March ushers in a wave of Irish music, and this reviewer gets to the point where the compilation CDs become drink coasters around the house.
Larry Kirwan has captained a new one, Celtic Invasion, that is decidedly different because it attempts to spotlight great music while changing the broken music business model.
“The music business is at its worst in the many years that I’ve toiled in it – and that’s saying something,” laments Kirwan.
“Where once fat men in cheap suits up on 57th Street ruled before being replaced by coke-snorting numbers-crunchers, now it’s young dot-com warriors who ‘lease’ your music and pay fractions of a cent whenever someone deigns to listen to a track.
“But you can sit around until the cows come home lamenting that you didn’t go into some honest business like Wall Street, or you can find an alternate way of getting paid for making music.”
It was over a pint with Jon Birgé of Valley-Entertainment that the two came up with their solution -- how about if they got one great song from a dozen fine acts and put out a compilation CD?
Kirwan says he leveraged his bully pulpit with his show Celtic Crush on SiriusXM, the wildly popular program that recently took over the Sirius airwaves for all of last St. Patrick’s Day weekend, to negotiate a royalty on each CD sold for the bands. The bands in turn could buy the CDs at wholesale cost and mark up accordingly.
This meant that each band would be paid a royalty for every CD the 11 other bands sold, along with a first-class introduction to their other label mates’ fan base.
In other words, the more they sold the more they made; the more anyone else sells, the more that artist would make too!
Kirwan then went on a charm offensive and seduced some of the greatest talents to contribute to the CD. “Producing Celtic Crush for eight years has given me some experience finding great songs that have been overlooked in this teeming meat market of music,” he says.
He chose local classics like “You’re So Beautiful” by Pat McGuire, “Weekend Irish” by Barleyjuice, “McLean Avenue” by Shilelagh Law, “22” by Celtic Cross, and “Sullivan’s Lake” by Garrahan’s Ghost.
To bring in a wider Celtic influence he included two Scottish gems -- “Clash of the Ash” by Runrig, and “Wacko King Hako” by Peatbog Faeries who put grooves under bagpipes that have to be heard to be believed.
A collection of obscure acts would indeed be a tough sell, and Kirwan knew it.
“I needed a couple of names to put up front. Mike Scott gave me a brilliant unreleased version of a Waterboys classic, as did Liam Ó’Maonlaí from Hothouse Flowers,” he said.
“I tossed in the zany ‘Uncle Jim’ by Black 47, which tells of Father Jim Hughes and quixotic mission to East Belfast to convert the Reverend Ian Paisley.”
Celtic Invasion also contains “The Irish Rover” by Blaggards from Houston, and “Buile Mo Chroí” by John Spillane, the bard of Cork City. And with that, he represents great Celtic music on every corner of the globe!
Celtic Invasion has been selling well online and has already succeeded artistically, with many bands eager to join the bandwagon. If this project breaks even financially then Kirwan will round up another dozen worthy bands and give them the same opportunity.
“And if it fails, well at least we tried to make a difference,” Kirwan reasons. “At the very worst, I might still have a career ahead of me as a fat numbers cruncher in a cheap suit up on 57th Street.”
This collection crackles with energy, rocking from stem to stern. There is little doubt that we will be seeing more compilations in the future!
Celtic Invasion is available on iTunes or CD form at www.celtic-invasion.com