Around 40% of small music venues in London have closed in the past 10 years and figures are similar across the UK. These closures threaten London's music scene and - understandably - have caused upset among musicians and music lovers alike. With some of our favourite music venues being closed in recent years, it leaves us wondering why this is happening and what can be done about it.
Why are these cultural gems closing their doors?
London's music scene boasts a variety of world class venues but also smaller intimate venues where you can see upcoming and unsigned acts. These smaller venues provide musicians with opportunities to begin their musical careers and the public to sample and discover new musical talent. We know just how important these venues are, as they've played a big part in kick-starting our musical journey. But, with the rising costs associated with running a music venue, looming property developers, and stricter licensing, we're beginning to understand why some of our favourite venues are being forced to shut down for good.
Pictured above is one of our favs, The Blind Tiger Club in Brighton, which sadly closed its doors in 2013, allegedly due to noise complaints, despite a campaign receiving 11,000 signatures from local residents and being a music venue for approximately 160 years. (Photo credit/ Flickr/ nigeyb)
It's no secret that running a music venue is costly, with band fees, stock and staff wages, and skyrocketing rental costs, it all adds up very quickly. This leads to a catch-22 situation; charging a lot for gig entry which results in the public being put off by the prices, or not charging enough and suffering a loss of revenue. What's more, venues are constantly in competition with each other to promote the best drinks deals and cheaper entry fees or even free entry. While this is great for potential customers, we often forget how these too-good-to-miss deals may impact on businesses in the long-run.
Property developers are hungry to seize on opportunities to knock down small music venues which form the heart of London's music scene and build apartments in their place by applying for planning permission and it sadly being granted. This has been the fate of many venues and pubs in London, such as The Black Lion in Bayswater, which was sold to property developers for £27 million in 2015 to make way for luxury apartments.
Stringent bureaucracy is hitting venues hard, with regulations such as the late night levy meaning businesses supplying alcohol after a certain time have to pay a tax. Other new rules such as anti-drugs policy, crowd dispersal, and door security schemes also add to the costs of running a venue.
Pubs and alcohol go hand in hand, and alcohol often causes disorderly, or sometimes even criminal behaviour. It is therefore no surprise that sometimes venues licenses are revoked due to drug use and assaults leading to bad press, and in serious cases venue licenses being revoked. A recent example is the closure of the renowned music venue, Fabric.
Alternative gig spaces
We urge you music lovers to support your local venues, wherever possible. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we campaign, sometimes venue closure is inevitable, so we must look to alternative spaces for local musicians starting out. These can include cafés, libraries, community centres, colleges, universities and disused spaces. A trend we are increasingly observing is 'pop up' shops, venues that 'pop up', usually for a temporary period. These are great community hubs, aimed at supporting local businesses, and can be a great alternative space to hold live events.
The bright side...
These small venues are fundamental in keeping the music industry in the UK alive. With the start of a fully operational 24 hour tube service, London's night time economy and venues should thrive. Venues need to be supported so they stay open, ensuring London remains one of the top cities in the world for music and culture.