Irish Government Gives Musicians A Weekly Grant

The Irish government has rolled out a new “basic income” scheme whereby 2,000 artists, including many musicians, will receive a weekly payment of €325 ($329.44) to help with their living expenses and professional costs.

The Basic Income For The Arts scheme was announced by the Irish government in January 2022 but payments have now started to be sent out.

The Irish government is expected to spend €25 million ($25.3 million) on the scheme over the next three years.

Applications for the scheme were open between 12 April and 12 May. “Over 9,000 people applied to the scheme and the 2,000 receiving the income were selected anonymously and at random,” reports the BBC.

The impetus for the scheme came from a taskforce that was set up to address how artists could be assisted following the “unprecedented damage” the pandemic caused to their industry, most obviously with the closure of venues and theatres as well as the cancellation of music and arts festivals.

The taskforce was led by Catherine Martin, the Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports & Media.

“The number 1 recommendation from the taskforce report Life Worth Living Report was to pilot a Basic Income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audio-visual and live performance and events sectors,” said the Irish government.

The scheme is not means tested and successful applicants are expected to still (where applicable) quality for social welfare payments and will also be able to keep earning from their work.

Capital city Dublin has the most recipients (746), followed by second city Cork (212) and then Galway (148).

Visual artists dominate in terms of recipients’ professional, with over 700 qualifying for grants, followed by musicians (584), those working in film (204), writers (184) and actors (170).

Over 50 recipients across different professions are working or performing in the Irish language.

The Irish government called the scheme “groundbreaking”.

Minister Martin said in a statement, “Today is an historic day for the arts in Ireland and a significant change to the way Ireland recognises and supports her artists. The Basic Income for the Arts pilot scheme is a once-in-a-generation initiative. It makes a strong statement about the value Ireland places on the arts and artistic practice, both for its intrinsic value and in terms of our personal and collective wellbeing, and also in terms of its importance to our identity and cultural distinctiveness on the global stage.”

Performing rights body the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) undertook a major study in 2017 looking into the size and value of the Irish music industry, saying it supported 13,131 jobs nationally. The Irish population in 2017 was just under 4.8 million people.

IMRO stated that the core music industry generated close to €445.4 million ($450.7 million) annually while the total GVA (Gross Value Add) contribution of music to the Irish economy was €703 million ($712 million).

Basic Income For The Arts is a pioneering scheme that is designed to get the arts back on its feet after the impact of the pandemic. The Irish government has clearly seen the arts as an area that is essential to invest in and support – in terms of both its contribution to the national economy as well as its importance for Ireland’s export power.

No other government in Europe has a funding scheme that is comparable.

As more and more musicians struggle to make a living in the streaming age, there is growing pressure on record labels, music publishers and streaming services to better remunerate the creators. The #BrokenRecord campaign in the UK has helped bring the debate to government and runs in parallel with #FixStreaming.

Musicians were hit hard during the pandemic and there were various responses to help them out, but something long-term is essential to help them properly return to normal.

The move by the Irish government might not be a Medici-style patronage model, but offers a template for government (or governments who value the arts) to follow.