In December 2014 Music Venue Trust organised the first national gathering of small and medium scale music venues from across the UK, Venues Day 2014. This week sees the first publication of the research conducted by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in the lead up to and during Venues Day. Understanding Small Music Venues: An Interim Findings Report is intended to be a discussion document about how these venues operate, the challenges they face and the role they play.
Over 120 venues were represented at Venues Day and 107 participated in the research project which is still ongoing. What quickly emerges is that our live music venue circuit is in a perilous and precarious state, facing an uncertain future that despite the passion of the people involved in it is at real risk. We need to be openly discussing and airing those challenges with our live music industry colleagues, and working together to tackle that range of issues so we not only maintain and preserve this circuit but actively start to improve it. We feel that past failures to talk about the ecosystem of UK music have meant that people who don't actively work in it perhaps don't understand the structure of the industry, or the vital role that this network of venues plays in maintaining it.
The UK is, quite literally, a music world leader, punching vastly above its weight in terms of the impact our artists and musicians make across the globe. A huge proportion of the music we export, which generates thousands of jobs, develops the artistic careers of our best writers and musicians, and is such an important part of the UK's standing on the international cultural stage, starts in a small venue. This is the grassroots of our industry, the research and development department of our major international music industry partners.
I think it is impossible to overstate this; if we in the music industry don't act to make sure we have a Troubadour or a 12 Bar Club, we should stop thinking we are going to produce any more Adeles.
Our UK music scene, arguably the best in the world, is built on a robust ecosystem that starts with a first live concert in front of as few as ten people on a Tuesday night in Guildford and climaxes with 3 nights at Wembley Stadium. And it's not just the musicians - our industry and other parts of the creative sector are filled with people who cut their teeth promoting, booking or simply working the door at a small venue. This small venue circuit is the training ground and the entry level experience for our lighting engineers, sound technicians, and cultural organisers at all levels; we need to ensure we do all we can to protect it.
A full report will be released on Monday 9 March 2015, when we at Music Venue Trust will be announcing our response to what has been learned. In the meantime, you can read the interim report at this link