Words & Header Image by Kieran Webber
It was recently revealed by General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union Horace Trubridge that we could lose a majority of our music venues due to the Covid-19 crisis. Losing venues would cripple the underground and emerging music scene, making it impossible for artists to breakout.
Most, if not all artists (especially those in the underground/emerging) rely on live shows to generate revenue. Album sales have been dwindling for years and streams pay pennies. So, what happens if the places they play close down, get demolished or worst yet, turned into luxury apartments.
It’s very simple, if there are no music venues for bands to play in then it is simply impossible for them to exist. The venues that remain will be looking to cash in and the best way to do that is to book larger acts who are guaranteed to sell out. It leaves little to no room for emerging acts to perform and build an audience, let alone get paid and sell their merch.
Speaking on merch Rory Lethbridge of psych-rock outfit School Disco informed me that “Merchandise is a probably the biggest income for us.”
The effect of losing our majorities could be severe explains Rory: “playing live is our bread and butter and therefore it would be very difficult to not have all the great live opportunities we have had previously, if something were to happen.” He continues “Venues as a whole are massively important to me. They have not only massively informed my later teenage years going to my first underground gigs at the Junction and underground in my home town of Plymouth, but also I still have a-lot of those old habits and still hang out in venues like the hope and ruin and green door store in Brighton.”
This begs another questions, in an industry where it is already incredibly hard to make money why would you bother if it got even harder? Losing venues means we will lose bands and artists alike. This really is a domino affect and one that must not begin motion. We could witness the largest destruction of culture that not just the U.K but the world. Music venues are a pillar in every community, even if you’re not an active gig goer there is a chance you’ve been in one at some point of your life.
Other countries such as Germany, New Zealand and France have all set up relief funds for creative industries. Yet the U.K government has remained quiet on the subject. They have been told time and time again that the arts will suffer the most yet they refuse to listen. I asked Alex Salisbury of Inbetween Days a promoter in Falmouth, Cornwall if he believed a government fund would help: “Absolutely. But, the arts have been one area of our society that has been massively underfunded by the current run of Tories governments anyway, so I’m not hopeful.“
However, Alex believes that even in the worse case scenario that “we will always find a way to run shows, whether that’s in a traditional venue, or somewhere else.” Continuing “I think in the next couple of years we’ll all have to get more creative with the spaces we use to keep our musical nightlife alive.”
This is something mirrored by Rory “I truly believe and hope that the underground scene would find a way.” Carrying on he says “Most of the people i know within the scene have a strong DIY ethos and I hope this would carry over into makeshift venues or finding ways of making things work.”
One thing is clear, over the next few years we are going to see a huge change in how we enjoy live music, for better or worse. It is essential to save our venues though, they are pillars in the community and hubs of culture. Nearly every artist worth their salt has started playing in independent venues throughout the country. Most bands and artists would not exist today without them. Remember that next time you’re watching Green Day in a stadium or 1975 sell out massive venues.
We were already fighting a losing battle with the closure of independent venues across the country. Now it has gotten even scarier. It is without a doubt that if we lose the majority of venues then the underground scene will be crippled.