‘Nowhere for bands to play’ – industry figures call for for action on venue closures

Live Music

Industry figures and musicians including Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett and rapper ShaoDow have called for action to prevent more closures of UK live music venues.

Giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 100 Club owner Jeff Horton, said: ‘I think there’s an impact here on everybody. It’s going to be very difficult if the current closures continue, to say who will be a headliner at the next Glastonbury, if there’s nowhere for these bands to play.’

The UK music industry generated a total gross value of £4.4bn in 2016, with live music contributing £1bn to the UK’s economy.

However, the number of grassroots music venues in the UK has declined, with around 35 percent of small music venues in the UK closing in the last decade due to increased rents and landlords selling land to developers.

ShaoDow spoke to the committee about the importance of grassroots live music venues in an artist’s development, likening it to primary or secondary school education. ‘You can’t just skip those steps,’ he said. ‘For the majority of artists in this country, it’s off our own backs and we do it because we love it. With the closure of so many small music venues, it becomes more difficult.

‘In an age where streaming has taken governance over the way music is consumed, as artists, our income has taken a massive hit. To supplement that, you have to do other things such as live shows. It’s still a very integral part of our revenue stream.

‘Without it, it’s going to get to a point where musicians cannot afford to live and create. I live entirely off my music, and it’s something I want to continue doing, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult.’

Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and founder of London venue, Omeara, spoke of the bands’s early shows in small London venues before they began touring around the UK. ‘I’d say 20 percent of those venues exist today, and that was only 10 years ago. That’s a crying shame.

‘It might not seem to prevalent now but when we strip out the roots of our culture, it’s 10 years, 20 years from now that we’ll feel the downside of that,’ he warned.

Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, added: ‘It is a problem everywhere. When a music venue on the touring circuit closes down, it’s extremely unlikely it’s coming back under the current economic circumstances.’

Commenting on the greater implications for the UK economy, Horton said: ‘There could also be a huge impact on tourism. Music is what we do, and we’re still brilliant at it. [But] if this continues, I think the impact will be for everyone, not just for small or even large music venues.’

The committee was part of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into Live Music, which aims to explore ‘other ways in which the Government can support upcoming artists and grassroots venues that form such a crucial part of the music scene in the UK.’