Britain has forever been at the forefront of music. Its numerous clubs have hosted the likes of The Beatles in the 50’s, Pink Floyd in the 60’s, and punk rock bands such as The Clash and The Ramones in the 70’s. In the modern era, indie groups and grunge bands have also used the “live music” platform to showcase their talent to the very enthusiastic British public – who they helped them achieve global stardom. In 2016 alone, more than 30 million fans helped the live music industry in Britain raise $5 million and contribute it to the UK economy. However, according to UK’s first live music census, the number of grassroots music venues in the UK has declined drastically.
The census that was published in February 2018 revealed how Britain’s small venues are struggling due to increased business rates and property development. A third of such venues were prone to issues with property development and complaints about noise pollution – which often arise when tenants move into new buildings next to established music venues. As a result of smaller venues getting banned, talent headhunters are finding it difficult to search for future festival headliners, which is impeding Britain’s cultural reputation around the world.
In an extremely competitive environment, bands and musical acts must be provided a platform to not only showcase their musical abilities but also to provide a soundscape into which the audience can escape into. Every large band started small, performing in smaller venues before moving on to fill stadiums. The audience also appreciates this fact and provides constructive criticism that helps the band to evolve beyond their current capacity. Overall, performing in smaller venues is crucial to the burgeoning artist to not only grow musically and network but also get a paycheck to support their striving endeavor.
Instead, large venues in Britain are thriving and provides a platform for established acts to perform in front of their audience. These venues are usually overpriced and cannot be afforded by regular live music listeners. “It’s important to get ahead of the issue”, said Ben Lovett of the band Mumford & Sons. Being the founder of the London venue Omeara, he said, “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.”
Jeff Horton, the founder of 100 Club, has also expressed deep concern over the trend. “One of the things I came across in the report is that in 2014, something like 70 percent of headline acts at British festivals had played the 100 Club at some point in their careers,” he said. He added, “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.”
Small music venues are like “primary or secondary education, for a new musician’s career”. Horton went on to add, “You can’t just skip those steps, 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.”