The issue of having a place where bands can rehearse pales into insignificance when juxtaposed with the “Neanderthal structures” hindering the local music scene from flourishing, according to those in the industry.

It’s like needing a computer to use to study with and instead being given a PlayStation

Last week, singer William Mangion was offered a one-year contract by the Government as a coordinator for promoting local bands, specifically tasked with identifying places where they could rehearse.

However, musicians are clamouring for performance venues not rehearsal space, local artistes told Times of Malta.

Former Alternattiva Demo-kratika chairman Michael Briguglio slammed the Government’s decision as a “bad mixture of partisan favours, rash decisions and ignorance on the music scene. It also smacks of a patronising, top-down attitude of charity rather than rights”.

Pianist Vinny Vella said most bands do have places to rehearse.

“It’s opportunities we need,” he said.

Cost-cutting measures meant entertainment was the first thing to go out of hotels and restaurants’ programmes.

“In the past, it was the norm to find a live band playing in restaurants and five-star hotels. Now it’s become the exception.”

Artist manager and music producer Howard Keith Debono rubbished Mr Mangion’s role, saying the main problem stemmed from the fact that basic structures were not in place.

“Many aspects need urgent address, including the way permits are issued for events, where an entire event may be aborted by the police if a complaint is received. Other pressing issues include the way sound pollution is tackled – it is high time audio meters are used.”

He referred to the collecting society, explaining that confusion still reigned regarding how, and to whom, royalties should be distributed. Malta’s official government-licensed collecting society is the Performing Rights Society (UK), an entity that Mr Debono believes should be replaced by a Maltese one.

“At the moment, there is a lot of talk regarding opera and classical music niches, which are getting a lot of funding. I’m all for it, but the more mainstream sector is suffering.

“No help whatsoever is given to artists who decide to make music their full- time job. Ira Losco, for instance, never received anything from the Malta Arts Fund.

“Both established and smaller acts find it hard to cope.

“Our Neanderthal structures do not encourage anyone to take up a career in music.”

Pawlu Borg Bonaci, who heads the band Fakawi, echoed Mr Debono’s plea for a clear, solid framework.

“The message that the Government is getting across is that it wants to nanny us. There is no need for William Mangion’s role.

“The Government is not a charity – it shouldn’t be giving garages for rehearsing purposes. It should be giving work incentives.

“There are many unanswered questions. What will we be solving with this position? How will it be run? It’s like needing a computer to use to study with and instead being given a PlayStation to play with.”

He spoke about the red tape that needed to be bypassed to obtain the necessary permits to stage an event, referring to the €50,000 guarantee which incorporates a number of logistical clauses such as the presence of an ambulance and nurses on site.

“This guarantee request makes sense if it’s an event which draws thousands. However, generally, our audiences vary from a minimum of 80 to a maximum of 500.

“Local legislation should therefore discriminate according to the size and magnitude of the event.

“We’re always at the mercy of someone – be it the police, the local council or the private sector.”

He urged Mr Mangion to meet musicians and artists to nurture dialogue and encourage mutual cooperation.

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