Music Venue Trust CEO, Mark Davyd, pens an open letter to Coldplay on the back of the band’s historic Etihad Stadium shows in Manchester…
Congratulations on your incredible record-breaking run in Manchester last week. 240,000 people got to see you at The Etihad Stadium and the show looks incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time on the first night to remind the crowd about your journey to take this stage, especially for the mention for your earliest shows in Manchester and specifically for calling out the Night & Day, whose future as a vital piece of the music ecosystem in Manchester still remains in doubt.
It’s 25 years since you played your first gig at The Laurel Tree on 14 March 1998. It’s been amazing to watch you grow from a band loading their own amps in and out of the UK’s Grassroots Music Venues into the stadium-filling global superstars you have become. I was one of the lucky ones who saw you on both your first and second national tours, playing support to Bellatrix and then co-headlining with Terris at Tunbridge Wells Forum. You probably won’t remember me, but I remember you and the positive attitude you brought to those shows. I remember you taking the time to thank everyone at the venue, to personally meet the fans you were building, standing at a merch table at the back of the room trying to raise enough money from t-shirt sales to make the tour make financial sense.
It’s always been tough on the grassroots touring circuit, you of all people know that. But it’s now at the stage where artists and venues simply can’t make it work. Tours are being slashed down to the bare bones of dates and the number of tours out there is collapsing. The combined effect of the energy crisis, cost of living, inappropriate taxation, VAT, Business Rates, premises costs, noise complaints, gentrification is hitting venues and artists hard. Too hard. The number of shows on this circuit fell by 16.9% in 2022. It’s going to fall even more dramatically this year. One grassroots music venue is closing every week. Forty-eight have closed in the last 12 months. Your 1999 tour with Terris played 20 dates. Only nine of the venues remain for artists to play.
“The opportunities you had to start your band, to grow your audience, to build your fanbase, to launch your career, all of it is evaporating for the next potential stadium filling acts”
All this means that the opportunities you had to start your band, to grow your audience, to build your fanbase, to launch your career, all of it is evaporating for the next potential stadium filling acts. But it’s not just that artists just like you can’t find a way to start their live careers, it’s also that whole communities of young people aren’t getting the opportunity to fall in love with live music. In your early career you went all over the country, taking music to people’s doorsteps. The experience of seeing you in their local venue will have inspired young people to pick up a guitar and form their own bands. Some of those artists will have gone on to have careers of their own. This whole virtuous circle is breaking down. You can’t be it if you can’t see it, and whole swathes of the country are now many, many miles away from the nearest venue promoting new and emerging artists.
We have to act to turn this around and you have the opportunity to lead the way.
I’m guessing like most people you probably don’t know this, but your shows at Etihad Stadium are actually financially supporting grassroots community activity. Your hosts Manchester City, both as an individual club and as part of the FA and Premier League, are part of a mechanism where the most successful organisation, events, teams, and players ensure that financial support from their success goes directly into grassroots football. The financial success of your shows at Etihad is directly supporting communities across the country to have access to grounds and training. The 240,000 people who see you in Manchester this week are part of making sure that everyone in the country has access to football pitches through programmes like The Football Foundation. That’s brilliant, isn’t it?
We don’t have anything like this in the music industry. Music Venue Trust believes that we should.
“If £1 of every ticket sold to see your triumphant, career defining, shows at Etihad had gone into a fund to support grassroots music venues and artists, just imagine what it could have been used to achieve”
If £1 of every ticket sold to see your triumphant, career defining, shows at Etihad had gone into a fund to support grassroots music venues and artists, just imagine what it could have been used to achieve. Just four shows by you resulting in the £10,000 of tour support money needed to enable 24 new and breaking artists to get out on tour. 16 venues spending £15,000 to install solar energy and reduce their bills to zero. 48 venues improving their access with a £5,000 investment so that their spaces are open to all. The opportunity to do that on these shows is obviously behind us, they were booked a long time ago. But I wanted to tell you what we could be doing. Because it’s what we have to do if we want this circuit to survive.
The numbers are startling. Our grassroots music venue circuit is collapsing while the top end of our industry has never been more successful. With your help, Music Venue Trust can make Grassroots Music Venues part of the success story of UK live music. With your help, we could create the best touring circuit for grassroots musicians and grassroots audiences in the world.
For that to happen, we need you to lead the way. Next tour, please let’s talk about this. £1 per arena and stadium ticket to make sure every potential music fan in the country has access to live music in their community they can fall in love with.
Please take the lead. Join us and let’s build a bright and successful future for live music.
With love and admiration
Mark Davyd, CEO and founder, Music Venue Trust
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