The future of live music (or lack thereof) is a burning topic right now. This year, we’ve seen Paul McCartney backing a Parliament bill to protect music venues from closure, while there has also been recent legislation affecting live music venues all across Scotland. These events have reignited the debate around whether or not the UK’s live music scene is dying.
The new legislation in Scotland means that just one noise complaint could see the venue being issued a Noise Abatement Order. If a venue receives a Noise Abatement Order, they may have to cough up thousands of pounds to soundproof their building. This only serves as a death sentence for the small, independent venues that up-and-coming performers rely on for their big break.
The debate around the UK’s live music scene may appear like a recent one because of this legislation, but worries about the live music scene have been rife for a long time. It’s been estimated that over the past 10 years, a huge 40% of live music venues have closed in London alone, and a similar pattern has been emerging all over the UK. This was before the legislation came into practise.
So, what else is affecting music venues?
The factor that is likely to have affected many music venues, in London especially, is the mounting price of rent, which small venues simply can’t afford anymore. The closures are also down to property developers buying the venues and turning them into residential properties such as blocks of flats. This is what caused one of the UK’s most popular and respected music venues – The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich – to close. Unrealistic licensing restrictions, which saw Soho’s iconic Madame JoJo’s close, have also had a role to play in the live music venue exodus.
This may make it sound like the whole music industry is suffering. However, this is not true – the music industry, as a whole, is far from its apparent collapse. Millions of pounds are made from artists playing giant, sell-out shows at giant venues like the MEN area. The problem is that in 20 years’ time, there won’t be able acts to play these big shows at these big venues. Without the UK’s small live music venues, up-and-coming acts have no way to perfect playing live or grow their fan base.
Not all hope is lost…
However, the outlook for the UK’s live music scene is not as bleak as it may seem. People involved in the UK’s live music scene are now putting pressure on politicians to consider implementing a principle called the “Agent of Change”. This would mean that people would only be able to complain about the noise if they had lived in their home before the venue had opened. So, if someone moved into a particular location with full knowledge about the noise that would come from the venue, they are unable to complain.
More good news is that it was reported at the beginning of this year by the Mayor of London that the number of grassroot music venues in London have remained stable for the first time since 2007. The BBC recently spoke to thriving music venues to compile a number of steps that venues can take to give them the best chance possible of not only surviving, but thriving.
One of the most successful UK venues, the Brudenell Social Club, has treating all bands the same – whether they are just starting out, or if they are a big headliner – as one of their main priorities. The social club also doesn’t request a share of the money that bands earn from selling merchandise at the venue. So, if a band is earning twice as much as they usually would, they’re very likely to come back to the venue to perform again. Another thing the Brudenell Social Club has done is that the people who run the live music nights, have also brought the venue. Therefore, they don’t have a landlord who can increase the rent as soon as the venue becomes successful.
The Tunbridge Wells Forum in Kent, another highly successful live music venue, have kept on the good side of the neighbours by working hard to forge a place in the local community. By doing this, they are very unlikely to get noise complaints that could see them receiving a Noise Abatement Order
The “Agent of Change” principle and this recent report threads a silver lining through the cloud of the UK’s live music scene. However, it is clear that the recent legislation, as well as several other factors, are likely to claim a number of other venue victims. But live music is resilient and, as long as there’s demand, we’re confident it’ll survive and provide the UK with its next batch of homegrown British talent.
If you are an up-and-coming band who contribute to the UK’s live music scene, don’t forget that it’s a good idea to take out specialist music insurance. Insure4Music offer specialist Public Liability insurance, as well as equipment cover for theft, loss and accidental damage. We also provide Personal Accident insurance in case anyone hurts themselves performing. For tailor-made specialist music insurance from just £20 a year, get your instant quote online today!