The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

No garages for bands so far – William Mangion

Malta Independent Thursday, 21 November 2013, 09:04 Last update: about 8 years ago

Quite a few bands have spoken to singer William Mangion asking for a place to rehearse but so far nothing has materialised, even though an agreement is expected soon, The Malta Independent has learned.

Earlier this year Mr Mangion accepted a government-offered one-year contract as a coordinator for promoting local bands. One of his responsibilities is to identify places where bands can rehearse.

When contacted by this paper Mr Mangion said that there were quite a few requests but the government is still in the process of identifying suitable places and drafting a general framework.

Mr Mangion said that these things “take time” and he was only given the contract four months ago. Furthermore, the government has only just confirmed the budget for this scheme, meaning that, until a few weeks ago, he did not have any financial guidelines. In his budget speech Finance Minister Edward Scicluna announced a new €150,000 fund to support local bands.

The former Eurovision singer said that he is looking at a number of areas where bands can rehearse but there is nothing concrete as yet.

When asked how the system will work, Mr Mangion said that the government will probably rent a number of venues and these would, in turn be rented to bands at a subsidised price.

“Personally, I think that there should be more than one option. I think that bands should be given the option of renting garages or venues for, say, a whole year. But other, smaller bands should also have to option to rent a place for just a few hours a week.”

Mr Mangion said that up till now he could not give any answers to bands that requested a rehearsal space. “In the meantime we are compiling a bands database, so that we can have a clearer picture of how many Maltese bands there are. Surely not all of them require a place to rehearse.”

Mr Mangion said that he is tackling the the problem one bit at a time and looking at a number of places. There is one particular place which is quite attractive because it is central and easily accessible by public transport. “We have sent a proposal and are awaiting feedback from the owners. The process takes some time but I promise that I’m doing my very best.”

Rehearsal spaces 'not top priority'

The announcement of Mr Mangion’s new role was met with criticism from a number of local bands and singers, who insisted that what they need is actually a place to perform and help with promoting their gigs.

Mr Mangion admitted that finding rehearsal venues is not the top priority and he is working on a number of other important issues. “Band promoters spoke to us and highlighted better ways in which we can help. One of them is noise pollution. There is a situation where gigs are sometimes cut short because of noise complaints. But there have been cases where the complaints were made by rival bands, and not by neighbours. We need to address this. We are also working on removing red tape that bands have to face to organise an event.”

Bands need spaces to perform – Pianist Vinny Vella

The Malta Independent also spoke to pianist Vinny Vella, whose opinion is that bands do not really need spaces to rehearse. “They need spaces to perform. Live music is dying out. Let us create job opportunities for artistes.”

Mr Vella said that it would be better if the government helped musicians financially, insisting that it still costs a fortune to publish a CD album. “The government could also incentivise hotels to have musicians performing live, like they used to in the past. It could offer them a tax break. This is a win-win situation. Artistes would have a place to perform and hotels would do more business in their bars. The government would also be entitled to more VAT.”

He also criticised the arts fund for being too limited and not coping with the artiste’s demands. In the budget for next year the Malta Arts Fund’s budget has been retained at €230,000.

Mr Vella said that the sector was under recognised and some MPs did not even know that there are Maltese full-time musicians. This could be because they are few in number, but this in turn can be attributed to the lack of incentives and standards. 

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