In the same way that plants only grow when their roots are feed with water and nutrients, the music scene can only thrive in a similar way. It is no coincidence that the whole industry sits on a platform of small venues and fledgling bands referred to as “the grass roots music scene” and it is such an influx of new talent, creative ideas, boundary pushing artists and left-field thinkers which allows the whole system to evolve and grow. It is here that musicians hone their skills and have room to experiment, where they learn to be a live act, make the right contacts and find their way to the next rung of the ladder and hopefully a career in music.
But all of that is changing. In a world that is becoming more and more chaotic, conservative and austere, money for artistic endeavours is drying up. In so many cities across the world music venues are closing and being redeveloped into funky apartments for the elite or office spaces for the corporate machine. But I understand that. It is supply and demand at work that is all. I’m not one of those people who moan about how it was all much better in my day…not in print anyway. Times change and so must we.
So how do we save our venues, the places which launched the careers of every one who ever mattered in music, from Elvis playing Tennessee juke joints to The Beatles slogging through the Hamburg underground scene, from Nirvana touring European squats to the likes of Ed Sheeran sofa surfing his way around the UK for years before fame came calling?
Firstly the venues need to move with the times. Yes, it might be an easier and more lucrative night if you book just another classic rock tribute band but does that really further the cause when you could be booking a local dream-pop band or a bunch of musicians who grew up listening to their parents hip-hop records. And if youngsters don’t see live music as the attraction that the older generation might, take it to them, stream the show live, show them what they are missing, or at least get their door money digitally.
But it mainly comes down to numbers, punters, bums on seats…you the reader. And it is simple. Go along and support the music. Pay on the door, buy a CD on the way out, keep the venues full and ensure everyone makes money and can keep doing what they do. It’s all very well saying that you “will catch the band next time, maan” what if there isn’t a next time, what if the next time you want to see a band you find that the venue is now a hipster café selling overpriced coffee in a jam jar and serving couscous in a shoe?
The fight back is simple and relatively inexpensive, it just requires a bit of effort. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Actually the alternative is probably a 14-year-old daughter of a celebrity, now calling herself a DJ and playing bleeps and beats from pre-programed samples. Is that really what you want? Is it?