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  • Anya Fernihough

The Importance of Grassroots Music Venues

A grassroots music venue (GMV) is a venue that serves as a cultural hub, inspiring musical activity within local communities. They are run by industry experts who work to programme artists and build a reputation that attracts large audiences, contributing significantly to night-time economic activity.

GMVs are greatly important within cities to build the local music sector in providing access to stages for emerging musicians and a platform for experimentation and direct audience feedback. For the venue there is always a risk of low ticket sales but by supporting the music industry by attracting customers and expanding fan bases (who will hopefully spend money in related markets over the course of a show or become repeat customers), GMVs allow musicians to better their talents and grow their fanbase; they are essential for artists to progress in their careers.

But there’s an issue: thanks to the pandemic, many GMVs have experienced losses in revenue, sometimes forcing their closures as a consequence. This has numerous knock-on effects on various other industries, some of which may not be explicitly obvious.

Of course, musicians are going to suffer from GMV closure. There are fewer performance opportunities and the lack of venues could cause competition between gigging artists, potentially creating a rather toxic culture within the local music community. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all musicians will be disadvantaged, as many will thrive from said competition. Those that are successful in booking shows will be able to reach larger audiences due to the reduced choice for concert-goers in terms of live music. This gives them a greater chance of making it in the industry, and breaking through into larger or even international markets.

I do however think that this notion of competition has a quite depressing undertone, as the overall reduction in performance spaces limits the diversity of music accessible to society. I think that part of the joy of music is being able to listen to a wide array of music at any time, without any restriction to genre, style or origin. This variety allows for creative inspiration, leading to the increased production of music and resulting in an extremely vibrant and creative community.

Beyond the impact on musicians, the closure of GMVs affects other night-time economy sectors. The interconnected ecosystem of markets (encompassing transportation, food and drink businesses) experiences losses when concert-goers no longer purchase these services. Naturally, the structure of the economy will result in further knock-on effects, which could possibly affect wider society in the future. As a result, a loss in profits has drastic effects on the economy as a whole; there’s been a change in supply and demand. There is subsequently a widespread effect on profits, pay and spending, which highlights the dependence on each transaction across the entire economy.

Recognizing the significance of GMVs, efforts made in their support are essential to protect their role in the night-time and overall economy. I think that it’s equally important in order to progress as a creative and sensitive society, to ensure a diverse distribution of music, and to share the joy that this music brings us, both on an individual and collective level.

Supporting gigs at these independent venues is vital to their survival, sustaining the night-time economy and fostering opportunities for emerging artists. Some of the best gigs I’ve ever been to have been at these smaller venues, discovering bands I didn’t know of before. Hopefully, the culture of independent gigs at these Grassroots Music Venues will continue, the night-time economy will thrive and more artists will be able to break through into the industry. GMVs are of great importance within their local communities, regardless of size, number of events they programme, or profit they generate.

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