With the Late Late Show’s ratings nearly halving since Ryan Tubridy took the helm with 1m viewers in 2008 and audiences flocking to online-only platforms like Netflix and YouTube for an increasingly personalised entertainment fix, the death knell of traditional viewing has been rung.
With that in mind, maybe the most surprising thing about This Ain’t No Disco, Donal Dineen and Myles O’Reilly’s new, online-only, 45-minute music magazine show, is that it hasn’t been done before.
The first episode, featuring live performances by Katie Kim, guitarist Niwel Tsumbu, Patrick Kelleher, and folk singer Radie Peat, was released on Christmas Eve, garnering over 100,000 views by the time of writing.
Donal Dineen is best known as a TV presenter and DJ, having been instrumental in creating No Disco, RTÉ’s late-night 1990s music show; while O’Reilly dispensed with a music career and record deal with his band, Juno Falls, to become a music documentarian, shooting videos with Lisa Hannigan, David Gray, and Sigur Ros, among others.
Dineen and O’Reilly are frequent collaborators, running the Arbutus Yarns stage at Body & Soul festival and producing music videos. This Ain’t No Disco was partly brought about by frustration: Lacking a broadcast partner and having been rejected for Arts Council funding for several projects, the duo decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We’d written so much down and filled in so many forms to get this done, and only been disappointed and rejected,” says O’Reilly. “We were really disappointed that there weren’t a few measly quid to buy us some groceries and get the thing done.”
Harnessing the nostalgia of a generation of alternative music lovers who grew up taping Dineen’s No Disco on Network Two late at night was more of a happy coincidence than a conscious choice. “It just dawned on us to try a music magazine show like No Disco, and I think we both laughed and said, ‘Let’s call it No Disco’. We came up with a concept that we would use our collaborative journey and mix that with the old No Disco idea of showcasing new Irish music.”
It’s clear from first viewing that this definitely ain’t No Disco. Even as podcasts liberated themselves from the strictures of formatted radio to become an art form in their own right, so This Ain’t No Disco departs from the viewer’s experience of broadcast music television.
Mostly shot over three days in heiress music patron Marina Guinness’s Celbridge home, it has the atmosphere of a late-night session, the stumbled-upon room at a festival where musicians gather to play and swap stories. Shadows flicker as Dineen holds court and musicians prepare for their performances.
Dissolving the broadcast format is something that Irish online-only music shows have so far only dabbled in; the best-known, Balcony TV, adheres to a short, YouTube-friendly format, with a piece to camera by a presenter followed by a live performance. In 2015 the short-lived Parlour TV, shot in Whelan’s in Dublin, produced 12 half-hour episodes.
Shot with a crew of five and no budget, five further episodes of This Ain’t No Disco are planned for 2017. In the longer term, Dineen and O’Reilly are aiming high: “The voluntary thing and the ethos is great for getting us out there, but we would like to eventually do it full time, which would mean an episode once a month or every two weeks.”
They’ve been “blown away” by the response so far, and its success has generated enough attention that O’Reilly says more well-known names in Irish music are now keen to appear. “It’s very, very exciting,” he says. “We’ve got a real superstar for episode two so we’re really happy about that; it’s not that we’re looking for big names, but there are a few that will come out of the woodwork that would like to be a part of it.”