The Music Venue Trust has published an interim report into the challenges currently facing small venues in the UK - with a full report set to follow in March. Perhaps unsurprisingly, noise complaints and the threat to pre-existing venues when residential neighbours move in are prominent features. Diminishing audiences at a grass roots level were also of concern, with various causes suggested. The recession was an obvious one, while some venue operators also said that the student audiences they rely on had dwindled, in part due to increased tuition fees. The Live Music Act also faced criticism: The Act which had widespread industry support, removed the red tape surrounding putting on small gigs in pubs and small venues and some respondents say this more competition for venues focused on new music, proving right predictions made by former Luminaire owner Andy Inglis in 2013.
PRS For Music also comes in for criticism in the report, with the music publishing sector's collecting society accused of trying to collect money from venues that don't play PRS-registered music and charging more than many small venues can afford in fees, which then put them at risk of going out of business.
Announcing the report, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd said: "There is a national challenge to our live music venue circuit brought about by a sequence of events and developments which have left that network in a perilous and precarious state. Music Venue Trust feels that we need to take an overall view of the challenges out there".
He went on: "We need to be openly discussing and airing those challenges with our live music industry colleagues, and working together to tackle that range of issues so we not only maintain and preserve this circuit but actively start to improve it. We feel that past failures to talk about the ecosystem of UK music have meant that people who don't actively work in it perhaps don't understand the structure of the industry, or the vital role that this network of venues plays in maintaining it".
"The UK is, quite literally, a music world leader, punching vastly above its weight in terms of the impact our artists and musicians make across the globe. A huge proportion of the music we export, which generates thousands of jobs, develops the artistic careers of our best writers and musicians, and is such an important part of the UK's standing on the international cultural stage, starts in a small venue. This is the grassroots of our industry, the research and development department of our major international music industry partners. It is impossible to overstate this enough; no Troubadour or 12 Bar Club, no Adele".
"Our UK music scene, arguably the best in the world, is built on a robust ecosystem that starts with a first live concert in front of as few as ten people on a Tuesday night in Guildford and climaxes with three nights at Wembley Stadium. And it's not just the musicians - our industry and other parts of the creative sector are filled with people who cut their teeth promoting, booking or simply working the door at a small venue. This small venue circuit is the training ground and the entry level experience for our lighting engineers, sound technicians, and cultural organisers at all levels; we need to ensure we do all we can to protect it".