UCD has a serious sound problem: Why we need to promote music on campus

It seems that lulls of silence without music are growing scarcer by the day. When I should be attentively note-taking in class, I’m scouring the web for an upcoming gig in a new venue. At home, my exhausted record player constantly spins, with the music only ceasing in the moments I flip the record from Side A to B. Of course, this experience is not unique to me. Each and every morning, I cross campus in a hurry on my way to class among a sea of headphone-wearing students, blaring music of all genres directly into their ears. Regardless of the clear interest in music amongst UCD’s student population, the accessibility of music events, namely those promoting local, Irish artists, in Ireland’s largest university is shockingly scarce.

Take the case of this year’s installment of the annual Battle of the Bands competition. Sponsored by both the UCDSU and MusicSoc, the preliminary rounds were showcased in the on-campus Clubhouse Bar throughout the duration of Rag Week this past January, without charge. The four finalists, GREYFACE, Kevin Koivisto, Magazines, and MYTH, were invited to play the main stage of Whelan’s on Wexford Street to compete in a final competition. While I understand the allure of playing a legendary venue in the heart of the city, this certainly did not help turnout on the night. Also, the ticket price of €10 for non-MusicSoc members, and €8 for members of the society was steep for a student to cough up. If you had previously seen the bands in the Clubhouse for free, it was unlikely that you would trek all the way to Whelan’s and then pay to see them again, unless of course you were a die hard fan. In an already struggling music scene, we simply cannot afford to lay out obstacles such as this.

At the same time, of course, there are platforms for the die-hard music lover and the casual dabbler to find their niche in the throes of university life. Both Belfield FM, the university-run radio broadcasting station located in the Student Centre, and MusicSoc, allow students, young and old, to express and discover their passion for music. Additionally, there have been some successes in making UCD a more music-friendly campus.

This past Thursday, the Clubhouse Bar hosted an Open Mic Night, where talent was abundant. Duo Rusty Claymore, comprised of Adam Hilario and Reggie Murphy, closed the night with the crowd on its feet. More events such as these are vital to promote the existence of artists from UCD, encourage more to try their luck in the industry and make UCD a more welcoming place for budding musicians.

While promoting talent breeding in UCD itself is important, in order to get more people out and listening to live music on campus, perhaps it would be beneficial to recruit artists from outside to inspire our own musicians. Last April, the Commerce and Economics (C&E) Society hosted the electronic music duo Bicep, who have recently ascended to international acclaim, transforming Astra Hall into a techno lovers dream. In past years, MusicSoc have also hosted acts such as Heathers, Dermot Kennedy, Hudson Taylor and Aslan. By bringing in artists like these, there is a higher chance of UCD students feeling inspired by what they can achieve, as well as promoting a culture of music across campus, creating a buzz around the scene.

In terms of booking external acts to play on campus, why can’t we follow the precedent that the C&E have set, and use our gravitas as Ireland’s largest university to book more acts to play on site? With the selling point of a potential audience of nearly 35,000, it is surely not one to be sniffed at by any artist. If we can begin to create a culture of music across campus through inviting bigger, external acts to come and play, surely we can expect to see the growth of a homegrown scene?

Another potential initiative to lure the budding UCD musician out of their shell is to use the advantage of having a stage set up during Freshers’ Week each year to encourage newly formed bands or aspiring singer songwriters to sign up to play it. Often, that stage lies completely dormant, with no one playing or making use of it. By combining both external acts and UCD artists, we could create our own festival as sorts, and provide a better soundtrack to the endless trawl through the stuffy white tent than the shoddy speakers blaring Top 40.

When we consider that UCD is Ireland’s largest university, with an enormous campus capable of hosting large sports games and talks, it is extremely disheartening to see the lack of enthusiasm and support given to the music scene that, as anyone who attended any of the Battle of the Bands heats will know, is very much there. There is ample opportunity, space and talent, so we have no excuse really. We boast about our famous sports, political and literary alumni, so why not look to branch out further and become known for our musical graduates too? As mentioned previously, the talent is there; it is now up to us to protect and support it.