The Silence Of The Fans? New Leeds Arena’s apparent snub of independent record shops sparks encouraging campaign
Yesterday saw the ire of the North being directed at Leeds Arena after a suggestion by a prominent Leeds promoter that two of the most important independent music purveyors in the city had been snubbed over ticket allocations.
Disappointed by the decision made by the Arena’s management company, SMG Europe, not to provide tickets to sell for the opening Bruce Springsteen concert to the two independent stores Jumbo and Crash, a Facebook group was set up by local promoter and festival organiser Ash Kollakowski and attracted over 7000 passionate members in a matter of hours.
Keen to lower the temperature of the unfolding drama, Crash Records manager Ian De-Whytell released several statements in which he thanked the campaigners for their “well meaning and sincere” support whilst also appealing to supporters not to have “a perception of negativity and bitterness towards the new venue”.
De-Whytell confirmed that both outlets had been in negotiations with the Arena management for some time, and that they would receive tickets to sell for some but not all of the upcoming gigs.
Whilst these statements quelled the initial storm, the instigators of the group have made clear that they would not be satisfied until tickets for all events are made available to the two stores, who have been an integral part of the independent Leeds music scene for over 40 years between them.
Some music fans have also started a petition asking for the management of Bruce Springsteen to intervene and insist tickets to his concert be made available to independent outlets.
Some traditionalist bloggers have been critical of the fans’ boiling over of loyalty and concern, calling it merely “bandwagon-jumping”, whilst NME published a balanced article adding weight to the debate by referencing the recent announcement that local Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs, who had been due to play the curtain raiser, were “‘fucked off’ with the Arena“.
Whilst this particular furore may still have some time to play out, it is clear that the value people place on their independent music is a force to be reckoned with, and is something to be sensitively considered by chain venues.
Having seen the demise of many independent outlets and venues over the last decade, often traced to overtly aggressive commercial tactics employed by major players in venue and event management such as The Academy Group and Live Nation, episodes such as this prove that there is as much passion for independent provision now as there has ever been.
The loss of the last truly major record chain, HMV, has in many ways invigorated the feelings people have expressed towards their local music shops as the best place to discover and share new music.
For many in West Yorkshire, hopes are high that this outpouring of popular support for their local independent music scene, a scene that nurtured the likes of Kaiser Chiefs who are now due to play at the Arena, is the start of a renewed focus on what local businesses, promoters and artists can offer.
Whilst all accept that the major players have now cemented their place in the scene, and that what they provide they do so very efficiently, the independent spark that has ignited so many of the legendary bands and venues throughout the history of music has shown itself once more to be very much alive.