May 30, 2020

Becoming the expert

TrainingThe Music Venue Trust is doing a great job highlighting the difficulty that small venues find themselves in. They have set up a crisis fund, mobilised a lot of support from fans and artists and they make strident efforts to make the government aware of what is happening. It’s a super tough time across the music industry, but small venues are in a particularly dark place. Most grassroots venues have rent to pay and with zero revenue now and likely little coming down the track, it’s not hard to foresee that when they default on rent, the landlords will likely look to repurpose their buildings for other uses.

“It’s a super tough time across the music industry, but small venues are in a particularly dark place.”

For our business as booking agents, grassroots venues are vital – the vast majority of our shows are in venues of less than 500 capacity, I should probably analyse the thousand or so shows we booked last year but, I’d hazard a guess that more than half were in venues of less than 200. So without small venues, we would not exist. Consequently, I don’t write this with a misplaced sense of altruism – rather their survival is bound with ours. It really matters to us.

I have had various conversations with managers and other agents about putting on streamed shows from venues. There is a charge of desperation in the air and a real desire from some to sell as many streamed tickets as possible.  This is a very bad idea for venues because there will be fewer shows. It has started already, Laura Marlin is doing a ticketed show at Union Chapel in London on 6th June. The NME described the show as “intimate” but in terms of sales, it will be anything but.

In my last blog “I Like Busking But…” I argued for a combination of hard tickets and streamed tickets to allow venues to sell enough tickets for the show to become viable. The technology to limit streamed ticket sales in both number and area exists and will soon be readily available.

Where does this leave the grassroots venues and their place in the scheme of things? How are they going to attract touring bands to perform on their stages? I think the answer lies in their ability to deliver solid high-quality streams which they or the promoter can distribute and ticket. I predict it will be the venues that train their staff and market their ability to deliver, who will be the ones to more likely to survive. No doubt the Music Venue Trust is already on this – but if not, that’s where I would be focussing some attention – gear and training, and quickly.

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts. Let me know what you think and comment below. Thanks for reading.

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