If you're over thirty and have grown up in Ireland, you'll probably remember a childhood where the closest you got to your 'global star' idol was seeing them on Top of the Pops or trawling the pages of Smash Hits for the rip-out posters to plaster on your bedroom wall. If you were really lucky, you might have managed to see them in real life making a rare appearance at the RDS or the Point Depot. (Well for some.) They were dark days, children.
But over the last decade or so, both the industry and infrastructure has changed. The rise in both streaming and illegal downloading has meant that artists are forced to tour to make their money; the vast majority of them can't just release an album, sit back in their chateau and let the millions in sales and royalties roll in. Those days are long gone.
We also now have a world-class venue in the 3Arena that can hold up to 13,000 people, and the summer allows for big stadium acts to roll into town and play Croke Park (80,000) and the Aviva Stadium (around 51,000) - events which have become a lot more regular than they used to be. This is good.
But the reason I began thinking about this again recently was because of two recent gig cancellations – through no fault whatsoever of the promoter - where Ireland seemed like an afterthought to the artist. Firstly, Chance the Rapper's two gigs at Dublin's Helix were cancelled at the 11th hour due to 'personal reasons'. Now, he may well have had personal stuff to deal with, but considering he'd been openly talking about 'going home early' to see his pal Kanye West – who was hospitalised around that time – if you had tickets for either of those gigs, you'd be right to feel irked. What's more, the Dublin gigs, plus one in Manchester, were at the end of the tour; was it just easier to pack up and fly home from the UK for Thanksgiving?
Case number two: last weekend, Drake played two incredible gigs at the 3Arena. Rapper Young Thug – already a reasonably big star in the US and with a growing fanbase here – was billed as support for the already sold-out UK and Irish tour, but at the Dublin dates, he was a no-show. There was no announcement from anybody, no apology from him on social media; he just didn't show up. Yet on Sunday – the first day we was supposed to open for Drake - he wasn't shy about posting Instagram videos from his daughter's birthday party:
Coincidence? Genuine reason? Or – and forgive us for being paranoid, here - is it easier to just bypass the Irish gigs at the tail-end of the tour, thinking no one will notice or give a damn? Pure speculation, of course...
Look; us Irish are used to being passed over when it comes to big artists. There's no question that it must be a logistical nightmare to get to Dublin – or even further afield – for touring artists when you have to factor in ferries and flights, rather than a spin down the motorway to the next city and understandably, it has to make financial sense to all parties involved to cross the Irish Sea. Take Lady Gaga, for example: her arena tour later this year will visit a number of big UK and European cities, yet there's no Irish date in sight. It is what it is. And plenty of other artists, like Ed Sheeran, choose to kick off their tours here.
Make no bones about it, this is a first-world problem if ever there was one, of course there are more important issues going on in the world, and yes, of course we do get our fair share of big artists in regularly, particularly on festival bills - but that's not what this is about.
Sometimes, though, you can help but feel that despite having more choice than ever before, Irish audiences still often feel like an afterthought to some artists. Unfortunately, that may never change.