Not this time! Local bands hit out at Eurovision singer’s government contract

William Mangion's €20,000 contract comes under fire from musicians, who feel that the money would be better spent on practical solutions to problems they face

William Mangion has set himself up to be judged by some very fierce critics.
William Mangion has set himself up to be judged by some very fierce critics.

Bands supposed to be promoted by Eurovision singer William Mangion, who is under a government contract, slammed the contract conditions, which they said were ridiculously unnecessary.

Last week MaltaToday revealed that the government is paying William Mangion €19,582 a year to ‘coordinate the promotion of local bands’.

Mangion was given the position last year, soon after Labour’s election victory. The government said that Mangion is responsible for “identifying a suitable place for bands to meet for rehearsals”, “compiling a database of bands and artistes who need such a space” and “preparing a proposal for the organisation and proper running of this building”.

MaltaToday has since contacted a number of local bands to discover what they think of the situation…

“Spending €20,000 on superficial research that could have been carried out in a day is simply ridiculous,” David Grech Urpani of Three Stops to China said. “We know which garages can be used to play in and which areas are the least problematical to bands – we’re a small community so we share ideas. Practice space is not a priority and anyone professing to be the face of local bands should at least have known that.”

He added, “We all know what our limitations are; all anyone had to do was ask. We’ve been complaining for years. If the government had consulted us and then hired an individual to come up with a creative framework that functions alongside the resourcefulness and DIY-ness that bands have all come to accept and respect, that would have been worthwhile. No one buys into this helping hand that we’ve been forced to feel grateful for though.”

“We’re pleased that the government is finally taking an interest in local bands,” Maria Luana of Milk Mi said. “However, practice spaces are not a priority for bands. If you have a band then you typically already have a practice space.”

Nick Morales from nosnow/noalps agrees with her. “I am not too sure what William Mangion is doing, but finding a place where bands can rehearse is just a waste of time. Most functional bands already have a place to rehearse,” he said.

“Bands already have rehearsal places,” Michael Briguglio of Norm Rejection said. “To be fair on Mangion though, he had sent out a research questionnaire a few months ago where he asked us for feedback on how to improve the current situation for local bands.”     

“The idea of compiling a database of bands is great but its uses should go beyond that of finding rehearsal space,” hard-rock band Blue Sky Abyss said. “From our experience, finding rehearsal space was never our biggest problem.”

“For a country as small as Malta, it’s important that the government supports Maltese artistes to take the next step into the international scene,” Cryptic Street said. “As a band, all we can say is that we have not been approached by Mangion offering his help in any way, except for an email on February 11 with a research questionnaire.”

Mario Vella from Brikkuni described Mangion’s role as a “total sham” and a “20K embarrassment”.

 “The Culture Ministry should be properly equipped to handle such infrastructural issues without any political interference,” Vella said.  “The only aid should have come in the form of professional consultancy with individuals who have time and time again acquitted themselves in the field.”

A metal band member who wished to remain anonymous was unequivocal in his comments: “It is f*****g offensive to have a playback hotel singer represent serious musicians who have been touring since they were 19 years old.”

“Mangion has not promoted s**t,” he said. “I never heard from him. I don’t need Mangion promoting a product he doesn’t understand or respect,” he said. “We didn’t ask for this. We don’t need him. If this administration were serious, they’d talk to us, not to a mike jockey who most likely has never carried an amplifier onto a stage.”

So how can the government help local bands out more effectively?

“There aren’t enough venues with licences for bands to play live in,” David Grech Urpani said. “The system for obtaining permits to play in non-privately owned locations or venues is impossibly uncooperative.

“Moreover, Malta’s legal structure does not protect or promote bands playing live either. Many a gig has been interrupted by police presence after 11pm.”

“What local bands need is a budget aimed at improving the local and international opportunities available for us. There is a budget for the Eurovision…” Maria Luana said.

“Maltese bands need more venues, events, radio stations and TV shows as platforms to showcase their talent and more support when touring or living abroad,” Nick Morales said. “The money on Mangion’s contract could have been spent on organising a festival for local bands, promoting it abroad, and inviting representatives from the foreign music industry to attend it.” 

“Bands need more venues that are properly equipped for live performances, and more marketing to promote them on an international level,” Michael Briguglio said. “The government should act as a facilitator here. People who have studied how to promote culture should be placed in charge of band promotion.”

“The biggest headaches for bands are finding venues and financial problems when it comes to recording and touring,” Blue Sky Abyss said. “There were rumours that Mangion’s work would lead to the creation of an artistic hub reminiscent of the Tigné era, including adequate venues and a feeling of community among artistes and musicians.

“If such a thing does materialise we would say it would be money well spent.” 

“The money allocated to band promotion would have been better used to supply bands with the financial aid they so need instead of allocating it to a single person,” Cryptic Street said.

“€20,000 could have been used to locate potential performance sites, or repair and maintenance in existing sites, to cover legal fees which will be incurred once work starts on the review of the current legislation, and to acquire noise metres,” Mario Vella said. “I can think of a hundred useful ways of spending that money. Appeasing Mangion is not one of them.”

“We’re not looking for help or handouts, just for a legal level playing field,” the metal band member said. “For example, we should get leave from work while touring, like sportspeople get.”

“We can do the rest ourselves, thank you very much.”