Despite the government’s priority being concentrated on what is undoubtedly a contentious issue for many it is comforting to know that they are still investigating the issues that affect us on a small scale but can have some major knock on effects later on.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, published a government report this morning (Tuesday 19/03/2019) that explored many of the issues in the live music scene in the UK. It covers the apparent institutionalised racism against Grime music to rancid ticket touts. It also has recognised that the rate of closure of Grassroots Music Venues (GMV’s) is an urgent challenge that the government has failed to help. But the government is not solely responsible for protecting the venues. GMV’s themselves, local authorities, landlords, developers, government and the music industry all share responsibility and are the very same that can help stem the rate of closure and it is in everyone’s interest to do so. The Music Venue Trust is fighting our corner when things get tough.
The alarming rate of closures of Grassroots Music Venues across the UK is truly shocking. Between 2007 and 2015, the UK lost 35% of its GMV’s. We’ve seen, through reports from the Music Venue Trust that this hasn’t slowed. At least 5 venues in the last 6 months have had to announce that they intend to close. There tends to be a handful of common issues that all GMV’s face that are instrumental in their decisions to close and with the help of the MVT, these were identified in the report.
Often, it’s local independent small family run businesses that close. Acts and patrons lose venues that they loved for decades. They will lose the venue they likely saw or played their first gig at. And once they close, that’s it… gone! Consigned to fond memories of their youth and lost to the next generation. On a national scale, the effects of the closures can be much more damaging than most realise and may not be felt immediately. The music industry as a whole will not be unharmed as there will be fewer venues as platforms for establishing acts to hone stagecraft before being scouted. Having fewer GMV’s will just force the industry to rely and focus on the “manufactured” groups and viral hit acts that are forgotten faster than they were discovered.
The report from the DCMS committee makes recommendations at all levels that will help prevent further closures. “Agent of change” policy is a big one. Without it, the live music scene has been devastated in Edinburgh with many of its GMV’s already fallen victim. As this policy has been added to local planning policy north and south of the border it offers protection to GMV’s against new developments. The onus is now put on developers to plan adequate noise alleviation solutions at the design stage but still no protection from existing developments.
The report goes on to recommend that funding agencies like Creative Scotland (and equivalents throughout the UK) should be working more closely with artists and GMV’s to promote and invest in contemporary music. But these agencies shouldn’t carry the whole funding burden. The Music Industry is called up to support its foundations. They’ve been tasked to invest in GMV’s to help them to develop facilities to make the UK’s Grassroots Music Venues some of the best in Europe. Not only to help GMV’s but to make a career in performing live original music a viable way for an artist to support themselves.
The report makes an interesting read. I will link the article, that has a copy of the report attached, on the Music Venue Trust website. We can only hope that as many of the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible. Whatever happens in the political landscape here's hoping that this report published gets the ball rolling for better recognition, support and protection of Grassroots Music Venues and the artists that take to the stage.