The regular reader knows the frequency we bring the London distribution and promotion firm, Copperplate Distribution, to the fore, as a service for you. Copperplate founder, Alan O’Leary has been mentioned on these pages almost as often as Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane and Reeltime over the years. For good reasons. And, here they are.
There are precious few Alan O’Learys left. Now, it is true that guys like Alan outlive and end up burying us all, but still, there aren’t that many left. Come to think of it, there never were that many in the first place. If you are a newbie here, Copperplate handles only the top, top traditional Irish music artists in Europe, with some from America thrown in, as well. Copperplate representation in any form means quality. Assured. Probably before you read the rest of this, you should Google Copperplate Distribution, and check it out. You’ll see. What you will notice is a total mix of the most famous and best in real Irish music, such as Shaun Davey, Rita Connelly, Tommy Peoples, Eilis Kennedy and Teada, through lesser known, but vastly important trad artists. Never heard of Chris Droney? Bobby Casey? Cillian Vallely? You should have, and not only has Alan O’Leary heard them, he has signed them up. Copperplate’s secret is this. Much of Alan’s life has been split among three forces. The need to make a living, his total love and devotion to trad and his principle of only handling the best. Himself, a noted wooden flute and tin whistle player (why hasn’t he made an album?) he knows them all. He knew them all. Seamus Ennis? Willie Clancy? Sean O’Riada? The Keanes? The Everly Brothers? Howlin’ Wolf? Wait. Howlin’ and the Everlys? Yup.
Born in Dublin, Alan’s family moved to London when he was 10. He arrived just in time to grow into that misty, magical, musical memory muse of the 60’s, by which time he was besotted by the music of the rockers. He attended almost all of the legendary London clubs of that time. He laughs easily about those days. “Wonderful, marvelous,” he enthuses in his laughing way with a word. “The less said of some of many of my experiences in that time, the better. But, it was all fantastic in London then.” Let’s cut to the chase now. During this time, he was washing the family car, when a neighbor heard the young rocker boy whistling an Irish tune he had heard somewhere. “Do you like Irish music?” asked the neighbor. It was the right neighbor, who then introduced him to the London musical scene in Fulham Broadway and the famous White Hart Public House. When Alan had replied in the affirmative, the adventure had really begun. For years, he was promoting and tour managing both rock and folk acts, including a good bit of time with the iconic, Ralph McTell. He got to know the business. Meanwhile, he was falling more and more in love with traditional music as he learned to play the flute and meeting essentially everyone in London and Ireland at the time. Everyone. Mention a name in the field, and Alan has not only met him or her, he knows them. “Well, they were all around in those days. And, there were not as many venues for them as there are today, so you could find them. There they would be in a regular session at a pub. And, if you knew how to behave, you could learn a lot.”
He came into his adult years, completely at home in booking and creating concerts and tours, as well as managing artists on the road—somewhat akin to herding cats. As his reputation grew, he joined forces in the 90’s with the powerhouse of its day, Green Linnet, based in Connecticut. Alan represented Linnet in the U.K., and led it to a number one position in its field in sales, market presence and influence. Green Linnet was a powerhouse in America in Irish traditional music, and the powerhouse in the U.K. Salad days, in many ways. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the reason for the success, other than Alan’s considerable promotional abilities, was his personal knowledge of the retailers, the artists, the distributors, the producers, presenters, agents----the whole rainbow. Indeed, Alan was uniquely positioned. Green Linnet saw the opportunity. So did Alan. Fast forward to the eventual demise of Linnet. At this time, 1998 or so, he decided to form Copperplate. “I went to 10 artists and friends like Tommy Peoples and asked each of them for 10 cd’s. They kindly gave them, and I was off to the races!”
Through the years there have been O’Leary-hosted radio programs, and he still appears as a guest on almost all the music shows with some regularity. His encyclopedic knowledge is legendary and welcomed by those less experienced. He now hosts the best Irish traditional music podcast in the world on a monthly format. It is available for subscription through iTunes---key word Copperplate. You can also have a listen through his site. In that site, you will also find the magic. The best of the best in trad. Legends. No nonsense. If you love the music, and you do--or else you wouldn’t be this far into this article--Copperplate Distribution is the most important site for you to bookmark in the music. End of. It is impossible to tell you all the artists or the variety of traditional offerings on the site. The key concept is the quality. 100%. The deal. The real Allie Dailey.
“Well, I can say it has been an interesting journey. I’ve made a lot of friends, as well as memories. Most of them good! To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how it all happened. The starting place is music. Then, Irish music. When that gets into you, you do what you have to do, but you become a part of it. It becomes such a part of you. I’ve loved every minute of it. The early days in folk and rock, and then Irish. The secret is to stick with the best.”
Well, that IS Copperplate. And, its artists. Check the albums and you will see the percentage of artists and companies that have more than one album working through Alan. They return time and time again for him to handle their music---and their careers. There are very, very few in this position. We could name them, but with the exception of Judith Joiner in America, there is no one actually doing the work at this level.
Who wins? Well, the artists who have benefitted in so many ways, the companies—and, us! And, that is why you are reading about him here. Alan O’Leary would tell you he is the big winner. “I’ve gotten to spend my life in music. Who could do better?
Indeed. And, who could do it better?