Local Music is in crisis: why and what can we do?

Written by on 22nd February 2024

The British music industry contributed £6.7 billion to the UK economy in 2022. Yet, according to the Music Venue Trust, 66 venues have closed in the last 12 months.

But why and what can be done?

The origins of this crisis are due to rent increases with 125 UK venues abandoning live music in the last year with 51% of them closing altogether.

For example, Cobalt Studios which, is a small community and donation-led venue in Newcastle had 61.6% of their events lose money last year, with their overall programme costing them £211,400. While they are staying open and putting on events like their dinner and local music nights ‘Fresh Thursdays’.

It is increasingly becoming harder to stay open. With them taking a £19,778.08 net loss last year even with their directors remaining unpaid.

Venues are not the ones who are just struggling, artists are too.

For example, local band The Peeve Wonders have held fundraising gigs to be able to afford their slot at the US festival SXSW later this year.

Bailey Rudd is a drummer for local jazz band Nauta and he said  “The money that is paid for original music, for institutional forces to survive, is therefore minimal and often goes straight into a “band pot.”

Therefore acts are doing more covers and playing the biggest hits as “the rent money lies in function work – clubs, bars, weddings etc. Because organisationally and financially everything has to run smoothly, the art you produce is often restricted to fit within conventions. I would say this is the major fall point rather than lack of money, as people in the culture industries are communal and collaborative; everyone helps each other out.’

This just shows how much the industry is in crisis. But there is a way out of this crisis.

The Music Venue Trust (who represent local venues) is proposing a premium on large stadium and concert tickets which would then fund the local venues below them on the ladder. This would be a tax on top of the price of a ticket which would then be given to local venues around the area the concert is in.

The best way we can support our local venues is by buying tickets to events and going to venues.

These are the top 3 venues we think you should support:

1: Cobalt Studios

Credit: Ruby Oldknow

Cobalt is a venue that is community-focused, with events such as ‘Fresh Thursdays’ where you get a freshly cooked meal and a gig for £10. The venue also regularly hosts club nights, art classes and other live music which often is alternative and something new and exciting.

2. Little Buildings

Little Buildings is a small and intimate venue that hosts local and national small-scale acts. Due to the intimacy of the venue, there is a house party-like feel which makes this place a must-visit.

3. Bobiks

Bobiks is probably the most popular venue on this list with events regularly selling out. What is good about this venue is that it is in a pub so you can enjoy really high-quality pub food and then go and have a massive party.

What do you think can be done to protect the North East music scene Tweet us @SparkSunderland

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