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Barcelona protects small live music venues

The Barcelona City Council has announced the creation of the Espais de cultura viva (live culture spaces) venue classification to protect its small live music venues, allowing flexible capacity limits and relaxing sound restrictions.

The council has finalised work on the category, which applies to spaces with a capacity of up to 150 people that host a minimum of 40 live music events or other live performances a year.

The category, which does not exist in other Spanish cities, allows venues to have a flexible capacity limit. Low-capacity venues with a cafe or bar license will be able to let in a greater number of people for live events, without fear of receiving fines.

A further modification sees the creation of a “semi-acoustic music” category. Previously, small venues could only programme acoustic music events. Concerts involving electronic instruments required soundproofing equipment, unaffordable for many venues even with a state subsidy.

The new category will allow for electronic instruments to play up to a volume of 95 decibels, given that outside noise does not exceed 45 decibels.

“This kind of recognition of cultural spaces is a key tool for strengthening the scene from the bottom up”

Venues that qualify for the Espais de cultura viva category and are in special saturation zones, will have a curfew of 11 pm.

Daniel Granados, analyst at the Barcelona institute of culture, tells El Periódico that this kind of “recognition of cultural spaces” is a key tool for “strengthening the scene from the bottom up.”

“Rosalía [a famous Catalan singer] would not be where she is today if she had not performed in small venues that were illegal up until now.”

Plans for the new regulations began three years ago. The law will be implemented in two months’ time, granted political parties do not oppose the proposal.

The Association of Catalan Concert Halls (ASACC) and the Association of Women in the Music Industry (MIM), along with other local industry organisations and venues, have celebrated the initiative and urge municipal groups to vote in favour of the measure.


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Sir Paul backs MVT: ‘We need places to start out’

Following yesterday’s well-received third Venues Day event at the Roundhouse, Sir Paul McCartney has affirmed his support for Music Venue Trust’s efforts to protect the UK’s grassroots music venues.

The ex-Beatle, who on Saturday played the second and final weekend of the Desert Trip ‘megafestival’ in California, says: “Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to play in venues of all different shapes and sizes, from tiny clubs to massive stadiums all over the world. Without grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different.

“I support Music Venue Trust because artists need places to start out, develop and work on their craft, and small venues have been the cornerstone for this. If we don’t support live music at this level then the future of music in general is in danger.”

“Without grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues, my career could have been very different”

Also throwing their weight behind MVT’s mission are writer, comedian and ‘national treasure’ Stephen Fry, Jeremy Pritchard of Everything Everything and Public Service Broadcasting’s J. Willgoose, Esq. (the latter two of whom performed at the post-Venues Day #Fightback show).

Fry comments: “Are you fed up with our music venues being closed down by greedy and short-sighted developers and people with no sense of culture? Let’s club together and #Fightback.”

Willgoose adds: “”We’re firmly behind  Music Venue Trust and its support for grassroots venues across the country. Too many venues have been lost in recent years and those that survive are under unprecedented pressure from unscrupulous developers, with little protection offered to them by the government, be it national or local.”


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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.

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Long-running Leicester venue changes hands

Leicester’s oldest grassroots music venue will soon be under new management.

As of 1 January 2017 The Shed will be operated by local promoter Dreaming in Colour Productions, whose managing director, 25-year-old Elisabeth Barker-Carley, has announced a full refurbishment the 200-capacity venue.

“The Shed is an integral part of the music industry, not only in Leicester but in the UK scene as a whole,” says Barkey-Carley. “It’s one of the longest-running venues around, with so much history from the many bands having found their live performing feet there. I just wish the walls could speak.

“It’s such an honour for me personally to be taking this venue on. I hope we do it justice with the acts we’ll be bringing in.”

“I know Elisabeth loves The Shed as much as me and I’m delighted to see her taking the venue forward”

Kevin Holyland, who has run the venue since its opening in 1994, adds: “Having opened The Attik in 1985 and then The Shed in 1994, I’m delighted that live music will be continuing at the venue and am especially happy that the running of this will now be passed on to someone who grew up coming to shows at The Shed. I know Elisabeth loves the venue as much as me and I’m delighted to see her taking the venue forward.”

Bands who performed at The Shed early in the careers include Ellie Goulding, Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys.

The venue’s final event under its current management will be on new year’s eve.


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Small London venues protected from redevelopment

A number of small live venues in London will be protected from being converted into supermarkets, estate agents, homes or shops thanks to a new rule from Wandsworth Council.

The local authority has removed development rights from 120 of the borough’s bars and taverns, many of which host live music, by enacting ‘Article 4 Directions’.

Owners of pubs including The Bedford, Northcote Records, Half Moon Putney, Hop Pole, Armoury and GJs will now need to seek planning permission from the town hall before changing the building use or knocking it down.

The move was recommended to London boroughs to prevent further music venue closures in the Mayor of London’s Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan, which the Music Venues Trust helped deliver last October.

In recent years, a number of local inns and taverns have been converted into other uses. Last year, the Music Venues Trust estimated that 40% of music venues in London had closed over the past 10 years – a trend that’s countrywide.

Councils haven’t been able to stop them, as owners have ‘permitted development rights’ allowing them to make the change without the need for planning permission.

In preparation for the Article 4 Directions, Wandsworth Council has approved new planning guidance which specifically recognises the historic, architectural and community value of Wandsworth’s pubs.

This new policy gives councillors valid grounds to refuse applications to convert any of these 120 venues into another use.

“It’s a really significant breakthrough, taking positive action to balance culture against other demands in London. We hope many other London boroughs follow suit.”

Welcoming the news, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd tells IQ: “The Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the use of Article 4 Directions by Wandsworth Council.

“It’s a really significant breakthrough, taking positive action to balance culture against other demands in London. We hope many other London boroughs follow suit.”

Wandsworth Deputy Council Leader Jonathan Cook adds: “I very much hope that other councils will follow our lead by adopting pub-friendly planning policies and then stripping away permitted development rights from their local inns, bars and taverns.

“This could be a real turning point for our nation’s superb but vulnerable pub trade and Wandsworth is more than ready to share its approach with other authorities.”

Other pubs hosting live music in the affected area include Old Fields, Duke’s Head, Coat and Badge, Four Thieves and Bank.

Music Venue Trust plans first Welsh Venues Meeting

British live music advocacy group Music Venue Trust (MVT) has revealed plans for its first Welsh Venues Meeting, set for 17 May at the Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.

Presented in partnership with UK Music and the Arts Council of Wales, the one-day event will be an opportunity to network, hear from Welsh and UK cultural and music industry organisations and contribute to a discussion of the challenges faced on a both local and national basis. Delegate passes will be free to venue representatives.

Guests will include representatives from “across the live sector” and MVT partner organisations including the Musicians’ Union, UK Music and disabled fans’ advocacy charity Attitude is Everything.

MTV earlier this month hosted three English regional meetings, in Manchester, Leicester and Bristol.

“As a UK-wide organisation it’s important for us to emphasise that we represent grassroots music venues from across Britain, and in order to do this we need to go out and talk to the people that run those venues,” says MVT’s strategic director, Beverley Whitrick. “We are aware that we have a limited number of Music Venues Alliance members in Wales to date but are keen to build our networks and listen to the issues for venues there. Some of the challenges will be the same as in England or Scotland but others may be specific to Wales, so this is something we need to know.”

Anyone wanting to attend should email [email protected] to reserve a place.

Facebook trials ticket sales direct on event page

Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform has begun piloting selling concert tickets directly through its event pages. Using a Buy Tickets button, Facebook users will be able to purchase tickets for selected events and pick them up at the venue box offices.

The company is partnering with a small group of independent venues, artists and event promoters in the San Francisco Bay Area for the pilot. Currently, there will be no paper or electronic tickets issued.

Ticketing fulfillment will via a third party, and it is understood that Facebook will take none of the ticketing income.

“Reducing the friction for buying a ticket is something that we think would be pretty interesting to do eventually”

“Reducing the friction for buying a ticket is something that we think would be pretty interesting to do eventually,” said Facebook product manager Aditya Koolwal, talking to Buzzfeed in September. “That’s definitely a very interesting thing that we’re waiting for the right time for.”

The ticketing trial is the latest in a series of commercial initiative that Facebook is testing. The company already allows product sellers to sell directly via a Buy button, and in July it began building some shops directly onto pages.