State of independents
From its inception, I always wanted Independent Venue Week to be a positive and celebratory initiative. We truly believe the best way to encourage people to go to support venues is to excite them about being out in venues with (or without) mates and being the one to discover great new artists.
This year, we could not ignore the perilous situation our community found themselves in after the toughest year in their history. Getting the balance right publicly, as well as behind the scenes, was really important to us. We have venues, on the one hand, who shut their doors last March and aren’t engaging with anyone until their doors can reopen at full capacity, a stance we totally respect. At the other end, we have venues who have been really active with socially distanced shows, online streams, new merch lines and more. And then there are all the venues in between.
We had been in touch with all of our stakeholders at the end of last summer saying that given we weren’t expecting our usual run of live nights, would they like to get involved and host an evening of either ‘in conversations’ showing archive footage, or live-streamed shows. We had a great response and people we’d been looking to work with in the past came through, wanting to get involved and support the community.
When the news of the third lockdown came in January, it knocked out the socially distanced and livestreamed shows our venues, artists and promoters had put on, which was heartbreaking.
We’re well used to having a very busy run, especially in January, but the team not all being together in the office and dealing with the addition of numerous cancelled shows and a big increase in streaming meant this was a January like no other.
The support from our partners, including BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing, meant we were able to tell stories and share experiences first hand from around the country about how the last 12 months had been for people.
As the week kicked off, we had 166 shows scheduled, including 61 live gigs, which felt like a huge collective effort from our community. We were able to premiere our documentary On The Road with Independent Venue Week and hold a live Q&A with some of the key contributors.
It felt like the week delivered the spotlight on our community in a sensitive and uplifting way
We thought long and hard about whether it was the right decision, but, ultimately, we felt showing live music in packed venues over two previous IVWs was a timely reminder about why these places are such important cultural hubs for the industry and local communities.
The week was going well with a number of live and pre-recorded streams, some great interviews from various people including The Big Jeff Chat series, as well as Simone Marie chatting to a number of artists and industry people.
And throughout the week, other new events were dropping in with support from so many artists including lockdown stalwart Frank Turner with another of his Independent Venue Love shows and a very cool video from Idles, with each band member performing ‘Carcinogenic’ from a different venue in Bristol.
We could see all of the hard work and effort coming to fruition, and for so many people this was their first chance to work and be back doing what they love, on and off stage. So, when PRS for Music came crashing in on the Wednesday, with their new Online Live Concert Licence, it felt like a real Trumpism. It’s one thing to announce a restrictive and ill-thought tariff on streaming during the week that the country celebrates and supports venues, but to do so when so many people were pulling together to support all areas of the industry, and without consulting stakeholders or your staff, defied belief.
The result for everyone involved was the immediate cancellation of a number of shows for the last few days, at various venues up and down the country. At just five of the venues, 15 shows were cancelled, resulting in 152 people losing paid work. In spite of this, there were some live shows and plenty of other events and it felt like the week delivered the spotlight on our community in a sensitive and uplifting way. [PRS has since abolished the planned paid tariff in favour of a free licence.]
Like everyone, we are looking forward to next year – being back out at shows in person, in busy venues, discovering new places, making new friends and falling in love with new artists.
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Prepare for lift-off: IQ 97 marks the launch of ILMC 33
IQ 97, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
In March’s edition, IQ Magazine editor, Gordon Masson, assembles industry heavyweights including Sam Kirby Yoh (co-head of music, UTA), Toby Leighton-Pope (co-CEO of AEG Presents in the UK) and John Reid (Live Nation’s president of concerts in Europe) for an industry health check, 12 months into pandemic restrictions.
Elsewhere, with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) set to launch this Wednesday, readers and delegates can prepare for liftoff by previewing some of the products and services developers will be presenting (see ILMC Tech Spotlight), and earmarking the ones-to-watch at this year’s agency talent showcases (see Showcasing Talent).
Also in this issue, IQ hands the megaphone to Sybil Bell (Independent Venue Week), Mark Bennett (MBA Live) and Tone Østerdal (Norway’s Live Music Association) for comment pieces on what live is like from where they’re standing.
IQ hands the megaphone to Sybil Bell (IVW), Mark Bennett (MBA Live) and Tone Østerdal (Norway’s Live Association)
IQ’s top newshound Jon Chapple sniffs out what livestreaming pioneers are doing to prepare for post-Covid life (see Streaming’s Bright Future), while the Arena Resilience Alliance reveals its comprehensive manifesto for the safe return of live events.
And Rob Challice (Paradigm), John Giddings (Solo, Isle of Wight), Harvey Goldsmith and other industry pros reveal the most surprising person they met at a gig or added to a guest list in Your Shout.
All that is in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 97 in full.
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Indie venues fight back against coronavirus
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to keep us updated on your efforts.
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UK industry reacts to venues business rates cut
Venue operators and others from across the UK live industry have expressed their support for a 50% cut in business rates for small- and mid-sized grassroots music venues, in a “much-needed” boost for the country’s live venues.
After several years of campaigning by charity the Music Venue Trust (MVT), umbrella organisation UK Music and others, the government has slashed business rates – the tax levied on non-residential property in the UK – by half for music venues, saving grassroots music venues an average of £7,500 a year.
The decision releases over £1.7 million back into the grassroots live music sector, benefitting 230 venues across England and Wales. The news follows the establishment of a £1.5m Arts Council England fund dedicated to the grassroots sector last year.
The announcement comes as Independent Venue Week kicks off in the UK. Over 800 live shows will take place throughout the week at the UK’s best independent venues, including performances by Nadine Shah at the Cluny (300-cap.) in Newcastle, Frank Turner at the Exeter Tavern (220-cap. and Anna Calvi at the Windmill Brixton (150-cap.) in London.
“This is incredibly welcome news,” Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music, tells IQ. “We have campaigned hard to get the recognition that music venues should qualify for rates relief.
“There is no uniform issue behind venue closures and other challenges remain in terms of planning and licensing, but this will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline,” says Kiehl, who notes the rates relief is a “profound and positive step” for the UK talent pipeline.
“We thank the government for being so forthcoming.”
“This will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline”
A 2017 hike in business rates has had a harmful effect on UK grassroots venues over the past few years, with venues being exempted from the tax relief granted to other small retailers. Over a third (35%) of UK venues have closed down in the past decade, including DHP Family’s the Borderline, which had hosted acts including Debbie Harry, Blur, Muse and Amy Winehouse over more than 30 years in business.
Venue operators have also reacted positively to the news. Richard Buck, CEO of TEG MJR comments: “We very much welcome the change in business rates. It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry.”
The former MJR Group, which was acquired by Sydney-based TEG in August, looks after venues including the Tramshed (1,000-cap.) in Cardiff, the Mill (1,000-cap.) in Birmingham and the Warehouse (750-cap.) in Leeds.
Julie Tipping from Nottingham-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family says MVT has done “a fantastic job getting a significant discount rate relief for some grassroots venues”. However, they “are not yet sure what impact this will have for DHP’s venues”, which include London venues the Garage (600-cap.), Oslo (375-cap.) and the Grace (150-cap.), as well as award-winning boat venue Thekla (400-cap.) in Bristol.
“It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry”
“It’s great news for grassroots venues in this country that are eligible,” adds Tipping, “the question will be how many that is and what will happen to any that don’t get this benefit in the long term.
“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age, so we need government to come up with a fairer taxation system.”
Bert Van Horck, CEO of independent UK promoter and venue operator VMS Live says: “We’re delighted that the government is supporting this important cultural sector with a reduction in business rates that will help up and coming talent.”
VMS Live, which operates mid-sized UK venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), is dedicated to “operating the venues at the start of artists’ creative journey”, adds Van Horck.
“Business rates are one of our largest annual overheads,” says Rebecca Walker, assistant general manager of the Leadmill (900-cap.) in Sheffield.
“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age”
“Thanks to the incredible work of all of the MVT team, this significant reduction will really help us to invest in not only music and the arts, but the staff and infrastructure needed to continue putting on great shows for the people of Sheffield.”
Toni Coe-Brooker, of venue manager of the Green Store Door in Brighton (200-cap.), says the team is “relieved” by the news.
“The rate relief we will receive as a grassroots music venue will make a significant impact on our ability to continue doing what we do, supporting our local community and incubating new talent.”
Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of MVT, says the news is “another foundation stone” in the building of a “vibrant, sustainable, world class grassroots music venue sector”.
Davyd admits there is “still a lot to be done on this issue”, with collaboration needed with governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure “a level playing field” for venues’ access to business rates and public subsidies across the UK.
“It’s now time for recording, streaming and publishing interests to play their part,” adds Davyd. “Billions of pounds in revenue are being generated in the music industry from the music that is tested, developed, finds its audience and emerges from these vital spaces. PRS for Music, PPL, Universal, Warners, Sony, Spotify, Apple and Google now need to come to the table and tell us what they are going to do to make sure that continues to happen.”
This article will be updated with reactions as we receive them.
Independent Venue Week expands to the US
Independent Venue Week, the seven-day celebration of grassroots music venues that debuted in the UK in 2014, is to launch in the United States this summer.
The inaugural Independent Venue Week US runs from 9 to 15 July 2018, and will take place in venues across the entire US, although Independent Venue Week (IVW) founder Sybil Bell says the event will continue to have a “local feel” in its debut run stateside.
Cities, venues and performers will be announced in the coming months.
“Having run Independent Venue Week in the UK for five amazing years, we felt ready to explore an international territory,” comments Bell. “We’ve been speaking to the industry and partners across the US for around three years, and now finally feels like the right time to bring this celebration to America.
“We’re beyond excited to bring IVW overseas”
“Bands still need to play and tour small venues here in order to get a foothold. They need to learn their craft before playing bigger shows in bigger venues. The industry still needs artists to start small and build up as they get better. And those working behind the scene also need to start small. Local communities too need somewhere on their doorsteps that knows how to put live music on.
“With five years under our belts in the UK, we’ve learned a lot about what the venues gain from the project and what matters to them. Speaking to the industry for the past few years, we believe that these same things matter in the US, so we’re beyond excited to bring IVW overseas, and for the industry and public to celebrate the vital work the venues do.”
The fifth Independent Venue Week UK wrapped up on Sunday, and included performances from Gaz Coombes, Frank Turner, Skinny Girl Diet, Baby Strange, Inheaven, Anteros and many more.
Why championing independent venues is a cause worth fighting for
Skiddle is one of the UK’s most innovative and high flying primary ticketing platforms, specialising in music events across festivals, clubs and live music and gigs. Ever since we began in 2001 we’ve been about celebrating and championing every type of event and promoter, whether a six figure-attended festival or a pub-rock showcase, promoting the catch-all power as music as one of our key principles. It’s this belief which has been the bedrock of our decision to sponsor Independent Venue Week (IVW).
Our values pretty much dominate the decisions behind what organisations we become involved with. The modern financial climate we live in means we endeavour to find partners that ally closely with what we as a company spend our time striving to do. Two of those beliefs, which IVW showcases in abundance, is support for the grassroots music industry and fairness for music fans.
The most obvious trait of IVW which chimes with what we do is the promotion of the inclusiveness of music. The week aims to get as many people as possible in differing venues, predominantly to help support the grassroots level music across the country and the venues that are the lifeblood. It’s about getting people out and enjoying the visceral experience of live music, irrespective of whether you are a passionate regular gigger or someone who never usually goes to see singers and bands.
We’ve obviously motivated from a business perspective to get more people going to gigs, but everyone who works for the company shares a passion for this most invigorating of practices – and we want the world to revel in the magic power of music.
IVW is jam-packed with highlights across the week. There’s some gloriously eye catching shows, from Frank Turner in Liverpool’s intimate sweat pit EBGBs up to former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes showcasing a tantalising preview of his forthcoming solo material at the Cookie in Leicester. And exciting new bands like Skinny Girl Diet and King Creature will be vying for your attention of favourite new band, with tastemakers such as Steve Lamacq also getting behind it.
What better time to show your support for the venues that are the lifeblood of our music scene across the country?
Fairness for all music fans is something that remains a hot topic of the minute, particularly with the proliferation of the debates centered around touting. Extortionate prices create a number of problems, but one of the most damning is the financial drain outside of the business. Your average fan only has a certain amount of money they can budget for, so paying inflated prices tickets means that there’s much less cash to go towards other things, be that paying for music, seeing other bands, merchandise and so on. That’s much needed cash which could be invested in venues, artists and record labels at a grassroots level.
This was one of the motivations behind Re:Sell, an initiative we set up at Skiddle in 2016 to provide a fair solution for secondary ticketing that suits promoters and gig-goers. It’s been a roaring success, particularly with the addition of the waiting list feature – something that saw over a thousand people get tickets for sold-out new year’s eve shows at a fair price from customers whose plans had changed. And there’s no money heading anywhere other than to the people who bought the tickets originally and the music industry itself – something that allows us to get behind IVW.
Luckily the government seems to be on the side of music fans at the minute, with a raft of legislation slowly going against touting and also the Spellar bill now coming into place. That means existing venues won’t be penalised for noise complaints from future property developments, something which has been at the heart of so many venue closures in recent years. With the fightback against those forces that attack our culture now fully in swing, what better time to show your support for the venues that are the lifeblood of our music scene across the country?
So as the week draws in, I implore you to get as involved as possible. Discover a new band, fall in love with a venue you’ve not entered since your youth or just enjoy the thrill of live music again. It’s something we should do more of – and encourage more people to get into – and that’s exactly what Independent Venue Week is all about.
For more information about Independent Venue Week gigs in your area, visit skiddle.com/independentvenueweek.
Jimmy Coultas is head of content at Skiddle.
Burgess named ambassador for ‘biggest IVW yet’
Following in the footsteps of Wolf Alice, Frank Turner and Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess has been appointed ambassador for Independent Venue Week (IVW), which returns for the fourth time from 23 to 29 January 2017.
Described as the “biggest Independent Venue Week yet”, the British event, which aims to promote and celebrate the UK’s grassroots music venues, will see 30 new venues taking part for the first time, including the John Peel Centre (250-cap.) in …, the Roundhouse (3,300-cap.) in London, the 200-capacity Bungalow in Paisley (which has since reopened after closing in March) and the 18-cap. (not a typo) … Unity in Halifax.
“Independent venues are where every band starts and where music fans get to see emerging talent,” comments Burgess (pictured). “Without them bands would not get a chance for their all-important first hometown gigs and subsequent tours. These venues and bands need our support and the best way you can do that is by having a night out. Lots of venues are closing – we definitely need to stick together and stop this happening. […]
“These venues and bands need our support and the best way you can do that is by having a night out”
“I worked with Independent Venue Week organisers last year on a gig in Manchester. It was an honour to accept their offer of being this year’s ambassador – I’ve picked some of my favourite bands to play in England, Wales and Northern Ireland… Hopefully see you at one of the shows.”
Details of gigs will be announced closer to January, with confirmed performers including Richard Hawley, Simian Mobile Disco and Martha Wainwright. Promoters and labels behind the shows include Kilimanjaro Live, Bugged Out, South by Southwest and Domino Records.
“What’s so exciting about this year is just how many people are now involved in Independent Venue Week,” says founder Sybil Bell. “The support means grassroots venues are benefitting from brilliant artists, promoters and media who are helping to start the year off with some amazing shows. Last year, nearly 40,000 people went to gigs during IVM, [providing] a huge boost to venues and a great way for people to kick the January blues into touch.”