female operation, but I definitely let myself go! The hair! The weight! Ouch!

People with high rents or large loans were the most affected. How have you been

Luckily we paid off our mortgage a few years ago, I can’t even imagine the stress on people with large repayments. Of course, we still had a lot of bills and there were some worrying moments for sure. Those days when it’s hard to take comfort in or find something hopeful to say to support each other. My husband works in the tourism industry, so between us we have both had particularly dire jobs in terms of Covid and its effects. It was really hard at times.

Some people find it difficult to survive. Is this something that you have encountered?

I found it very difficult at first. The lockdown was excruciating for me as I love being near the sea and I live right in the middle of County Limerick. I missed being able to drive to the coast. Surviving financially was sometimes worrying because none of us knew when or where the next job would come from.

Music is about people – how has the loss of contact with staff, colleagues, or others in the company affected you?

It is definitely loneliness. I really want live music and real interaction with the people I work with. While we’ve of course been in touch, Zoom just isn’t the same. But I was also blown away by the amount of live releases that so many musicians posted and continued to post online. I found the spirit and the optimism of so many of them really touching; their absolute need to keep creating and playing during the toughest times. Honestly, where would we be without music and musicians? Warriors, a lot. I cannot adequately express my gratitude and admiration for them.

Were you able to try something new or different?

Yes, out of pure desperation and lack of sea we moved to West Cork for six months from September 2020 to March 2021. We rented our house in Limerick so that we could live by the sea. also started writing for a West Cork newspaper, The south star; I approached them when I moved there to offer music related content and they’ve always given me work since. I interviewed John Spillane about his wonderful new album 100 snow white horses for last week’s edition and loved it. I’m also now working on TV production and research with Waterford-based Red Shoe Productions and love it.

Mental health has been a huge issue for a lot of people involved in music. What has been your experience in this regard?

I was really worried about our son who was only 15 at the time of the first confinement. He really missed his buddies and I was really conscious of trying to keep him in shape. Moving to be near the sea has been an absolute lifeline for my mental well-being and that of my husband. We swam in the freezing Atlantic every day and it was a great way to start each day and reduce anxiety levels.

Is it important for you to return to work?

It is extremely important. I have been fortunate since Christmas to have stable work plans, thanks to the remarkable resilience and creativity of the musicians who managed to record albums during the lockdown and who hired me to do public relations. But I can’t wait to be able to plan ahead and reschedule again the musical tours that were canceled in March 2020. In particular, the one I had worked on with Belfast cellist and composer Neil Martin and his West Ocean String Quartet. Neil is an endless joy and laugh to work with. I need this in my life!

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

I am optimistic, I think. It has been a very traumatic time for many of us, hasn’t it? I wonder what historians will write about this time. It will be a hell of a read.

Ellie Byrne is the owner of EB promotions which provides artist management, album promotion and public relations services.

Read more about our ‘Music industry in Ireland: where to go next?’ a special function here.

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