There is increasing frustration amongst Northern Ireland’s musicians at the announcement of the Northern Ireland Music Awards by AU magazine and Oh Yeah. This act alone was enough to start a war of words on the internet as the Trolls hit sites like Fast Fude and Twitter to complain at the lack of accountability and impartiality of a body and a magazine that are so heavily Government funded. These protesters feel strongly that these two companies do not represent the Northern Irish Music Scene as a whole, but that they exist only to serve themselves. While this is the main bone of contention the musicians also feel that it is not inclusive, as NI produces a wealth of talent across all genres that seem to have been ignored. In other words people want to know what gives AU Magazine and Oh Yeah the right to decide who gets a NORTHERN IRELAND Music Award?

For those of you living under a rock for the past week may be unaware that NIMA nominees LaFaro took a stand against these awards last Thursday during their new album launch at the Limelight in Belfast. LaFaro’s bassist Cahir O’Doherty (also, Fighting With Wire) spoke to the crowd straight from the heart and it appeared that the majority of the audience echoed his sentiment. This led to a #flamewar on twitter with O’Doherty hitting a wall of abuse from AU’s top dog Jonny Tiernan (@jonnytiernan) and BBC featherweight Rigsy Sy (@rigsy). Ahem, his words are his own, not the BBC’s.

I caught up with Cahir himself to discuss his views on the NIMAs.

“I think with all the cuts to funding for music and the arts and with BBC introducing under the axe too, an awards show is a waste of time, money and effort! I’m disappointed with the people organising this, these awards aren’t helping anyone but then it seems that they have excluded people who actually go to gigs, buy records and support their fav local bands, surely if there HAS to be an awards show the general public should vote?
That’s my two cents, I may have offended the organisers by calling them a bunch of cunts (whoops) I probably could’ve chosen my words better, I do get a bit hot headed sometimes”

I also asked some other local artists to see what they thought:

Kieran Majury – “I think it’s called NIMA so they would get the funding. If it was called AU awards not enough people would care. It’s called what it is to appease box tickers.”

Alex Dunne – “The implied wide scope of the event title however, coupled with the obvious ties the nominees have to the magazine, give other musical social groups ammunition to label the whole process as rife with cronyism and ignorance; even if this isn’t actually the case at all. Added frustration ensues when people realize that they are partially footing the bill for it, since the event is sponsored by The Tourism Board, Invest NI and Belfast City Council; and organized by AU and Oh Yeah which rely on government funding to maintain their existence.”

Junior Johnson – “Awards, nearly all of them, are decided by cock-chugging. It’s more than who you know, it’s who you blow. Merit is rarely a factor, and even if it is, it wasn’t spotted by AU or Oh Yeah. Ask any band where they received most of their support, and neither of those will be mentioned. Except by those who are not worth the price of a set of ernie balls. I appreciate the sell factor for artists, on a bigger picture scale, but I wouldn’t want to know any boring wanker that has a vested interest in a piece of brass, even though they know they’re unworthy.”

Just look at the prestigious host for the evening, Rigsy. The usual kowtowing to Mr ‘Across the Line’ himself who, incidentally, was recently caught out with his name on a review of a gig he wasn’t even at. (**Edit Note 1) To add insult to injury, when the show he represents was later asked why certain bands were not reviewed at a local festival, the response was, “We tried to cover main stage as much as poss, and sometimes had to make choices depending on who was covering as they may have know(n) members of the band”.

Good to know it is only friends of ATL who get a review. (**Edit Note 2) I wonder if any of them were among the “dozens of NI music experts – journalists, promoters, DJs and more” who have allegedly cast their votes for these awards. We’ll probably never know as AU has refused to provide the names when requested by angry musicians.

I have not asked AU or Oh Yeah for comments on this issue as they have made it clear that they are including all genres because they have an Electronic Artist category. How can you argue with that logic?

So call it the AU awards, call it the AU/Oh Yeah awards, call it the Golden Globes for all we care. It is not the Northern Ireland Music Awards.

**Edit Note 1 -

Rigsy has explained to me that writing a review of a gig he wasn’t at was something he would never do. I feel I must clarify the reviews to which I was referring. To myself and other online readership of the ATL blogs it was Rigsy’s name that appeared clearly at the top of the reviews of Pigstock 2011 on the Saturday. At that very time he claimed on Twitter “Gutted not to be at Pigstock today…” His name still appears at the top of these reviews on the ATL website which, as he didn’t write them, is very misleading to his fans and the bands/artists who feel they are getting a genuine Rigsy review.

Some examples -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/acrosstheline/2011/05/pigstock_2011_-_lafaro.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/acrosstheline/2011/05/pigstock_2011_-_gacys_threads.html

Since writing this blog I have discussed this with Rigsy and Paul McClean and they have explained that this is a login issue where some Pigstock reviews were published under Rigsy’s login therefore it is his name that appears at the top. In actual fact Paul uploaded the reviews using Rigsy’s login on behalf of unnamed reviewers.

In the interest of giving the actual writers credit for their reviews, I spoke to Rigsy about removing his name from the articles he didn’t write. I am hopeful that this will be done.

**Edit Note 2 – Paul McClean has explained that his point was that ATL reviewers are not allowed to review friends. I, as well as several other artists, interpreted this to be the opposite. Paul has gone into this matter at length and you can read more on FastFude and Facebook.