- Ireland is giving $28.3M to artists and entertainers hurt by the pandemic through a basic income program.
- Artists are expected to get about $400 per week for 3 years, and venues at least $10,000 in grants.
- Ireland wants this program to help its nightlife economy become more like Germany's.
The Irish government has two missions when it comes to its art: Sustain artists and entertainers through the rest of the pandemic; and rage as hard as Germany.
Berlin's vibrant after-hours scene, with its queues of clubgoers and techno craze, has Ireland seeing green.
That's why the country will be paying about 2,000 artists, musicians, actors, and other entertainers a basic income for the next three years, as well as offering entertainment venues such as pubs and cafes grants of at least €10,000 (nearly $12,000 in USD). The program could launch as soon as next month, with the weekly stipend for entertainers expected to be about €325 (about $370 in USD). In total, the government has allocated about €25 million ($28.3 million in USD) to the cause.
"If we look at how far behind we are, look at Berlin where culture thrives at all hours," Catherine Martin, Ireland's Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media, told The Irish Times. "Why does the city's heartbeat have to end at midnight or one in the morning?"
The program's minimum lifespan of three years is long for basic income programs, which have proliferated in countries across the world as coronavirus has made it harder for people to make end's meet. The Irish government sees its own basic income program as one cog in a larger scheme to become a global hub for nightlife.
Basic income programs are distinct from traditional forms of government welfare because they come with no strings attached: participants are free to spend the money however they choose.
Martin, told The Irish Times last week that the mission of the program, which is the first of its kind for entertainers in the country, is "to support jobs and businesses in the night-time economy, but also to support the new and emerging acts."
The pandemic ravaged the entertainment economy
Coronavirus hit entertainers hard all over the world. An October report found that about one-third of jobs in the UK music industry were lost during the pandemic, employment in the sector falling from an all-time high of 197,000 in 2019 to 128,000 in 2020, a 35% decrease. The report found that a lack of live performances took out the main source of musicians' income.
UK nightclubs and indoor music venues briefly reopened in October after a year and a half long pandemic hiatus, but quickly closed again at the end of December as the Omicron variant began to spread.
Martin called the basic income program a "once-in-a-generation policy intervention."
Insider recently reported that cities across the US have launched a plethora of basic income programs in the last two years, including at least 33 active or recently active programs in the country. Cities such as San Francisco, California and St. Paul, Minnesota launched pilot programs for artists similar to Ireland's, but they were not nearly as broad in scope or duration.
Ireland's program has been quickly evolving over the past month. Martin's department will be consulting with her task force until January 27. Initially, the committee suggested paying a basic wage of about €10.50 ($11.90 USD) per hour to selected entertainers, but ultimately decided against that route. Currently, the department is deciding what the eligibility process for selecting entertainers and venues will be.
But one thing is clear, the grants are meant to support "hundreds and hundreds of events," Martin told the Irish Times, stressing that she wanted venues to attract new acts.
"We could be looking at music, we could be looking at poetry slam nights, local theater groups, traditional music, classical music, and of course, our electronic music."