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Sounds Irish, Acts Global

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Nominated for the 2024 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

Sounds Irish, Acts Global critically examines both the history of Ireland’s popular music industry and the current music scene in the country. By placing recent industry developments in the context of that history, the authors present a new way of examining any nation state’s music industry—to understand the industry, the local scene must be studied. This approach highlights the multiple and changing ways by which the local scene prepares artists for both domestic and international success. In Ireland’s case the scene, with its supportive network of friends, families and fans, has developed the artists who then sign with major transnational music firms. This book will be of interest to business students and popular music scholars as well as non-academic readers.

Published: Jul 24, 2023


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Michael Mary Murphy, Jim Rogers
Chapter 1
The Irish Arrive: Early Stages in the Music Industry Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 2
1930s Ireland: Law and Order, Business and Nationalism Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 3
The Global Music Industries and Ireland Jim Rogers
Chapter 4
The 1950s: Elvis and Ireland’s Catholic Pop Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 5
Horslips: Advancing DIY and Enterprise in the Irish Music Scene Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 6
U2: Local and Global Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 7
How Teenagers and Students Shaped Culture Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 8
Enya: '…not created by the record industry' Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 9
The Corrs: ...'genetically engineer the perfect pop group' Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 10
Riverdance: Creating Profitable Local Culture Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 11
Boyzone: 'Search is on for an Irish Take That' Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 12
Westlife: 'He’s got to be kidding me' Michael Mary Murphy
Chapter 13
U2, the Virgin Prunes and Graphic Art Michael Mary Murphy
Conclusion Michael Mary Murphy, Jim Rogers
End Matter
Bibliography Michael Mary Murphy, Jim Rogers
Index Michael Mary Murphy, Jim Rogers


Sounds Irish, Acts Global is an utterly fascinating volume bursting with rich narratives gleaned from archival research and interviews with key behind-the-scenes figures in Ireland’s popular music scenes. This exciting book does more than simply recite the myth that Ireland’s popular music consistently “punches above its weight;” rather, it carefully critiques this tired cliché to reveal the often-overlooked personnel, social networks, and (invisible) support infrastructures that have empowered Irish artists to achieve such remarkable successes on the global stage. Murphy and Rogers offer a unique perspective on Ireland’s popular music culture, marrying the history of making and selling music from the island of Ireland, thus offering us readers something that has been missing from these debates to date. This important book will be cited for years to come and provides the blueprint to how Irish popular music industries will be written about in the future.
Áine Mangaoang, University of Oslo, author of Dangerous Mediations: Pop Music in a Philippine Prison Video and co-editor of Made in Ireland: Studies in Popular Music

This book is full of fresh insights and illuminating details and makes a hugely important addition to scholarship on Irish music. The authors explore the crucial place of Ireland, and the Irish, in the Anglo-American music industry, and shed some much-needed light on the economic and entrepreneurial networks that have shaped popular music in Ireland. Mixing original interviews with meticulous research, the book offers new accounts of the evolution - and enduring success - of some of Ireland's key figures, such as U2 and Enya, addressing critical points in their careers, and probing the role played by managers, marketing and media in the 'making' of musical acts. The book will be a highly valuable resource for anyone interested in modern Ireland, popular music, and the creative industries.
Sean Campbell, author of 'Irish Blood, English Heart': Second-Generation Irish Musicians in England

The history of Irish popular music is slowly being written but so far, most work has focussed on the performers and the ‘front end’ of the business. As anyone who has worked in the industry knows, this is only part of the picture and, without the network of actors and technological affordances behind the scenes, no music would be heard beyond the practice room. The music business thrives on connection, on knowing who to ask, and even in major industry centres, it can be surprising how intimate and connected the business will be. This is doubly the case in a small country such as Ireland: and in a music scene where, for many years, rock and pop lagged behind country music and commercial varieties of folk, it is often a surprise to discover how many managers, agents and promoters crossed all of these genres. People moved to where the business was. Murphy and Rogers have done an invaluable job in both theorising the structures that support the music industry in a small country, and, with in-depth case studies, of showing how it actually worked at a granular level: how the deals were made, who spoke to who and when. This book will obviously be of huge interest to anyone with more than a passing interest in Irish popular music, but also to those engaged in the music business in the former peripheries of a now thoroughly globalised industry.
Stan Erraught, Lecturer in Music Management, Popular Music and Aesthetics, University of Leeds

This book is impressive in scope, charting the development and evolution of the Irish popular music industries and their interrelationship with the global music industries from the 1900s to the current context. The structure is clever, each chapter referencing key forces and individuals to frame the history of the Irish music industries, enabling the story to unfold and be told in a very compelling way. The narrative is well-informed and well-researched, and the tone is engaging and accessible.
As stated in its title, this book sets out to explain the success of Ireland’s popular music industry. It does that, but it achieves much more besides. It is a significant contribution to the literature on the popular music industries in Ireland. The authors have a unique perspective on the issues raised in this work, both having considerable music industry experience alongside their academic expertise. This shows in how well they manage the various complex themes arising in this book, including local music scenes and national music industries, business, law, culture and ideology, conservatism and social change, emigration, immigration and cultural identity, youth consumption and moral panics, countercultures and Irishness, student movements, DIY entrepreneurship and punk ethics, local identity and globalisation. Alongside documenting the local, national and global forces that shaped the Irish popular music industries, the books gives us a fascinating insight into the success of individual acts including Enya, The Corrs, Riverdance, Boyzone and Westlife. The final chapter is a notable contribution to the woefully under-researched topic of music-related graphic design and visual representations of pop, focusing on Steve Averill as a particularly important music industry art producer.
Overall, this book is an important, timely, and original contribution to literature on the Irish music industries. It holds appeal for a broad audience that is motivated to learn about Irish popular music, music scenes, music and creative industries, and the social significance of Irish music production and consumption with reference to broader cultural, political and economic forces.
Eileen Hogan, Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork

Where many books on popular music emphasize either pop music legends or their fans, Sounds Irish, Acts Global provides a needed intervention into the ways supporting industry workers advance an artist’s career. By focusing on the support staff, Michael Murphy and Jim Rogers elucidate the power dynamics that created globally accessible Irish music. This look into the art world of Irish music will change the way scholars examine popular music going forward because it explores the power relationships between artists, industry, songwriters, and governments.
David Arditi, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Arlington

Success has many parents and in this book, Murphy & Rogers detail the forces and individuals who helped bring about some of Ireland’s biggest acts. The book is therefore a celebration and recognition of the ecosystem, communities, and friendships that surrounded these successes and the hard work, tensions and challenges they collectively overcame.
The book also raises serious questions regarding the future of the Irish music industry and one cannot help but hope the preceding case studies provide a useful blueprint for future communities to take courage, hope, and direction from.
Orla Byrne, Assistant Professor Entrepreneurship, College of Business, University College Dublin

Illuminating study about the success of Irish music in the global music scene. This erudite analysis of major Irish acts through the lens of theoretical debate, demonstrates the innovative ways to breakthrough into the global music business, and opens up a debate into how we can preserve local music when major music corporations dominate.
Dr Hyojung Sun, Lecturer in the Business of Creative and Cultural Industries School of Arts and Creative Technologies, University of York