Since 2007, London Has Lost 35% Of Its Smaller Music Clubs

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That statistic comes from the Mayor of London’s Music Venue Taskforce, which is trying to figure out why its underground live music scene is disappearing.  “Between 2007 and 2015, London lost 35% of its grassroots music venuesa decline from 136 spaces programming new artists to just 88 remaining today,” the report declared (full pdf here).  “Iconic names like the Marquee Club, the Astoria, the 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojo’s disappeared from the map.”  

“Those venues were big players in the music history of London, they fed the UK’s £3.8 billion music industry with a stream of talented acts and they were part of the international story of ‘Brand Britain’.”

“…the demand by festivals and arenas for talented new acts is not being met.”

The reasons for the rapid erosion are undoubtedly complicated, though a huge shift towards music festivals could the biggest culprit.  Overall, the appetite for live music is growing, though the task force warned that depletion of smaller clubs could be choking a critical farm system of talent for festivals.  “Whilst sales of recorded music are in slight decline, demand for live performances is increasing, merchandising is thriving and music tourism is a burgeoning industry,” the report noted. “London’s live gigs and festivals attracted 6.6 million people last year, around half of which were tourists.  However the demand by festivals and arenas for talented new acts is not being met.”

“…every gig brings hundreds of people into an area who also use local pubs, bars, taxis and restaurants.”

Perhaps this is all part of a natural shift in taste and music consumption, though there are potential damaging results for London itself.  “Grassroots music venues are a major factor in regenerating urban areas,” the report warned.  “Their presence benefits town centres, high streets and local communities across London.  The local nighttime economy also benefits from audiences attending shows at music venues.  Going to a gig is an enriching social activity and every gig brings hundreds of people into an area who also use local pubs, bars, taxis and restaurants.”

Perhaps the downturn is the result of a complicated storm of issues, with the task force identifying the following laundry list of problems:

  • Noise complaints
  • Cost of noise complaint procedures
  • Development
  • Cost of planning and development procedures
  • Licensing conditions
  • Cost of licensing conditions
  • Health and safety costs
  • Being forced to relocate
  • Fall in student attendance
  • Gentrification
  • Competition from non-music sectors
  • Lack of investment
  • No succession planning
  • Economically non-viable
  • Change of use legislation
  • Music industry market decline
  • Cuts to touring budgets
  • Rising service costs
  • Business rate rises
  • Police costs
  • Professional fees
  • Legal compliance costs
  • Fire regulations
  • Instant stardom culture

The complete report is here…

2 Responses

  1. Peter Simms

    What a ridiculous statement that the mayor of london’s music venues taskforce is trying to find out why the venues are closing. With regards to Madame Jojo’s, it was the council that revoked their licence. It appears that they are destroying the soul of London, anything colourful must go, like Denmark Place, the home of many music shops , rehearsal studios & publishers over the years. What does the future hold, more Starbucks? Im glad i was in my twenties during the 80s, clubbing in London as i pity the young people of today.

  2. Tim Curry

    I’m not sure if the environment between UK and the US are comparable, but here they are closing because there are scarcely any live music “destination” venues. You start out as an artist, and there is nowhere to build your fan base from. The venues expect you to bring the crowd in that they don’t have. This amounts to too much work for any one individual or performing act; one ends up spending all of their time begging people for a listen.

    When you, as an act, don’t bring in the crowd, the venue blames you, and then they end up closing eventually because they depended on the bands to do all of the work. The few that are still succeeding over here understand that they have a responsiblity to connect with their customers/fans that come to their establishment and make it a “destination” that they enjoy coming to BECAUSE it has live music.