A re­port on Lon­don’s mu­sic venues has plenty to say about their soft power ben­e­fits

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - JIM CAR­ROLL

I never thought Boris John­son would show up in the rogues’ gallery of char­ac­ters who have fea­tured in this col­umn over the years. This week, though, the Lon­don mayor gets a men­tion be­cause of a re­port from his Mu­sic Venues Task­force.

One-third of Lon­don’s grass­roots venues have closed in the past few years, so John­son and his man­darins sought to find out what was go­ing on – and what ef­fect it was hav­ing on Lon­don’s cul­ture and econ­omy.

The re­sult­ing re­port makes some in­ter­est­ing find­ings about the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the city’s venue ecosys­tem. Every­thing from the in­creased res­i­den­tial na­ture of streets around venues to “mar­ket fail­ure” within the mu­sic industry are cited.

One of the in­ter­est­ing con­clu­sions has to do with how th­ese small-scale venues con­trib­ute to Lon­don’s de­sir­abil­ity as a place to live, work and visit.

El­iz­a­beth Cur­rid ex­plored the same sub­ject in her book

The Warhol Econ­omy (2008), which looked at how New York’s fash­ion, art and mu­sic scenes were a big pull for non-arts com­pa­nies to lo­cate in the city.

One of Cur­rid’s con­clu­sions was that the push by prop­erty own­ers and de­vel­op­ers to re­place low-yield­ing cul­tural ten­ants with con­ven­tional busi­nesses and of­fices changed a city. Man­hat­tan’s once thriv­ing down­town artis­tic zones were de­stroyed by prop­erty de­vel­op­ers, she ar­gued, forc­ing artists to flee to Brook­lyn or Jer­sey City.

Sort­ing this out re­quires an en­light­ened ap­proach by city fa­thers to such is­sues as night­club li­cens­ing, rent sub­si­dies and ten­ancy pro­tec­tion. The prob­lem is that th­ese are of­ten not pop­u­lar is­sues, either with those who vote for or who do­nate to po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Hence the lack of gump­tion and fail­ure to do any­thing about them.

John­son’s Mu­sic Venues Task­force has sought to demon­strate how small mu­sic venues con­trib­ute to a city’s soft power. Most eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors look at the in­creased rents and rates that a space hous­ing a venue will earn un­der more com­mer­cial uses. But the fact that a city is home to vi­brant venues and scenes can be just as valu­able, if of­ten in­tan­gi­ble, in es­tab­lish­ing a city as a cre­ative hub.

This prob­lem is not Lon­don’s or New York’s. Ir­ish ci­ties have seen their stock of live mu­sic venues and clubs de­crease over the past decade or so. There are many rea­sons why venues dis­ap­pear, but there’s no doubt that many own­ers and land­lords are swayed by op­por­tu­ni­ties to do some­thing with their build­ings more lu­cra­tive than hous­ing young, new, un­tried bands.

How­ever, as the Lon­don re­port makes clear, you need th­ese venues to pro­vide the su­per­stars of to­mor­row with some­where to start out. There are quotes within from Ed Sheeran and Frank Turner show­ing just how valu­able grass­roots venues were for them, long be­fore Wem­b­ley Sta­dium or Wem­b­ley Arena were op­tions.

With­out such spa­ces, it will be harder and harder for new acts to learn the ropes. Time for var­i­ous city bosses to do some­thing about this be­fore they all dis­ap­pear.


Jamie Woon, Mak­ing Time


Breezy, jazzy elec­tro-soul beauts for movers, shak­ers and groovers in the au­di­ence from the Lon­don soul­boy on his sec­ond al­bum.


Mr Ties is com­ing to town. The Ital­ian-born spin­ner be­hind Ber­lin’s ac­claimed Ho­mopatik club plays Out to Lunch at Dublin’s Bar Tengu on De­cem­ber 11th. If Ho­mopatik is any guide to what’s ahead, ex­pect he­do­nis­tic good times, with Mr Ties rock­ing the house with large help­ings of disco, house, techno, jazz and soul.

As the re­port makes clear, you need th­ese venues to pro­vide the su­per­stars of to­mor­row with some­where to start out

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