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Indie venues fight back against coronavirus

From auctions to delivery services, the grassroots music sector in Europe and North America is getting creative as the spread of coronavirus prevents business as usual

By Anna Grace on 19 Mar 2020

Indie venues fight back against coronavirus

The Hug and Pint is among many UK venues to close temporarily

image © David Weaver

The grassroots music sector has been hit hard by the spread of Covid-19, with iconic venues around the world shutting for the foreseeable future.

However, in the face of adversity, many venues are showing they have the creativity, following and sector support it takes to weather even the most turbulent of storms.


Venues get creative

Venues around the UK that have temporarily closed, including Glasgow’s Hug and Pint (100-cap.), the Leadmill in Sheffield (1,150-cap.) and the Boileroom in Guildford (275-cap.), are implementing crowdfunding or other fundraising methods to generate additional income.

The team at Hug and Pint, which is owned by 432 Presents, say they have been “overwhelmed” by the support of the community, and have raised almost a third of their £30,000 crowdfunding target in just three days. Donations can be made here.

The Glaswegian venue has also launched the Hug at Home, a food and drink delivery service serving up “freshly prepared classics from the Hug and Pint menu”.

The Leadmill in Sheffield is auctioning off memorabilia including a custom guitar signed by Arctic Monkeys, a signed Biffy Clyro setlist and signed posters for the likes of Miles Kane, Feeder, Blossoms, Belle & Sebastian, Circa Waves, Goldfrapp and many more.

The team at Hug and Pint say they have been “overwhelmed” by the support of the community

The venue is also encouraging fans to buy merchandise – and toilet rolls – from its online shop.

A number of music venues across the United States have also set up Go Fund Me pages and are selling merch in a bid to raise funds following the shuttering of venues in states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and South Carolina. A list of fundraising efforts is available on the Independent Venue Week website.

Many venues are also live streaming shows for fans to watch at home. US punk band Code Orange recently performed at a near-empty Roxian Theatre in Pittsburgh, but streamed the show live on the video game-focused platform Twitch, attracting over 13,000 concurrent viewers during the performance.

In the Germany, home to Europe’s clubbing capital Berlin, venues are taking part in the United We Stream initiative, broadcasting live DJ sets and performances from empty clubs each night. Fans are encouraged to donate €10, €20 or €30 a month in exchange for a ‘virtual club ticket’ to support venues and event organisers during the closure.

Many venues are also live streaming shows for fans to watch at home

Associations rally

Italian association KeepOn Live has launched a similar initiative, #StayON, forming a programme of live streams from clubs across a number of different channels “to gather the world of music around a single large virtual stage”.

The association is also encouraging members to fill in a questionnaire to allow them to quantify the damage done by Covid-19.

The results of similar survey initiated by the Music Venue Trust (MVT) in the UK has estimated it would cost around £3.7 million to sustain the weekly costs of all 661 venues in its Music Venues Alliance.

The charity has surveyed members weekly since the start of March to gauge how venues have been affected by the outbreak. From 10 to 16 March, almost 92% of the 247 respondents, and 95% of those in London, said they had been “negatively impacted by public response to Covid-19″, jumping from just 40% the week before.

Although a large proportion – 86% and a staggering 98% in London – reported a decrease in gross income over the past week, a slightly lower number of venues (58% and 62% respectively), cancelled events last week due to the virus, although that figure jumped from just 19% the week before.

MVT is commencing a third survey on 23 March. “Following the government’s 16 March advice, we will add a first question of whether the venue is still trading,” states the MVT report.

“We expect this question to indicate that close to 100% of venues have now ceased all live music activity”

“We expect this question to indicate that close to 100% of venues have now ceased all live music activity, and will ask for details of staff layoffs and financial situations for respondents where this is the case.”

The MVT is using its data to lobby the government, asking for a legal enforcement of venue closures to allow venues to seek insurance payouts and for the creation of a £120 million relief fund.

Other European venue associations are taking a similar path. German venue association LiveKomm is lobbying the government to get measures such as the creation of an emergency fund for live events, the deferral of tax payments, grants to help cover rent and postponement of royalty payments for venues.

Petzi, which represents 113 small music venues in Switzerland, has put forward similar proposals, asking for temporary unemployed insurance for all self-employed workers in the cultural sector, easy access to short-time work for all small- and medium-sized enterprises, compensation for cancelled events , an emergency fund for cultural workers and businesses under threat and a continuation of public funding for culture.

What is your venue or association doing to fight back against Covid-19? Email [email protected] to keep us updated on your efforts.


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