x

The latest industry news to your inbox.


I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

LGBTIQ+ List 2024: Caterina Conti, 432 Presents

The LGBTIQ+ List 2024 – IQ Magazine’s fourth annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s fourth Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on yesterday’s interview with Buğra Davaslıgil (he/they), a senior booker and talent buyer at Charmenko in Türkiye.

The series continues with Caterina Conti (she/her), an operations manager at 432 Presents in Glasgow, Scotland.


Caterina grew up in Imola, a small town near Bologna in Italy. Her journey with music started at the age of nine, and she started her first band aged 14. Since then, music has been her unwavering companion. Conti attended higher education at the University of Bologna, studying Management and Marketing, juggling studies with gigs. After graduation, she moved to the UK to follow her passion for music.

In 2016, Conti pursued a Master’s in International Events Management in Glasgow. Post-graduation, she worked in the hospitality industry, swiftly moving to management roles in different venues across Glasgow. In 2018, Conti started her journey at 432 Present as an intern for 6 months and then started working as a show rep. 

The pandemic halted live music until late summer 2021. In autumn 2021, Conti started to work in live music again, stepping into the role of operations manager for a few festivals. Since November 2021, she’s been working full-time as operations manager at 432 Presents, overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations and ensuring that budgets are balanced and targets met.

Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2024 so far.
We do a lot at our office, lots of different projects to be proud of, but what satisfies me more is the positivity in our team. My role is about managing our team and making sure the spirits are high to deal with stressful situations. A friendly work environment with staff that supports each other is extremely valuable to me and I am very proud of being part of it!

“The crisis of the grassroots music venues is real and is impacting our jobs and the music industry”

You moved from your hometown of Bologna to Glasgow – what attracted you to Glasgow’s music scene?
The British music scene has always inspired me. Many of my favourite bands are from the UK, and I’ve always aspired to immerse myself in this world. Glasgow stood out as the perfect fit for me. It’s energy, an endless array of activities, and the promise of live music every single night.  

Coming from a very different musical landscape in my hometown, Glasgow’s scene felt like a breath of fresh air. The abundance of intimate venues and the sheer talent of local artists made it an irresistible choice. It was clear to me that I had to become part of this community of passionate music enthusiasts and advocates.

As a local promoter, what are the most pressing challenges you’re facing?
We are a small independent promoter company organising some 700-900 events a year and operating two grassroots music venues in The Hug and Pint and The Voodoo Rooms. Alongside most small businesses, we are facing very challenging circumstances operating in these economic conditions. Rates and costs are higher every year, without any financial help from anyone. The crisis of the grassroots music venues is real and is impacting our jobs and the music industry. As a local promoter, we try our best to keep smaller venues alive and full of amazing acts, making sure that those stages for upcoming artists are protected. I’m proud to spend most of my time building resilience into our organisations so that we will be around for many years to come. 

“By creating an environment where all employees feel valued and respected regardless of their background, the industry can become a more equitable and welcoming workplace”

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
The fundamental demand for quality live music has never been stronger as more and more artists at the highest level present maxed-out ticket prices. The developing section of the market will become increasingly price-sensitive with a focus on the quality of artists and venues. The challenge will be to be able to meet the demand and manage to keep alive the grass music venues where smaller artists start.  

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
I think actively promoting and hiring individuals from underrepresented groups, creating safe spaces for marginalized voices and implementing policies that combat discrimination and bias. By creating an environment where all employees feel valued and respected regardless of their background, the industry can become a more equitable and welcoming workplace. I think there has been a great effort to have minorities represented in the music industry but there is still a lot to be done to wipe out the patriarchy. The top executives of the largest music companies are still mostly men and mostly white (mostly straight). 

“Coming from a very different musical landscape in my hometown, Glasgow’s scene felt like a breath of fresh air”

Is there a queer act that you’re itching to see live this year?
I think it’s going to be Lambrini Girls again! I’ve had the pleasure of catching their act before, even sharing the stage with them alongside my band, BIN JUICE, during their Glasgow gig. Great energy and super fun band! The party does not stop with them! Their infectious energy and mad performance never fail to leave a lasting impression. It’s always a blast with them!

Do you have a favourite queer space in Glasgow?
There are a few queer safe spaces in Glasgow. The majority are also great small music venues. My favourites are The Hug and Pint in the Westend, Rum Shack Southside, and for late-night dance Stereo in town. 

How do you plan to celebrate Pride this year?
I just bought a house with my partner, so we will celebrate by having a barbeque in our garden with our friends hopefully on a sunny day in Glasgow!

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

PRS Foundation launches fund for emerging promoters

PRS Foundation has launched a new fund for ‘early-career’ music promoters in England, in a bid to bolster grassroots music ecosystems.

Through the Early Career Promoter Fund, grants of up to £3,500 will be available to support activities, including:

The fund – supported by Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – will also help to address underrepresentation, according to a release, ensuring support reaches a diverse range of promoters.

The initiative comes as the UK live industry rallies around the ongoing crisis in the grassroots music sector. Last month, artists and managers backed the Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) calls for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for UK live music events above 5,000-cap.

“Independent promoters play a vital role in identifying and platforming talent”

Joe Frankland, CEO of PRS Foundation says: “The grassroots music sector plays a crucial role in bolstering scenes and developing talent while driving the economic, cultural and social success of music nationally. We’re delighted to manage the Early Career Promoter Fund in partnership with Arts Council England and DCMS to offer funding and capacity-building support to hundreds of independent promoters who – alongside venues, festivals, artists and crews – will help to build a more robust and diverse live music sector. We’re looking forward to see who applies and to supporting exciting music events across England.”

Claire Mera-Nelson, director, Music at Arts Council England, adds “We’re delighted to be supporting PRS Foundation to develop and deliver the Early Career Promoter Fund. Independent promoters play a vital role in identifying and platforming talent and helping build audiences through partnership with venues and festivals. Helping develop the skills and insight of promoters at the early stages of their career and backing their energy and enthusiasm will play an important role in securing the future of the grassroots music sector. Today’s Supporting Grassroots Music investment from both Arts Council England and the UK Government reaffirms our commitment to supporting this vital element of the music industry and is an ideal complement to the Arts Council’s own Supporting Grassroots Music fund which is open to more established independent promoters.”

DCMS Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, comments: “The UK’s grassroots music sector is vital to helping the next generation of best-selling artists launch their careers and build fanbases. Promoters are a key part of this story, from booking and promoting shows, to hiring production crews and supporting musicians to reach new audiences.

“These government-funded grants will give promoters targeted support so they can provide platforms for a more diverse range of artists, access mentoring and coaching, and build sustainable careers in the creative industries.”

Promoters can apply for Early Career Promoter Fund support from PRS Foundation’s website. Full eligibility criteria and funding guidance will be available soon and the application portal will open on Thursday 2nd May 2024.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Music Venue Trust’s decade of defiance

Across the globe, in almost every town and city, hidden gems pulsate with the raw, unbridled energy of live music.

Often tucked away off the beaten track, these intimate spaces carry a profound significance that transcends mere bricks and mortar. They are sanctuaries where local music scenes breathe and evolve, providing a stage for emerging artists to share their stories – cultural beacons where community, authenticity, and resilience truly take precedence.

In an era of endless mass production, these venues stand as a testament to the enduring power of music and fans’ unwavering passion, where that intimate connection between artist and audience is not only appreciated but revered. They are the very lifeblood of musical culture. But such grassroots music venues are facing existential threats.

2023 was the toughest year yet for them, something that becomes crystal clear perusing news stories on the topic. “Brutal,” “A dire crisis,” and “Devasting” scream the headlines – and with, on average, more than one venue closing every week, the topic is now routinely reported on by the mainstream media.

In the UK, the perfect storm of Brexit, Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and the knock-on effects of wars and global instability has pushed many venues to the brink; government intransigence and ignorance often impede even the most basic common-sense efforts to help.

“These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired”

Yet the fight for their survival is not without hope. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the Music Venue Trust, a ground-breaking charity that does vital work developing solutions, lobbying for change, and ensuring the music industry, politicians, and the wider public remain cognisant of the seriousness of this issue. Their achievements over the last decade have been notable, with their work inspiring dozens of similar organisations and impassioned individuals the world over; progress, albeit slowly, is being made.

Reflecting on this milestone, though, and taking stock of where the fault lines lie in this battle, it remains clear that there is much to be done – and quickly – if catastrophe is to be avoided. “These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd said on a trip to Parliament this time last year. “[But] we’re not near the edge, we’re over the edge, and we’re tumbling down. You need to throw a lifeline down.”

Rising up, back on the street
The Music Venue Trust was created to promote a simple yet clear idea. “Ownership of the physical buildings was the key issue,” Davyd tells IQ, “and the trust was created with that name specifically as a reference to the concept of a National Trust for Music Venues – a model of benevolent ownership that would support the sector against all the other challenges it faced.”

The idea came to Davyd after the financial crisis of the late 2000s, and specifically, the closure of London’s Astoria in 2009. “That was the moment I realised no one seemed to care about the live music ecosystem,” he says. “There was a definite feeling for a number of years that things were so bad that obviously somebody would step in and do something. But finally, in 2013, we realised nobody was going to – we would have to do it ourselves.”

“We are focused on advocating for cultural politices that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement”

And while that remains one of MVT’s goals – “It took us nine years to finally deliver that ownership model,” says Davyd; they purchased The Snug in Atherton in 2023 – a far greater scope of activities, services, and other problems have presented themselves over the years. In the same vein, differing legislative and economic realities in other territories, coupled with much later start dates, means that similar organisations in other parts of the world have often focused on more immediate practical measures.

Face to face, out in the heat
“We have secured direct support for programming and infrastructure in the venues,” says Carmen Zapata Corbalán, manager of Associació de Salas de Conciertos de Catalunya (the association of concert halls in Catalonia – ASACC), “and our ongoing efforts are focused on advocating for cultural policies that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement, even amidst changes in political leadership.”

Formed when it was realised that the live music sector required a spokesperson to advocate for smaller venues, ASACC has advocated for such spaces to be considered “cultural assets” alongside requests for the regulation of music venues to fall under the jurisdiction of the Departure of Culture, instead of its current position under the Department of Security and Police. To do so, they document the closure or cessation of concerts in venues – including a campaign called “The Last Concert?”, whereby the facades of venues were painted as obituaries – and lobby for new entertainment laws that acknowledge and support venues as cultural activities.

To date, their most notable achievement is ensuring that individuals under 18 years of age could attend concerts accompanied by parents or legal guardians, but, adds Corbalán, growth in the number of ASACC’s associated venues in recent years, from 39 to over 90, “is a clear indication of its utility and impact. This growth demonstrates that it has been successful in achieving its goal and has made a positive impact on the community it serves.”

“If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, government may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking that’s required”

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) is also currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. An organisation whose mission is to entrench live music’s economic, social, and cultural value in both the public and private sectors. “What we’re attempting to do is influence public policymaking,” says Erin Benjamin, president and CEO, “and the education of government, along with our storytelling, has been fundamental.”

The “story” is getting through, too. “Canada saw over $70m in designated money for live music in a historic budget during Covid – never had the words ‘live music venues’ appeared in a federal budget, ever,” she says. “That was monumental and something that we return to government to remind them of today.”

And the CLMA is keen to take a holistic view of such venues and the benefits they bring beyond money – much of their effort is directed towards their social and cultural impact, too. “If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, mentally and physically, government and others may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking, economic or otherwise, that’s required to ensure the sustainability of these types of businesses,” says Benjamin.

In Austin, Texas, Rebecca Reynolds – president and founder of the Music Venue Alliance Austin (MVAA) – found “a patchwork of regulatory agencies and requirements that made it nearly impossible for venues to be in constant compliance.” Focused support was their answer; to start with, it was issues like sound complaints and parking, she says, whereas more recently, they’ve been “spending a lot of time on disaster relief, liquor taxes, and insurance.”

“These businesses are critical to culture and economy at the local level”

She notes that while property ownership for all venues would be ideal, “I am not sure that is everyone’s goal. We do need a regulatory environment that honours the fact that these are tax-paying businesses that do not benefit from philanthropic support but are critical to culture and economy at the local level and throughout the spectrum of the music industry.”

Directed conversations with lawmakers, building trust among the venue community, and working with those in position to implement the MVAA’s goals have paid dividends. “After lobbying our state legislature for three legislative sessions, we established a fund that will reimburse businesses up to $100k in alcohol taxes per year, to be put back into the production of live music in their spaces,” she says. “We also successfully lobbied the City of Austin to create a new fund, supported by hotel occupancy tax revenue, to provide grants for commercial music businesses.”

Reynold’s success in Texas directly influenced and inspired Chris Cobb, one of the founders of the Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN). A volunteer-led organisation since its foundation in 2017, the MVAN has nonetheless proved influential thanks to what Cobb describes as “unbelievable grit and determination.” Again, legislative change around funding and tax are big goals – a venue grant fund and an alcohol tax refund are the current initiatives they are advocating for – and they scored some major successes in fundraising and preventing closures during Covid.

“Tax breaks,” says Cobb when asked about their main goals. “Taxes collected from independent venues make up an inconsequential percentage of total tax collected but are a significant cost to venues. Whether it be beer, liquor, or others, we must see a change in venue tax.”

“Now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music”

To this end, Cobb and MVAN are determined to “remind people – the right people – why venues are so important. But we have to be focused and more strategic, so we’ve just hired our first lobbyist, which is very exciting.” That cost is being split with the recently launched the Tennessee chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, and MVAN has also partnered with a local charitable organisation, their musicians’ union, the Musicians Association, and Belmont University on a music census to identify challenges and provide policy recommendations.

Norway’s Norske Kulturarrangører (NKA) has a little more history fighting for the arts – it started life back in 1982, working to promote the interest of volunteer-based rock clubs in Norway. “But now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music. So our approximately 500 members range from Live Nation, lots of rock and concert halls, and rock/blues clubs, whether public, volunteer, commercial, or global,” says Anders Tangan, the organisation’s senior advisor.

In Norway, gentrification is a major threat to grassroots venues, says Tangan, so much of NKA’s work revolves around protecting them from eviction. But the spectre of tax also looms large here. “In 2009, we managed to halt the proposal to put VAT on culture – we still have 0% VAT to this date, but the debate goes on,” says Tangan. “And in 2019, we managed to stop the taxation of volunteer work at venues and festivals.”

Overall, they’ve found that collaboration is key to achieving the required changes. “Historically, it’s been difficult coming together and speaking with one voice,” he says. “During Covid, this changed, and we could see that different organisations united, and real change was made. I think that will be important in the future – to unite and try to speak as one across the culture sector.”

“We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table”

Of course, new organisations and associations continue to pop up all over the world, united by the urgency of the fight and inspired by the precedent the Music Venue Trust has set. Australia’s Independent Live Venues Alliance (ILVA) is not even a year old yet but has already succeeded in getting grassroots venues “on the agenda,” as Jade Flavell, one of the founders, put it, and in “changing the language and thinking in media and political circles.”

Direct lobbying and coming to the table with practical and constructive ‘solutions’ that make it easy for those in power to say ‘yes,’ are one way that ILVA – the first organisation of its kind in Australia – plans to keep “chipping away” at the issue, says Flavell; ditto launching public awareness campaigns and calls to arms. And these are already bearing fruit; a few days after our initial interview, another Flavell, emails with news of a significant victory.

“The State Government of South Australia just announced a new programme to support small-medium dedicated live music venues with grants of up to $60,000 over 12 months towards costs associated with presenting original live music,” she writes. “ILVA worked closely on this programme with the minister for arts/small business Andrea Michaels – an engaged and sympathetic minister – and we were instrumental in securing this funding and ensuring it was targeted to dedicated original live music venues.”

Back in the US, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is a little older than ILVA – three years to be exact – and, according to executive director Stephen Parker, was formed with “an initial singular goal in mind – to convince Congress and local governments to invest in the recovery of independent venues, promoters, and festivals.”

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city”

Inspired by how Davyd and MVT had “leveraged the collective voice of grassroots venues to influence government,” their top priority is the “financial and operational sustainability of our members” and a foundation of advocacy. Having already secured what Parker calls “the largest arts investment in US history,” their approach is two-fold. “We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table, and we are building coalitions of music and event industry organisations that are active at the federal, state, and local levels,” he adds.

Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the next goal in their sights? “The biggest thing that would have an immediate impact is comprehensive ticketing reform that finally regulates a secondary resale market that is predatory for fans, artists, and venues,” says Parker. “Fraud is rampant in the secondary resale market, and our industry deserves the consumer protections that other industries have enjoyed for decades.”

Ah, yes. Ticketing. It’s a common issue mentioned by most of the organisations IQ speaks to and is something of a personal bugbear for Mark Davyd. Determined to make the wider music industry take greater responsibility – morally and financially – for the plight of grassroots music venues, he thinks ticketing is one of the most effective, easiest ways of achieving this.

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city in the UK,” he says. “A simple £1 levied on each ticket at arena level, funnelled back into the grassroots, would ensure that venues across the country can continue to support the artists and crew that emerge from the grassroots sector.”

“It’s doable and it’s worthy”

He notes that football already has a version of this in place, as does the French music industry. Furthermore, he adds that the French are going even further; from May, a 1.75% tax on streaming services in the country will be paid into a central fund and then distributed to support French artists, venues, and promoters. “We should be doing that here,” he remarks pointedly.

With eight new arenas being built across the UK in the coming years, Davyd told Parliament last year, “The distribution of wealth in this industry has got to change and be sustainable for grassroots, or we are all heading down over the cliff. Not a single one of those should open unless it has a policy where every ticket sold is investing back into grassroots music venues and grassroots artists – say no to them unless there is a pipeline.”

Tax, in the form of VAT, is also an issue in the UK, he says. The current VAT rate of 20% applied to tickets is “crushing the economic viability of this sector” and, he notes, is the highest of any major music nation in Europe – second only to Lithuania in the amount charged for putting on new and emerging talent. “That is ridiculous,” he says.

Even if Parliament is dragging its feet, Davyd’s calls have not completely fallen on deaf ears; part of MVT’s success has been co-opting other businesses and organisations into their campaigns and persuading them to change their own modus operandi. Gigtix, who launched a safe ticket reseller website in 2020, adopted the £1 donation model from the beginning; the money goes directly to MVT. “Would £1 really hurt all these companies selling tickets so much?” says Stephen Lee, the company’s director.

“The majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived”

“It hasn’t hurt us – it’s doable and worthy.”

He also believes the general ticketing ecosystem could do with an overhaul and that venues themselves can adopt a new – and somewhat controversial for some – approach. “We believe they themselves must dynamically price their tickets to generate enough profits to survive,” he says. “It’s vital, and venues shouldn’t frown upon it – the majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived.”

Even Ticketmaster have joined the fight; while not going as far as adopting the mandatory £1 approach, they at least give fans the option of donating when they purchase. “This year, we’ve hit a major milestone in our collaboration by introducing the optional Music Venue Trust donation across our marketplace, giving the millions of fans who come to Ticketmaster the opportunity to help UK grassroots venues,” says Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK. “It’s our way of doubling down on supporting the crucial work MVT does.”

Since 2016, Ticketmaster has been the main sponsor of Venues Day – an event established by MVT COO Beverley Whitrick for grassroots music venues in the UK. In 2021, they launched a booking fee rebate where venues receive a 50% rebate on all booking fees, and just last year, they launched an annual MVT charity upsell option across their site, with Ticketmaster matching all donations received.

Of course, some venues and entertainment groups are taking it upon themselves to implement change. Many feel it’s the least they can do. “It isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a huge amount of effort,” says Lisa Mart, venue director at Swansea Arena, which is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group. “And it’s mutually beneficial.”

“Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change”

From October last year, the arena implemented a year-round charity upsell of a minimum of £1 on all music events announced and held at the venue, as well as announcing an annual fundraiser event – the Swansea Arena House Party – which will feature a creative industries fair and workshops; the aim is to raise £20,000 from that event alone, with all ticket proceeds going directly to MVT.

Working together with other venues and organisations and being acutely aware of how vital audience awareness is, also lends a practical edge to the arena’s efforts. “Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change,” says Mart. With lack of late-night transport in South Wales a problem, they lobbied the government for more investment; they also lobbied about the lack of available and affordable outdoor poster sites for smaller venues.

And they’re keen on even simpler solutions, like sharing facilities, equipment, parking spaces, and general knowledge or expertise. “We are all in a WhatsApp group, so they [other local grassroots venues] know they can jump in and ask for or offer help where needed,” says Mart, all part of a plan to “make the most of the people being brought into the city.”

It’s been an extremely challenging decade for everyone involved in the arts, particularly grassroots music venues – not just in the UK but worldwide. Speak to people involved in the fight and they’ll tell you how frustrating the pace of change is and how reluctant those with power or influence can sometimes be to make it. “The closer we get to real long-term sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by the grassroots music ecosystem, the more defensive the music industry becomes about taking the action that is so obviously needed,” says Davyd.

“Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us”

But across the last decade, real strides have been made, and those campaigning for change remain filled with hope and determination – not least when they gaze upon the tireless dedication of MVT and what they’ve been able to achieve. “I’d give us a ten out of ten for determination to get things done,” says Davyd, “and I’d rate us a five or a six for getting it done quickly, but that’s the reality of trying to nudge a giant oil tanker like the music industry towards a more ethical and considered position.”

Just a man and his will to survive
Serving as an inspiration to others, what Davyd and MVT have done is best summed up by Michael Bracy, founder of the Music Policy Forum. “So much of what makes them so effective is their authenticity,” he says. “The Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us, and what may not be as visible is their remarkable generosity as collaborators and their eagerness to learn from others. They know they don’t have all the answers but are constantly in dialogue with other advocates and stakeholders from across the globe.”

“Mark Davyd is not just a pioneer, and he’s not just a visionary – he has changed the world with his work,” adds Erin Benjamin. “And if it weren’t for him and the Music Venue Trust, we would not be having these conversations.”

“That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality”

It’s a sentiment echoed by everyone IQ speaks to, but keenly aware of the battles – and difficulties – that lie ahead, all are focussed on creating a better, more sustainable future for grassroots venues and ensuring they don’t just survive but thrive. Music as we know it may depend upon it.

“The dream is a network of energy self-sufficient venues, benevolently owned by a not-for-profit entity, operated by a not-for-profit organisation, operating without Business Rates or VAT on tickets, housing accommodation that artists can use for free, with a fleet of electric vehicles that artists can travel in, and plugging into an excellent backline to perform on stages with the best available sound and lighting,” says Davyd of the MVT’s plans for the next decade. “That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The move to protective ownership is a revolution

The Snug is a grassroots music venue hidden away in the heart of Atherton, Greater Manchester [UK], and for years, we have championed new and emerging artists.

We created a place that welcomes everybody, and we cater for all. Our 100-capacity, distinctively cosy living-room-style space invites the world to come in, grab a brew or a beer and relax whilst appreciating those future up-and-coming household names.

Unfortunately, our landlord put the building up for sale, and with the impact of Covid, [it sadly] meant we weren’t in a position to purchase our beloved Snug, so we turned to Music Venue Trust for advice. This was fortunate, as they were just about to launch the Own Our Venues project. We were then accepted into their pilot scheme along with eight other shortlisted venues all at risk of closure. The number of venues that applied to be part of the pilot scheme highlights how real the problems are in the grassroots music venue community.

We are overjoyed that The Snug has become the first of many grassroots music venues to be put into a protective trust with Music Venue Properties [MVP]. Delightfully, the news went viral, and we cannot express the positive impact this development has had in the local area and beyond. As further venues come under the protection of the Music Venue Trust, they will hopefully also achieve the same results and positive impact in their areas.

The protection of grassroots music venues like The Snug, offers the space to nurture local talent but also provides a platform for varied work experience for local young people interested in the music industry. The security this provides us furthers our sense of community, and the pride of ownership in our venue is immeasurable.

“Who will headline festivals when the Rolling Stones have left the planet? Let’s not forget, the Rolling Stones started in grassroots music venues”

The MVP model needs to be adopted in every country in the world. It’s heartbreaking to read how many venues have already closed and how many more are in immediate danger of closing, being lost forever. The move to protective ownership is nothing short of a revolution; a real-life story of what can be achieved when a community rallies behind its cultural treasures.

Other communities and cities can look at MVP and see a model worth building and investing in. The message is clear: grassroots music venues are not for sale to greedy commercial landlords who don’t care what the business is, as long as they can squeeze more rent from tenants while spending little to no money on maintaining or improving the buildings.

We have to ‘own our venues,’ they are the research and development departments for the future of music. They are cultural treasures for everyone. For creative people to flourish and spaces for musicians to hone their craft, obtain feedback from audiences, network with other local musicians, make new friends, or even sell merchandise to fund recording-studio time.

Grassroots music venues are essential to a thriving ecosystem of the music industry. Without these venues, there will be no more stars of tomorrow. Who will be playing the arenas in 30 years’ time? Who will be the future stars to inspire the younger generations? Who will headline festivals when the Rolling Stones have left the planet? Let’s not forget, the Rolling Stones started in grassroots music venues.

Imagine a world without music, where the next generation of musical talent has nowhere to grow and develop. This is what will happen if our grassroots music venues are not protected. The world can learn from The Snug’s journey, by realising that cultural preservation is a collective responsibility and that grassroots music venues deserve to stand the test of time.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

ILMC 35: Industry heads tackle big topics

ILMC 35 kicked off with the traditional Open Forum session with this year’s host, Maria May from CAA, addressing a swathe of issues, while looking back on a monumental year for live music around the world.

May noted various statistics about the growth of the business in 2022, including the fact that ticket prices for Pollstar’s top 100 tours had increased by more than 10%, before posing a question to her guests about whether those biggest-selling productions should be doing anything to support the grassroots side of the business.

Obi Asika from United Talent Agency noted that the year ahead was looking like it would be the strongest he has ever had, reporting that his dance music and afrobeat acts were doing great business. And answering a question about the stadium business harming grassroots, he stated, “I’m more worried about the stadium effect on festivals. But I don’t see it as an issue; it’s just different.”

“We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners”

When it comes to helping grassroots acts, he added, “We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners.”

Q Prime Management’s Tara Richardson contested: “There’s a whole generation of ticket buyers who have skipped [going to] sweaty clubs because they have been stuck indoors during the pandemic.”

But she agreed that perhaps stadiums could support grassroots venues through sponsorship or some other system. “The record labels and publishers develop talent, but the live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots,” she observed.

Addressing the issue of spiralling costs, Herman Schueremans of Live Nation Belgium admitted that most people in the business had not expected such big rises. “The bottom line is that it’s a thing of give and take – listen to each other and be nicer to each other,” Schueremans pleaded. Looking back at 2022, he reported, “By respecting people and paying part [of the money] in advance and the balance the day after show, it worked really well.

“You cannot avoid rising costs – you have to live with it and deal with it. It might mean we have to work harder but earn less. Making a profit is important, but it’s not the most important.”

“The live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots”

On a related note, talking about all the various challenges that the live sector is facing, Asika pointed to the example of some of his African artists who have had all kinds of obstacles to overcome to establish careers outside of their own countries. “However complex it is, we can figure it out,” he said. “There are enough ideas and enough good people to figure it out – it’s part of the fun.”

Tackling the controversial topic of dynamic pricing, John Meglen from Concerts West noted, “Most shows do not sell out, but at the very high end it’s a very simple supply and demand issue [and] dynamic pricing is a business decision. If you sell a ticket for $100 but then watch it be resold for $500, the artist should be receiving that money, not the tout.”

Meglen suggested that blaming the ticketing system for any issues was a cop-out. “It’s up to us to set those business rules – we cannot be blaming the ticketing systems, he said. “We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue. We need to make sure that the money [remains] in our business. If we’re getting market value for our tickets, the artists are going to earn more and it’s not someone outside business making the money.”

Q Prime’s Richardson drew comparisons with the price of theatre tickets when it comes to tour pricing, but also had a pragmatic idea on how the teams involved in tour planning could better handle the subject. “Maybe there needs to be a middle ground where we involve tour accountants before we route – and we have a plan A, plan B, and plan C for the tour and the production, depending on the ticket price.”

“We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue”

The session also looked at how the live music industry can attract a more diverse workforce, with the speakers agreeing that more needs to be done – from the top of the business downwards – to make true and meaningful progress.

Engaging in a debate regarding the environmental impact of the live music sector, Schueremans revealed, “At Rock Werchter 2022 we recycled or recouped 95% of our plastic. It was a hell of a challenge, but we did it and we should not just be doing it as festivals, we need to do it at all shows.”

However, Richardson concluded that rather than beat up the festivals and tours, “We’d be better off having a huge industry lobby to do something about the six big companies who are contributing most to carbon emissions.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

MVT campaign raises almost £25k in three days

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has raised over £22,500 so far as part of its #saveourvenues campaign, which launched on Monday (27 April), in aid of 556 UK grassroots music venues in danger of permanent closure.

Following on from the launch of MVT’s grassroots music venues crisis fund last month, #saveourvenues encourages fans and artists to select a venues to support from an interactive map, which includes links to fundraising campaigns.

Artists can also receive the tools and guidance to perform a gig from their homes in support of a particular venue.

Venues listed as ‘at risk’ include the 200-capacity Green Store Door in Brighton, the 900-capacity Leadmill in Sheffield and the 200-capacity Lexington in London.

Each venue has its own crowdfunding page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise in order to stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis. Once that target is reached, any excess donations will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots community.

The wider fund has currently raised £22,837 of a £100,000 target, just three days into the campaign. MVT’s GMV crisis fund, which has so far raised over £182,000 thanks to significant donations from Amazon Music, SJM, artists and music fans, will be renamed the #saveourvenues fund, forming part of the same initiative.

Those wishing to support the campaign can also do so through the use of the #saveourvenues hashtag and social media templates.

“The #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive”

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner, whose recent series of performances ‘Independent Venue Love’ for local venues Nambucca in London (300-cap.), the Joiners in Southampton (200-cap.) the Railway Inn in Winchester (150-cap.) and the Forum in Tunbridge Wells (250-cap.), raised thousands of pounds, provided a “major” inspiration for the campaign.

“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now,” says Turner. “The success of [my livestreamed] shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

“We are confident that we can help create real momentum that will see artists and venues working together to raise much needed funds,” comments MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “We are also calling on the wider music industry to support us too. We have received some magnificent support so far from music companies, but we need a lot more to step up and help save this essential part of the music eco-system.”

Those wishing to donate in excess of £1000 should contact Davyd directly here.

Photo: Henry W. Laurisch/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

MVT seeking grassroots “venue champions”

Music Venue Trust (MVT) is seeking the assistance of UK music fans to supply facts about their local venues. These “venue champions” will help conduct MVT’s annual survey of grassroots music venues.

The MVT venue champions will be responsible for supplying the trust with relevant information about each of the 490+ venues making up the Music Venues Alliance (MVA). One person will be appointed per venue, with volunteers encouraged to apply to become the champion of their favourite, local venue.

“We are calling on some of you that support your local venue to step forward and offer your time to help in a very tangible way,” says an MVT callout.

“We are looking for a network of volunteers to communicate with the management, staff and audiences in their favourite venue during one week in April/May 2019 to help us complete the MVT Annual Survey.”

“We are calling on some of you that support your local venue to step forward and offer your time to help in a very tangible way”

The volunteers will be responsible for completing venue audits and talking to performers and attendees at events during the survey week, from 29 April to 5 May. Venue champions will have access to all events during the week, as well as behind the scenes access outside event hours.

The trust, which represents all venues in the MVA, will use the information collected to build evidence to support the Pipeline Investment Fund, MVT’s major investment initiative with music industry partners.

Pipeline provides funding for infrastructure, sound and lights in grassroots venues. The fund also aims to place venues into protected ownership, create training and apprenticeship schemes and offer centralised legal, planning and licensing advice.

Those interested in becoming the venue champion for their local venue can apply via an online application form. Applicants must be over 18 and available to conduct the research during the week specified to qualify for the role.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free digest of essential live music industry news, via email or Messenger.

Petzi: Swiss clubs punching above their weight

Small music venues inject close to 100 million Fr. each year into the Swiss economy, despite being under-subsidised compared to other cultural sectors, venues association Petzi has said.

Quoted in the report from the first Conference for Contemporary Music, held in Locarno earlier this month to celebrate 20 years of the association, 24 Heures Stéphanie Arboit said Petzi’s 175 member venues play “an important social role, and bring real cultural, social and economic value” to Switzerland, in spite of receiving less funding than other, more “established” sectors.

According to Petzi, subsidies for Swiss nonprofits – which include many of Petzi’s member venues – are also lower than the European average: 29%, compared to 41%.

Nearly 2.27m people – nearly 30% of the population – attended a show at a Petzi venue in 2014

Nearly 2.27m people – nearly 30% of the population – attended a show at a Petzi venue in 2014 (the most recently available data), supporting 4,033 full-time employees, 17,321 volunteers and 21,875 performers (of which 56% were Swiss).

Hedy Graber, director of cultural and social affairs at Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund, which organises the m4music conference/showcase festival, said that while Switzerland should “rejoice at the success” of its small-venue scene, that success brings new challenges: With most clubs located in urban areas, where space is frequently tight (Switzerland has the highest concentration of music venues and festivals in the world), “questions are increasingly being asked on [issues such as] regulation, noise restrictions, smoking areas, violence and drugs,” she said.

That, Graber continued, is why it’s “necessary to have a lobby that can mobilise with force and passion on behalf of venues and festivals”.

Switzerland is the focus country for The Great Escape in Brighton, UK, next month.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Keeping the lights on

But, as Eamonn Forde learns,  like-minded venue owners around the world are staging a battle to preserve music’s grassroots proving grounds

The Beatles at The Cavern and The Star Club; The Rolling Stones at The Crawdaddy Club; pretty much every British punk band at the 100 Club, The Nashville Rooms, the Vortex and The Hope & Anchor; every UK indie or alternative rock band of the past 25 years at The Water Rats, The Dublin Castle, King Tut’s and The Leadmill.

Tuning up
Without these small venues (and thousands like them all around the world), music today might be very different, and might also be nowhere near as diverse and exciting as it is. These are the tiny spaces where acts cut their teeth, learn their craft and build their following. They are, to paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, where bands and artists put their 10,000 hours in. But these venues are seriously under threat, for a multitude of reasons – relating to rising overheads; unsympathetic local councils; gentrification; opportunistic and avaricious landlords; noise complaints; and demographic changes.

There is, however, a vociferous backlash against these oft-iconic spaces closing and becoming little more than a fading memory.

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 67 of IQ Magazine.

To subscribe, click here.

Steve Ball: NIMBYish London needs new venues

Columbo Group founder Steve Ball, whose latest acquisition, The Barfly in Camden, will reopen as The Camden Assembly next Friday, has said more needs to be done to foster London’s nightlife if the city is to compete with other global music capitals.

Speaking to IQ, Ball poured cold water on previous predictions of a small-venue renaissance in the UK capital, stating unsympathetic local authorities and restrictive licensing laws are putting the kibosh on any true recovery for London’s club scene.

“London is a global city,” he comments. “We’re competing with New York, Ibiza… [but] most local authorities don’t want new venues. New late-night licences aren’t being granted.”

The Columbo Group – whose portfolio also includes The Blues Kitchen chain, Xoyo in Shoreditch, The Old Queen’s Head in Islington and a number of other venues, bars, clubs and restaurants – bought the 420-capacity Jazz Café (which will keep its name) in January and the 200-cap. Barfly in May, both from Live Nation/MAMA.

Despite its turning The Barfly/Camden Assembly into a “completely new venue” (“I’ve seen some grotty buildings in my time but [The Barfly] was by far the grottiest!” he jokes), Ball says he’s concerned about the lack of truly new venues opening in London. “Many ‘new’ venues were already there – they’re old venues under the new management. What London needs is new venues.”

“The way licensing is in London means the decision lies with the boroughs, not with City Hall… When you put licensing at a borough level you get a NIMBYish attitude”

Does Ball see new mayor Sadiq Khan, who has pledged his support for beleaguered superclub Fabric and vowed to make the cultural sector one of the “top priorities” for his mayoralty, as being true to his word? Or are they just empty platitudes?

“It’s not an empty platitude, but it is just rhetoric,” he comments. “The way licensing is in London means the decision lies with the boroughs, not with City Hall – and I’d argue that licensing authorities can often be backwards in their views… When you put licensing at a borough level you get a NIMBYish attitude.”

Ball points to the path taken by cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin, where venues and clubs are frequently given 24-hour licences and dedicated night mayors oversee the cities’ nightlife, as a potential way forward for London.

Khan is currently recruiting a ‘night czar’ for London – but if much of the responsibility for nightlife and licensing is still devolved to the boroughs, what will the successful candidate actually be able to achieve? “That’s a very good question!” laughs Ball.

Still, for all its licensing woes London is still a great city in which to see live music, and Ball is optimistic ahead of the opening of what he calls a “new home for music in London”.

“The young music consumer of today has very broad tastes: they’ll listen to rock, indie, grime, dance… The Assembly is going to be broad in the music it showcases”

Why ‘The Camden Assembly’, IQ wonders? “We wanted a new name – The Barfly conjures up an image of noughties indie, and the young music consumer of today has very broad tastes: they’ll listen to rock, indie, grime, dance…

“The Assembly is going to be broad in the music it showcases.”

Ball says he thinks young people are listening to a wider range of music as a “byproduct of people not purchasing music” and instead streaming it. “Before, you were really invested in something,” he explains, “because you’d bought it. But now, if everyone’s listening to the latest Stormzy record, for example, you can just check it out.”

So the Assembly is a music venue for the streaming generation? [laughs] “I’m stealing that!”

The Camden Assembly will reopen on 16 September with a seven-hour ‘pub rave’ with dance music duo The 2 Bears, followed by Mikeq, Teki Latex, L-Vis 1990 and Rushmore on Saturday 17 September and Soweto Kinch, Andrew Ashong, Binker & Moses and Laura Misch on Sunday 18th.

The venue will also host the International Festival Forum‘s Opening Party on Tuesday 27th September, which features the ITB showcase of emerging artists from the agency’s roster.

Other upcoming highlights include The Horrors’ Farris Badwan on 23 September, Temples on 25 September and a DJ set by The Streets’ Mike Skinner on 25 November.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.