Maltese musicians at Isle of MTV: charity?

Larger than life & better than all Maltese artistes put together????

The debate has been going on for quite a while now, pretty much ever since the initial line-up for this year’s Isle of MTV concert was announced. Once again, like last year, no Maltese artistes have (so far) been invited to take part in the mega-concert that sees practically 80% of Malta thronging to the Granaries come July.

A Facebook page protesting the lack of support for local talent sprung up almost immediately – mainly thanks to Maestro Sigmund Mifsud’s initiative – and today the page counts over 4K members. The first time Isle of MTV came to Malta some four years ago, Ira Losco had been invited to take part. If I remember correctly, her performance was not included in the eventual television broadcast but even so, I’m sure the singer herself counts it as one of the most memorable performances of her career. Apart from the potential for international networking that such an event offers, few Maltese artistes get to enjoy the experience of performing in front of thousands of people.

Not everyone agrees with the purpose behind this group. I was surprised to see radio host Joe Tanti among the vehement dissenters. If Maltese artists want to make it, he wrote, then they should follow the likes of Carrie Haber, who worked hard to make it in London, rather than expecting what he terms “charity”. Singer Ludwig Galea also poured cold water on the argument, writing “if you believe you’ve got it, leave the country and audition”. Which is all very well and good, but which totally misses the point of the group.

I will not go into the merits of whether financially and contractually it is possible for our government to secure spots for Maltese artistes during this event. I can only say that if it happened twice before, why not again? However, the assumption made by the group’s critics that should a Maltese act be invited to take part in Isle of MTV it is only to be considered an “act of charity” bothered me big-time. As did the assumption that members of this group are just looking for “freebies” and “an easy ride”.  Such statements smack of facile judgement and of extraordinary naiveté.

Internationally, the biggest musicians have only made it to the top of the charts because, along with their hard work, they also got that one lucky break – and taking part in such an event could signify the one lucky break for a Maltese artiste. A lucky break does not constitute charity; on the contrary, it is what makes the difference between a talented musician’s first chart hit and another talented musician who spends a lifetime busking in the streets.

rationalizing the decision not to include Maltese artistes by saying that the latter need to make it on their own steam just doesn’t cut it. If manager Brian Epstein hadn’t pulled strings to get The Beatles a deal with EMI after the band was rejected by I can’t remember how many record companies (totally owning their butts in the process, but that’s a different story) would they have become the legend they are today?

If producer Martin Hammett hadn’t been around to shape Joy Division with his trademark “sparse and eerie” sound, would they have become the cult band they are today?

If Whitney Houston didn’t happen to possess those distinctive looks that made her a famous model before becoming a record-breaking singer, would she have found the open doors that enabled her to launch her singing career? And does this mean that we are to respect them less, given that what can be termed “outside factors” contributed significantly to their success?

Critics of the group pooh-poohed the idea that Maltese musicians should expect to “run before they walk” and to perform alongside what they call “larger than life” MTV names. But the irony is that these so-called “larger than life” names would not have made it to MTV without their own lucky break that probably had more to do with good looks and with being at the right place at the right time, than with talent. At least The Beatles, Joy Division and Whitney Houston possessed real talent to carry them through; how many of today’s  MTV acts can claim the same?

The reality is that Maltese musicians are as hard-working as any musicians you will find in England or the States or wherever – probably more, for the simple reason that they are already starting out at a disadvantage. And if one Maltese act gets the lucky break it needs, then it sure as hell is because it deserves it and anyone begrudging it as “charity” can’t have the local arts scene close to heart.

An edited version of this post appeared on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta).



  1. No For Gonzi says:

    These persons only a few of the many left out of the Gonzi equation.

    Has taken serious advice from foreign music industry heads about this Malta artists for Isle theme and entered into deep dialogue with Sigmund Mifsud on his FB page which we have also posted on our wall as well for those really interested to see.
    The thin line that those in favour of local artists appearing do not understand is that this MTV gig is about signed artists. Unfortunately Maltese artists posing as big stars on the Island have decided to become big fish in small ponds, albeit some hyping up foreign gigs to seem important here. However the truth of the matter is that they are unsigned and so do not fit the criteria behind MTV’s Isle gig.
    A hard music business fact needed to be digested.
    It is NOT about what we think should happen but more about (if anything) MTV themselves asked or begged to audition local aspiring acts and possibly that way MTV to finally agree to pick one out themselves. Anything else is not on as also embarrassing for Malta to suggest to them, in the process sounding naive if not stupid. FACT.
    For those still not getting the fundamental point please follow our more detailed explanation on our FB wall

    Maybe Joe Tanti was not as clear as Ludwig in explaining this and unfortunately both not as clear as the definition of music business term …. signed and unsigned artists
    that local artists and anybody voicing an opinion should learn.

    Thanks for publishing & reading our No For Gonzi contribution to this debate.

    • Note: I removed the blurb about your FB group at the beginning of the comment because this is not a political propaganda blog.

      • No For Gonzi says:

        hmmm … that blurb introduces who we are because in the past many understood the name as one cool dude trying to be different instead of a serious page having a view democratically displayed, as a street voice.

        It’s your page and thanks for publishing us, however do you not think that distorting the intro sends the rest to a different place …

        thanks again,
        No For Gonzi …

        • I highly doubt that by removing the amount of followers you have I distorted the intro :) Your link is still there – those who want to find you are free to do so…

  2. Finally, someone got the reasons and purpose of the group correctly. Thanks Ramona

    • No For Gonzi says:

      possibly Sigmund but then again possibly not !
      however your deliberate opportunistic remark above now reflects, in our view, the kind of person you are and the kind of politician you might become.
      is it that hard for you to take advice and/or share dialogue on something that now seems that you have undertaken with the intention of raising your new political wannabe profile. Under the guise of helping local talent when you might be approaching this all in a naive, if not in an embarrassing pop music business fashion. In fact possibly ending up ruining an opportunity (if one could be created here) for local unsigned or signed artists .

      Still three unanswered questions from you (comments please)
      1) The relevance in your expertise as to signed and unsigned artists in connection to this MTV theme here concerned.

      2) Why through all the free promotion you gained so far on the back of this Malta artists Isle of MTV theme, have you not mentioned or even considered already, the successful foreign based Maltese S I G N E D artists with a ready proven hefty amount of record sales abroad. Do you not believe in your expertise that these are the real contenders that could pull this gig with good results for MTV & Malta too.
      WHY NOT ?

      3) Why do you refuse to politely offer MTV, without forcing its hand as you politically intend … in fact the only option that could actually achieve a result for Maltese fresh unsigned bands.
      WHY NOT ?

      There you go …. your pompous crusade made extremely simple ! effective and positive for Maltese signed or unsigned artists albeit you would not obtain the mileage you endeavour for yourself .

      We tried to politely assist you earlier .
      Your opportunistic cheap remark above, was not helpful to the cause.

      • No For Gonzi says:

        Sigmund … any particular reason why instead of answering our questions above, you have chosen to block us out of your group page .’Maltese Artists at Isle of MTV: Where are they?’
        Would this how you will be approaching politics and democracy ?
        Sorry but this is now seeming more like an indirect
        ‘ I maestro Sigmund Mifsud could achieve performing at Isle of MTV if I play my cards politically right ‘
        AGENDA 1 ) remove obstacles like No For Gonzi ….

  3. Rob says:

    Let me start off by saying that I don’t give a damn about the isle of MTV, or even MTV for that matter. So this means that I don’t care who plays, local or foreign, at the event. Nevertheless, some things must be said.

    It is easy to tell people they should leave the country if they believe in their talent, and of course they are right. The problem is, however, that in bands, everyone has their personal life to attend to, and it’s not as easy for all of them to pack their bags altogether. Of course Ludwig Galea shows just how self centered he is. Then again, I guess as long as there is the pathetic ‘Eurovision’, sponsored by the public, he is happy. They also need to get a clue about the music industry, especially nowadays; which has nothing to do with the ‘POP’ industry.

    Also, while in virtually all countries across the globe governments impose laws that promote their local talent (such as a percentage of music broadcast should be local). In Malta you can’t even find a rehearsal room without facing any hassles; don’t even start about proper venues to play in and more importantly, about facilities at schools, high schools and university; unless things changed radically, which I doubt. It’s a culture you need to change here. No mean feat.