Some of the UK’s most successful bands have used many of the country’s small music venues as their launch pads for bigger and better things, however many of these venues are now struggling to remain open.
If the “toilet circuit” (as it’s fondly referred to) is going down the pan, what does the future hold for rock and indie music?
Poor Ticket Sales Threaten Grass Roots Rock and Indie Scene
Up and down the country many rock and indie venues are closing their venues for the last time.
The renowned music venue, the Joiners in Southampton, which has seen the likes of Radiohead, Primal Scream, Cold Play and Oasis perform, has announced it’s now threatened with closure due to poor ticket sales, with manager Patrick Muldowney admitting they are struggling to fend off the bailiffs.
The name, the toilet circuit arose because many of the venues are so intimate the bands have to get changed in the toilets. Recently bassist of the Kaiser Chiefs, Simon Rix remembered how important one such a venue, the former Duchess of York in Leeds, was to his band’s development when they were beginning.
He went on to say: “As soon as I looked old enough, I was in there watching bands.” The Duchess of York in Leeds in now a Hugo Boss outlet, representing another example of a venue in the rock and indie scene closing down due to poor ticket sales.
The NME voted The Forum in Tumbridge Wells the Best Small Music Venue in the Britain, however it’s run by volunteers making it one of those rare venues that runs off good will and doesn’t aim to make a profit in the traditional sense. This is a very successful venue on the toilet circuit however this seems to epitomize many of the issues that are currently being felt in the rock and indie scene.
How the Live Music Act support Small Venues in the UK
In October 2012 the Live Music Act was passed by the government, meaning that in England and Wales small venues with a capacity of 200 or less no longer need to get a live music licence, which means an estimated 13,000 more venues would be able to start holding live music events without struggling to get past red tape.
The only problem is people have got used, and due to this act will almost certainly continue to get used to seeing up and coming bands in pubs for nothing which puts additional pressure on the small rock and indie venues.
This saturation in the market place doesn’t mean to say venues have to shut down, they just have to change the way they operate to accommodate the changing face of the music scene.
Changing The Culture in Rock and Indie to benefit the Grass Roots
At the other end of the live music sphere is the dance scene which has managed to create a much more homogeneous industry in which many event goers expect not only to pay a good amount of money to go to a club to watch DJs perform, but also the ticket buying public expect to buy their tickets in advance, which has allowed the dance scene to create a much more stable base in which to foster and develop artists.
In the good old days, all a band needed to do was get their friends to come along and do a bit of flyering around the local area to get people down to the venues on the night they played.
The Manager of the Victoria Inn in Derby, Micky Sheehan has argued that bands nowadays are lazy, and that they’d sell more tickets if they got themselves out there a bit more, however this misses the point that the world has changed; it’s the venues that need to be full – the bands and artists can play anywhere.
Venue owners therefore need to take more responsibility for the acts performing in their venue and start using the live events directories such as Skidde’s free listings and social media and release press releases and posters to help promote the acts playing in their venue. This should not be the sole responsibility of the artist(s) performing, it’s time the venue owners took some ownership of the issues faced in their business.
The one area of the indie and rock scene that isn’t stalling is the live music festivals, which makes it clear that the scene itself isn’t in terminal decline, and the only difference between the summer festivals and the local rock and indie events is the summer festivals know how to promote themselves on a national basis predominantly benefiting from the internet as a medium.
It’s time local live music venues dedicated to rock and indie to drag themselves into the 21st century and orientate their businesses toward the way people consume live music. Fortunately, with the dance sector performing so effectively they’ve got something to base their business models on.
Ticket sales are the bread and butter of the live events sector and fundamentally promoting events and venues is the only way to ensure these music venues, and ultimately a whole section of the live music industry won’t be under threat in the future.
To list your rock and indie events on Skiddle visit Skiddle’s Promotion Centre.