beatles-movie

Dear Paul & Ringo,

In an interview on Thursday, you were asked about the closing down of music venues. The interview was part of your work supporting EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, the new film about The Beatles’ touring years, which tells the story of how a “little band from Liverpool” honed their craft and broadened their audience by playing, pretty much every day for 6 years, up and down the UK until you became part of the most successful band in the history of the world.

Sadly, most of those venues, as you said in that interview, are now closed. Places like the Scala, El Rio, Three Coins, Two Red Shoes that feature in your film and where the Beatles became the band they were, are long gone. More recently, iconic venues like TJs, Princess Charlotte, Duchess of York and even The Marquee have vanished. But musicians still need somewhere to play, and audiences still need somewhere to see those artists. The closure of our grassroots music venues is a cultural disgrace, but it’s also a disaster for our communities, ripping live music out of our towns and cities. You don’t need me to tell you that music is powerful; it brings people together, creates happiness.

Paul and Ringo, you concluded that interview by asking the important question “about the venues, what can we do?” I’m writing you this letter to tell you exactly what we can do.
Music Venue Trust is a registered charity which acts to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues in the UK. We have been fighting for nearly three years to stop these closures. We’ve achieved changes to the law, planning guidance, developments. We’ve fought back on behalf of venues to tackle the real reasons why they are closing down.

Because people haven’t lost faith in rock ‘n’ roll. Kids still want to play and audiences still want to see them. Truthfully, more people than ever want to see live music because you don’t stop loving live rock ‘n’ roll. Our venues should be full of three generations of music fans that grew up on your music and more than fifty years of incredible British talent.

But developers and money men having been making a grab at our culture and they’ve been winning. A local music venue isn’t ever going to make anybody rich; they’ve been easy targets because councils and government don’t respect them like they do theatres and operas and the venues haven’t got the money to fightback themselves.

We know what is causing the majority of these closures, and we know how to stop it. Yesterday we announced decisive action to stop the number 1 cause of these closures in their tracks. We’ve brought together a team of experts on licensing, development, planning, noise complaints. Any venue in the UK that faces a threat to its future can contact us and will be able to get free, instant access to the best legal and expert opinion available in the UK.

We’re a charity and we need to raise funds to pay for that service to exist. We announced yesterday that on Tuesday 18 October at The Roundhouse, London, we are going to stage a one-off benefit concert to raise that money. That event is called Fightback, and yesterday thousands of music fans from across the UK used social media to tweet #FIGHTBACK and support that event and our campaign.

But as of right now, we don’t have any bands, backline, crew. We’ve announced a gig with no acts, and we’re going to try to make that event happen in just four weeks’ time.
You’re both incredibly busy people, but in the interview you asked “what can we do?” This is what you can do.

You can join with us to stand up for our music venues. You could send us a video message asking people to support this event, or make a donation to the charity to support this specific work. Music Venue Trust needs patrons; just a photo and a quote we can use on our website and in publicity would make a huge difference to public awareness of this issue. Any of these options will make a genuine and tangible difference to saving Grassroots Music Venues in the UK.
Of course, the biggest thing you could do would be for you to come and play. We know that’s a massive ask. But when watching you perform in Eight Days a Week, you can hear and feel the incredible power of live music, the way it connects and energises people. This is why saving our music venues is so important, and this is why a performance from you would be the most powerful message you could send.

We can put a stop to these closures by the music community, the fans and the musicians, acting together to protect and support them. Your support, whatever you can do, for our event on Tuesday 18 October at The Roundhouse would make a genuine difference to music venues.

You can help us #FIGHTBACK. (join the Music Venue Trust facebook page here )

Or go to the special fightback concert at London ‘s Roundhouse on Tuesday Oct 18th (details here)

Thank you
Mark Davyd
CEO & Founder
Music Venue Trust
Registered charity no: 1159846

 

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. It is only fair that the venues are not closed. They are for the people also. They have the right to see and listen to the venues. It is for the respect of the public who would enjoy the venues. These are are part of musical history and should be available to the public. It is like taking away an opportunity for the public to the venues. There is faith and belief that there will be gigs at the #FIGHBACK. Please give the people the respect and right to the venues. It is part of musical history and people can learn from this. Be reasonable and fair to others. #FIGHBACK #FIGHTBACK #FIGHTBACK.

  2. I wonder. Maybe part of the story is that live music venues have not kept pace with their audiences? Not a faster pace, but a slower one.

    As I’ve aged, I find myself going to bed earlier, rising earlier, enjoying a more fulfilling day.

    I find myself going to bed at 9pm on occasion and sometimes even earlier. A time at which I’d previously be getting ready to head out.

    Now, if there was a gig that actually did start at 7pm and finish at 9:30pm, even 10pm, I’d be raring to go, full of the day’s energy.

    Perhaps that’s why I go to the theatre or the cinema more now or stay at home?

    Going to a gig in the same time slot, however, would mean I’d still be rebelling, going to bed after bedtime, yet not too late to miss the last bus home.

    If the events were also child friendly, the next batch of live music venue goers would already be on track as they realise their own independence and start going to gigs by themselves.

    Maybe the mix of day and night entertainment is what makes festivals so popular these days – something for everyone? Perhaps there’s something in that?

    Perhaps the audience is still out there, in bed by the time the headline act comes on? Perhaps it’s time to have venues that open at times to suit the audience, their age, their kids, their pockets and the bus timetables?

    Steve :-)

    • I play covers gigs in small pubs many weekends. I see audiences come and go throughout the evening. Some have to leave early but most stay ’til gone 11, and I often find that the audience builds up to the last few minutes and we’re asked to play more, at gone midnight, when people have been quite indifferent before 10. And when I go to see a band in central London it can take well over an hour to get there and I still need time to eat dinner, so I don’t like an early start. So regarding the timing of gigs, I don’t think earlier is necessarily better.

      Having child-friendly events, on the other hand, I think is paramount. It’s ridiculous that a music performance has to be 18+ (and increasingly 21+), simply because it’s in a licensed bar, when the teenage years are so critical to forming appreciation of live bands. And I remember, many years ago, quite a few 15- and 16-year-olds sneaking into gigs, and this is now far more difficult with the tightening of ID measures. Legal all-ages gigs need to be the rule, not the exception.

    • There are such places. The Yew Tree @ Ednaton and the Black Market Venue @ Church Warsop both host live Gigs at 4pm and 5.30pm respectively on a Sunday. This enables people to see live music and still achieve bed time ready for the working week…

    • Yes Steve, I understand, as you get on a bit rock and roll takes a back seat to bed time and hot chocolate, a nice pair of fire warmed slippers and a comfy chair. I would take that over the Ramones any day of the week. lol

    • Especially the bus timetables. Maybe we should tackle that from the other end. Choosing between a 10.30 bus or a £20 taxi fare is ridiculous.

    • Hi Steve,

      Having read your comments, please be assured that there are many bands such as my own, who regularly meet all of the criteria you mention; varying time slots, family fun days, etc.

      Three of our members of The Semantics (myself included) are now in our mid sixties, yet our other twin-lead guitar player celebrated his 21st birthday last weekend – he joined us when he was 17. Young musicians are the future.

      Techno and what can be achieved via the use of computer software is a separate subject. Our aim has always been to keep music Live.

      Throughout 40+ years of gigging, I have witnessed so many live music venues disappear due to various reasons. Those that do exist still, regularly include a footnote on their gig list posters which states “Please support your local venue”

      We are fortunate enough to be a well-respected, no bullshit band with a decent following. We have met and made many close friends solely through playing music. We now have the luxury to chose the venues we enjoy playing and are kept busy.

      However, much of what we do and achieve is down to a lot of hard work and effort from my long standing colleague and myself. We self generate several gigs each year, involving multi-band line ups (plays havoc with one’s blood pressure) and we always include younger bands.

      We do not seek fame, fortune, recording contracts or management deals. It is the enjoyment of the audience that makes it so rewarding for us personally.

      Wherever possible (work and life allowing) we will play for any worthy cause. The total amount of our fundraising since 1996 now exceeds £52k. Organisations such as Help for Heros, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, Local Hospices; The main beneficiary being the mental health charity M.I.N.D.

      We shall be playing live at The Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday 2nd October. Our Start time is 10.30. Due to road closures and traffic restrictions, we will be arriving to unload and set up at 07.00. This follows a gig on Saturday 1st, where we know we will not finish until midnight.

      There are many bands we are associated with that all do similar.

      Many thanks for your time with reading this. Please rest assured, we still exist and all wish there were many more venues available as there once was throughout the 60s & 70s.

      I believe that this Fightback event to be a positive move in the right direction to, at least raise awareness of the many disappearing live music venues.

      Best regards

      Kim

      http://www.gigall.co.uk/TheSemantics/

  3. There are such places. The Yew Tree @ Ednaton and the Black Market Venue @ Church Warsop both host live Gigs at 4pm and 5.30pm respectively on a Sunday. This enables people to see live music and still achieve bed time ready for the working week…

  4. Here’s a reality check. In the sixties, a band chucked some amps and instruments in a van, drove to a gig or gigs, and, if things went ok, got paid enough to survive til the next gig. Audiences expectations were for some musicians, playing some music. Today, a band throws some amps and instruments in several cars, complains about not finding parking near the venue, expects a large sound system, a lighting rig, a sound guy, a lighting guy. In turn, the audience would be thoroughly disappointed to only get some musicians playing music under static lights. Expectations, and therefore costs, have gone through the roof. And yet no-one will pay the realistic cost of keeping these venues going. Fifteen quid to take a chance on three unsigned unknown bands? Most people walk away if there’s any charge on the door whatsoever, even a couple of quid. Show me where the money is to pay for the venue, or pay the bands?
    As for the more family friendly venue idea…again, who the hell is going to pay? Do the sums before just reeling off ideal scenarios. The amount of extra training, health and safety, legal costs, extra staff required to make a family venue…just ask a cinema whether they’d be willing to add a crèche, and they already charge a tenner each to get in! Pipe dreams mate. The simple reality is, people aren’t willing to pay the fees required to keep the system alive. There are too many other outlays, and too many other forms of entertainment for small live venues to be viable. Sad but almost universally true.

  5. For years and years the main venues for UK bands at some time of there life was the great British working mens club – I’ve played in them for over 40 years, the trouble is the working man has changed ! They were a great family venue with cheap beer and food where your kids could come along too. These days they lack support and apart from a few exceptions are still based in the 70’s and hav’nt changed a bit ! The entertainments managers only want to pay for solo artists and backing tracks and mostly lack the knowledge of how to promote a gig and make some money. Pubs, well there are some good ones but most lack space for a 5/6 piece band and many events are put out as ‘open mic’ nights…the traditional way to get free entertainment for landlords, great for youngsters wanting experience but not so great if you need to earn a crust ! When you want to go up a level…small theatres etc a whole new can of worms explode with a different set of rules…with venues closing I don’t know what the answer is…I do think that alot of it is down to inexperienced management, I have plenty of examples…too long to list….not everyone wants to be famous and in the charts! Most just want to be treated ok and play the music they love and have the thrill of a live crowd, perhaps the breweries could also train managers in promoting and putting live music events on…not just selling beer and food ! Ofcourse it could just be me getting old, maybe I should stay at home aswell with a dvd and a beer !

  6. I read this through twice and I’m none the wiser. You say you plan “decisive action to stop the number 1 cause of these closures” but don’t say what that number 1 cause is. You somewhat arrogantly brag that “we know how to stop it” but don’t say what “it” is.

    Your have a collection of experts on “licensing, development, planning, noise complaints” but that sounds like many, many reasons, not one reason.

    The venue I run is struggling to keep going but we are not under threat from any of these reasons. We have diminishing audience numbers which is perhaps due to us charging on the door for quality acts while the pubs up the road put on music for free. Perhaps I’m choosing acts no-one likes, perhaps people sit at home watching the TV. I’m sure as a venue we’re not alone in this but I have no stats either way.

    Where is your evidence to support your claim about what constitutes the “number 1 cause of these closures”? Have you done a survey?

  7. Gee does the “Music Venue Trust” have ANYTHING to do with people making money off it?

    In this new electronic world of rampant internet theft and deception, one has to wonder

  8. I don’t like the way you’ve pitched the more “mainstream” venue against theatres and operas as you say. THAT IS THE ATTITUDE THAT GOT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY (AS A WHOLE!!) INTO THIS MESS!

    Councils DON’T respect theatres and operas either, the cuts to operas (eg) have been major and literally show-stopping; the countless individuals involved (orchestra members, chorus, backstage crew etc) have lost jobs as a result.

    Don’t. You. DARE say they’re better off, because they’re not, and they have their own set of esoteric problems like pubs and clubs do, so don’t go pointing fingers!!

  9. I for one believe this to be a positive move. There will always be those for, and those against any good (or not so good) ideas. I believe this proposal should be supported, wholeheartedly. It is far better to have tried and failed, than not to have tried at all. The whole concept will be so rewarding to so many people, regardless of how successful it may be. Even if it becomes no more than a one-off. The Semantics therefore offer our services and our support to help out in any way we can.

  10. I have played keyboards and bass in many bands and a wide variety of genres since settling in London in 1981, and I can say that the live music scene saw a seismic shift during the late 1980s and early ’90s with the cynical and despicable policy of “pay-to-play”. This didn’t last long, but it coincided with the rise of Karaoke and the acceptance of the DJ as an artist. Additionally, this was the period when computers largely replaced live musicians, not only in dance music but also in soul/R&B, reggae and mainstream pop. The live music scene never fully recovered. My elder son, a talented guitarist is now studying Music: Performance and Production at college. Let’s hope his generation can find places to play.

  11. I’m sure you are inundated with offers – but my band, Deep Blue Sea, a local indie blues band, playing around London and South East England most weeks – with occasional forays north, west, east and south – would love to play – if you need any support or whatever – just get in touch. We are in the process of running a new venue in Soho – kicks off on Sunday 2 October and we’ve secured brewery funding for a month of Sundays to prove we can make it work – so there is some good news out there – we are rotating blues based bands every week – not just ourselves – no one wins unless everyone wins :)

  12. I help run a club – the Processed Pea Folk Club – which has the distinction of celebrating our 47th birthday in the same venue – the Light Dragoon in Etton, near Beverley in East Yorkshire. Our sole aim is to provide a platform for musicians and poets to do their thing regardless of style or expertise. So we have established stars like Henry Priestman, Vin Garbutt, Rod Clements, Ralph McTell, ex-members of Lindisfarne etc. etc. playing alongside up and coming young talent who jump at the chance to play live to an appreciative audience. We cater for artistes aged 7-70 in an area of the UK which has a thriving live music scene but are very much aware of the pressures to close venues or to make life very difficult for those working hard to promote live music. We agree that the ripping out of live music venues from our communities is a cultural disgrace – not just for music lovers – but theatre and the arts in general and we wish you success in your venture. Time for the Beatles and other succesful acts to put a bit back I think!

  13. I have to agree about the point raised above about people paying to get in. After working above a venue and with my friendship with the owners I saw how they constantly struggled to fill the venue when great bands played all because people did not want to pay more than £3 to get in. It was incredibly frustrating for them as they would really try and give the area some quality entertainment but all tent seemed to want was free entry, cheap drinks and a jukebox. It’s tough then for them to take a risk one unknown bands as they needed to know if they band would pull in a crowd to cover costs. It’s a tough one for all involved but I do think the biggest issue is people’s attitude in general to music these days. It seems more to be about background noise whilst they chat and take photos than going to see someone you’ve never heard of who just may change your life

  14. For several years now, live music has steadily become devalued.

    Every bar, bistro, cafe, pub and lounge in the land is now throwing a chalkboard out on the pavement advertising live music.

    And therein lies the problem – we are saturated with live music. We can’t get away from it.

    Rather than look hard to find a place playing live music, you now have to look hard to find one that isn’t.

    As the leisure industry fights to win disposable income, for some reason it has turned to live music to try and save it.

    Everything from open mic nights to unpaid solo artists stuck in corners performing like Monkeys, and bands forced to play cover songs because that’s what the landlord thinks sells.

    ‘Put on live music and they will come’, so they think.

    The point is, live music for many people isn’t special anymore. It’s tainted by the perception that real live music is only played in big venues with huge stage shows by well-known artists. It’s become more about the experience than the music.

    20-years ago, if you saw a decent live act in a small venue they genuinely could have been the next big thing and there was an excitement with feeling part of that.

    Nowadays, everyone’s just a pub band. Just like the next band in the street and the next.

    Ok, we know there are talented musicians in the mire, but to the common pub-going ear, it’s just more of the same.

    People are consuming music on MTV and watching videos that cost more to produce than a B-list film. When they do pay to watch their favourite artist play live they spend the night whole show recording it on a mobile phone because the lights and laser show is so epic.

    Where’s the thrill in going out for a drink with your mates, having to put up with live music you might not even like, and spending the evening talking over a crappy PA whilst offering sympathetic applause at the end of each show.

    Sure there are dedicated music venues but here’s the deal. Smaller venues have to rely on ticket sales to open the doors. They also have to play live music 7-days a week because that’s what they do.

    So pretty soon you start running out of decent bands. You can’t keep the same acts coming in because people won’t pay for that. And because you can’t afford to pay an act you won’t find many that can come in from out of town.

    So what’s the answer? In my view we have to make live music special again. It has to be an event. It has to have value that will drive people to not only venture out in hordes, but to travel to watch musicians play and pay a fair price for the privilege.

    I believe there should be a new licence created to put on live music. You need a proper stage (not a space in the corner), you need a decent light show (not a table lamp) and you need a minimum standard sound system with a decent deck and a sound engineer.

    Do this and 90% of the bars playing live music will have to stop doing it.

    Live music will become valued as a great night out again rather than an annoying distraction, people will pay more money because it will be a great show, and the traditional music venues will thrive once again.

    Small live venues will become the perfect place to see a professional show, but still have that intimacy with the artist that you can’t get at large venues.

    And if you want to play on the bill, you’d better be good or start practicing really hard.

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