The UK has seen hundreds of music venues under threat from closure since lockdown, with numerous fundraising campaigns launched to allow venues to continue to pay their bills and still be there to open their doors when restrictions allow.
IQ Magazine got six grassroots venue champions together for a virtual chat on the crisis facing the sector across the world.
Chaired by Ticketmaster UK’s VP Client Development for Music & Festivals Sarah Slater, the group talked through the current challenges of funding and social distancing, as well as some of the support, solutions and positives for the future.
All of the countries represented on the panel are experiencing their own challenges with funding; some have been attending meetings, sending letters and lobbying, with many looking to artists to raise engagement and support. One country who has seen significant success is Germany, who’s grassroots sector has just been granted 50 million euros to support the scene back to health.
Sustainability and Innovation
However it’s acknowledged that one-off funding may not be enough. Themes of sustainability and innovation were discussed to help venues through years to come. Ideas were raised around membership schemes akin to football clubs, merchandise and streaming gigs online. Although it’s agreed that while this is money through the door, none of this is a replacement for the experience of live.
The panel discuss the difficulties of social distancing; the 2m apart, additional cleaning, queuing and reduced capacities. Mark Davyd from MVT estimates that only 2-3% of grassroots venues in the UK would be able to operate within these controls and many of them would be losing cash just to keep the doors open.
With the situation and controls constantly changing, it’s stated that without a vaccine or test it’s difficult to predict the future, and that the best course right now for grassroots venues and communities is to keep all options open.
Hope for the future
The session continued by ending on some bitter-sweet points they’ve experienced from the current situation;
- Communities are growing
- Solidarity within the music business; ideas are being shared, forums are being created and people are working together to the same goals
- Independent venues are organising themselves and re-thinking how things can be done
- There’s a heightened appreciation for what is at stake for grassroots venues
- The positive impact that music and culture has on people is being noticed as they listen and watch within their homes
As the session suggests, it is difficult to predict the future for grassroots music venues. But what we can be sure of is the passion and dedication that those involved in this industry have across the world, and that no one is showing any sign of letting up.