The franchise has filmed 7,500 music videos in 42 cities since its launch in 2007. Dublin paved the way, says Don O’Mahony
IF YOU have watched music videos online, you may have seen BalconyTV. The concept is simple: an artist plays a song on a balcony. That balcony was once a particularly snug one with a view overlooking Dublin’s Dame Street. Now the balcony varies, and is usually more expansive and has a sunny view.
Since launching in Dublin in Jun 2007, BalconyTV has been franchised to 42 cities, including Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Brooklyn and Brisbane, generating 7,500 videos and over 30m views.
That a region the size of the United States has five BalconyTVs seems unremarkable — it will surely have more.
That little old Ireland can sustain two is down to the tenacity of West Cork woman, Joanne Collins, who became the 18th member of the BalconyTV family when she was given the go-ahead to start BalconyTV Cork in the summer of 2011.
When she pitched the idea to BalconyTV founder, Stephen O’Regan, he was not convinced.
“He said one Balcony was enough for Ireland,” Collins says. “But I kept at him and told him, internationally, Ireland is renowned for music, so in comparison with countries in Europe that wouldn’t be as well-renowned in terms of up-and-coming bands, Ireland would need three balconies, if not more.”
Collins studied music as a mature student in UCC and graduated in 2007. “I always wanted to try to make a life out of music, but, as everybody knows, it’s practically impossible,” she says.
A Eureka moment came when she visited her friend, Cork City musician, Kevin Murphy, in 2011. He is the producer of BalconyTV Brighton. “I ended up being part of the show, because they needed someone to keep wind from the microphone, so that was my job,” Collins says, laughing about her stint on their beach-side balcony, which involved her sheltering the microphone with her windbreaker jacket held open.
Upon returning home, she decided Cork should also be part of BalconyTV. She spent three months persuading O’Regan, till he relented.
“The one fear Stephen had when I was setting up, he said, ‘Joanne, we’ll just have the same bands on both balconies.’ And I said, ‘look, I promise you it won’t happen very often’.” To date, only John Spillane and two emerging bands have featured on both BalconyTV Cork and Dublin.
“He agreed, eventually, that Ireland has a lot of music to offer,” she says. “I’ve been doing it for a year and eight months and I thought Cork had loads of bands, but, God, I think it has five times the amount I’d thought. It’s exciting.”
John Hough, the sound and computer technician at the music department in UCC, was Collins’s cameraman.
After shooting 13 test videos, they launched BalconyTV Cork on Sept 29 of last year in the company of the band Fred. As distinct from BalconyTV Dublin, Collins introduces her broadcasts as gaeilge.
“I’m not a fluent Irish speaker. I’m just a lover of Irish. All of the other Balconies of the world say something in their language, so I think it’s nice that I say something in ours,” she says.
The launch was in the Electric bar and restaurant and BalconyTV Cork has used their balcony a number of times, as well as the penthouse suite of the Clarion Hotel, the Elysian, and the Elizabethan Fort on the south side of the city centre.
Collins has also used ‘marine’ balconies, such as the Cork/Swansea ferry when it was moored in Cork harbour, and a moving balcony, when they shot on the Cork/Cobh ferry, which was frowned upon by head office.
“I’m not really allowed move around,” Collins says. “They want everyone to have this view that doesn’t change and that reminds them of Cork, whereas I want to show them different angles of Cork that are really beautiful.”
Collins says she is close to securing a permanent home for BalconyTV Cork. She also emphasises the amount of work that goes into producing two shows a week, broadcast every Tuesday and Friday, and acknowledges the generosity and goodwill of people who have assisted her, from sound engineers and cameramen to those who allowed her film on their balconies, to the musicians themselves.
“We all work for free. It’s a lot of work. A lot of people might think my job is presenter, but that is only a miniscule part of what I do. Everyone who has helped me, so far, I’m so so glad that they have worked with me and I’m sure they know that I’m very grateful.”
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