Estimation dictates that in the last 10 years, 40% of music venues have closed in London, this is reflecting a similar pattern in the UK. As a musician, and in some cases, a promoter, I know how important these smaller music venues are for up-and-coming bands and the music industry in Britain as a whole.
An artist writes music that means something to them, but there is no greater pride in people you have never met singing your songs. This all starts in the smaller music venues, unless you get lucky and release a number one single without playing any gigs, which I am pretty sure has never happened. I lived in Brighton for two years, during that time I was part of a band. We called ourselves ‘Stacks’, we sold out these smaller music venues many times with people we had never met. We were able to get a fan base from gigging at these smaller venues such as The Ferret, The Mesmerist and classic Brighton bars which would fit in any bohemian city.
The band eventually split up after a good crack at the music industry, but what made our short but sweet success possible was the smaller music venues. Now, the fact that these venues are closing up and down the country means ‘new’ musicians aren’t getting noticed, they have to pay more for travel to get to venues that are still open, and whatever fan base they have are going to have to pay the same amount, and in a lot of cases these ‘new’ musicians cannot afford to pay to play let alone travel, and I know for a fact that this puts so many talented musicians off gigging.
I believe the reason for the sudden decline in these all so quirky venues has something to do with the internet and the way the music industry is changing. Back in the day, you would write some songs, get in contact with a promoter who would say something along the lines of “Here’s 50 tickets you get half of whatever you sell.” It wasn’t ideal, but you start out small and work your way up. It would now appear that everything is based online. For example, a promoter may only hire a band for the night if they have over 1000 likes on Facebook. This is to ensure a busy night for both the venue and the promotor. However, as great as this sounds, it is easier said than done.
Venues that are in danger of shutting include The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, both of which I know very well having played there multiple times. It is hands down one of the best venues I have played at, with a capacity of around 250 and a sound system that wouldn’t feel out of place at a music festival. As well as a raised stage and a diverse bar it is a wonder why it’s threatened. I imagine the location is the only down side but it’s still relatively close to the centre of the town. Some of the artists that have played there include (and I am honoured to have been on the same stage as) Biffy Clyro, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Muse, Royal Blood, The Libertines, Adele and Ellie Goulding. If the venue ceases to be, then artists such as these will lose a stepping stone to the big stages, and if they all close then we will have to rely on the internet to listen to music and the live industry will diminish.
To remedy this poison, I personally believe these venues need to pay less money for rent and they need money pumped in from people higher in the industry. A life without live music sounds awfully dull, and people cannot afford to go to Manchester Arena every week. Whereas they can afford a fiver to watch the local bands on a Thursday night. Another idea that may help the owners of these bars come out of a little debt, would be to advertise a little more, not just for gigs, but the fact they sell booze should help to get a few people talking about it. Allowing anymore to close would be sacrilege on the music industry, and we would be left with nightclubs as our entertainment. In my opinion, there is a time and a place for 30 Justin Bieber songs a night.