Music with a view

Posted on: 10th September, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

The success of BalconyTV Cork is due to no small measure to the tenacity and passion of Bandon-Clonakilty native and music lover Joanne Collins. Mary O’Brien meets the woman behind Ireland’s online viral music show.

Founded in Dublin in 2006, BalconyTV is a leading daily online viral music show that features bands, musicians and other variety acts performing on balconies around the world. Now an international music franchise — its videos have been watched more than 75 million times. BalconyTV has 12,000-plus videos averaging at 5000 views each produced in over fifty-five cities on six continents with over 225,000 fans worldwide. From Los Angeles to Cork, each syndicate follows the same blueprint — an independent musician or band performing an original song (often acoustically) in a single take; every one of them on a balcony.

Joanne grew up in her parents’ electrical and music shop in Bandon and after spending a number of years teaching English in Germany, she returned home and spent six years as a mature student in UCC. She completed a Bachelor of Arts with Music, German and Italian, then a Bachelor of Music, a Post Graduate Diploma in Education and a Post Certificate in Languages (Spanish and Portuguese) in the Global Marketplace.

It was while visiting a Cork friend, Kevin Murphy, who was running BalconyTV in Brighton and helping him out with the show that Joanne decided Cork deserved and needed its own channel. With BalconyTV already working out of Dublin, Joanne had to work hard in persuading founder Stephen O’Regan that Ireland could sustain two channels. He eventually relented and Joanne started BalconyTV Cork in April 2011. Ironically, it is the Cork channel that has survived.

In the beginning Joanne put countless hours in to BalconyTV every week. “It took a lot of dedication and commitment not to mention the work that went in to establishing a good team,” she says. “Without them — John Hough on video and sound, Pablo Gomez on sound, Ian Richards of Outline Ireland who helped us with sound equipment and also did sound for us many times, as well as Miguel Ahumada of Vida Vision on video production — I wouldn’t have been or be able to keep it going. There have been numerous venues who’ve helped me out with balconies also including The Clarion Hotel, The Imperial Hotel, Cork Swansea Ferries, The Triskel Arts Centre, Cork-Cobh Ferries and The Elizabeth Fort Cork.”

A lover of Irish, Joanne introduces all her broadcasts ‘as Gaeilge’. “All of the other Balconies in the world say something in their language, so I think it’s nice that I say something in ours,” she explains.

Over the past few years, BalconyTV Cork has featured emerging and established artists from all over Ireland and the UK, not to mention further afield — to name a few, Fred, Mick Flannery, David Moynihan, Sonny Condell and Scullion, Declan Sinnott, John Spillane, Ger Wolfe, Cormac O Caoimh, Jimmy Crowley, Don Baker, Frankie Gavin and Aidan Coffey, The 4 of Us, The Space Lady all the way from LA, Beat n Blow, New York Brass Band, Ensemble Ériu, Ray Barron, Hank Wedal and so many more — Joanne has even chanced her arm trying to get a booking from Hozier. “I did get a reply from his manager,” she says, “which I was pleasantly surprised to get but unfortunately it wasn’t possible.”

For the first three years, Joanne produced two shows a week, on a Tuesday and a Friday, however she decided to reduce it to one show a week in July 2014.  With one shoot to organise and present every week, which includes securing the video and sound engineer, a band or artists, a balcony and sometimes infrastructure, Joanne has her hands full, especially since she has been based in Kildare until recently due to other work commitments. “BalconyTV Cork is really a labour of love for me more than anything, so I also teach German and Music to make ends meet,” she explains.

Favourite Balcony moments for Joanne include shooting a video on the Big Wheel, Grand parade with John Spillane and on the Cork/Swansea ferry with the David Nelligan Thing and more, when it was moored in Cork harbour, She also looks back fondly on videos made with West Cork bands The Calvinists and The Mandolas. “Working with Declan Sinnott was amazing and The Space Lady from LA was a very exciting session too. There are too many to mention them all.

“I’d love to keep it going, as I believe it’s important for emerging indie artists who need a platform. BalconyTV Cork and organising ‘Sherkin Responsibilities’ festival on Sherkin Island have really given me a unique insight into the music industry, problem solving and marketing. It makes me excited as to where my future might lead…”

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