Everyone agrees that a strong network of live venues can play a key component part in the nurturing and discovery of new artists, across all genres. But, in the UK, there are many differing views on how venues should be treated, regulated and protected (if at all). Here, Bradley Thompson, MD of Broadwick Venues (owner of, amongst other things, London’s new Printworks live space), offers a personal opinion on the state of play in the dance and electronic music sector of the battlefield.
After a challenging period for electronic/DJ music, with a staggering 50% of all UK clubs closing in the past decade, and a perception that clubland was grinding to a halt, things are looking really positive.
We’re seeing electronic/DJ venues opening, great homegrown talent emerging and an exciting widening of creative boundaries such as The Hydra hosted events at The Barbican. There’s also more crossover between live and electronic, with people who would traditionally be attendees of either live or electronic events now openly attending both.
In the live forum things are equally buoyant. Nationally we have the fantastic Agent of Change legislation and initiatives such as Independent Venue Week making a much-needed and valuable impact; whilst in London, the Night Czar and night tube have provided a passionate voice and greater freedom and access for music lovers.
Generally, live music may be getting the respect and protection that it deserves; something more crucial than ever as it provides such a huge part of contemporary musicians’ revenue.
But there’s still plenty to focus on. Challenges include the contentious secondary ticket market, problematic planning policy and lease increases. And obviously no one knows what the impact of Brexit will be.
More culturally aware regulation, stricter control over secondary ticketing and venues working together to have their voices heard would be a good start. Obviously, supporting the likes of Agent of Change, Music Venue Trust and Independent Venue Week is also important.
And setting aside external threats, we believe that there’s much a venue can do to strengthen itself. Whether that’s ensuring that the programming within it is fresh and never formulaic, selecting interesting locations / buildings or working collaboratively – and genuinely – with artists and brands, it will all help.
But more than anything, it’s about refusing to compromise on quality of experience. Everyone who comes into the venue, whether they’re on the stage or in the audience, should feel like they’ve had the time of their lives; wowed by production, surprised by the detail and left open mouthed by things they’ve never seen or heard before.
Live music is clearly hugely important. People need a place to discover, to feel and to express themselves. They need a chance to look up. And cities, towns and villages need somewhere that creates a destination out of them; they need venues that are about excitement, community and talent.
Without music, culture and heritage generally, we’re just left with homes and amenities – and homes that eventually people won’t choose to live in, since humans are intrinsically curious and want places to explore, inspire and make them feel alive.
Printworks is unique. Right from the start, we could see that with the space, its original features and history, there was incredible potential. It’s a 16-acre site and a former major printing facility for London newspapers, and still houses original printing presses, walkways and off-rooms.
We have had a brilliant first year, predominantly through electronic/DJ music, but it was always the ambition to be a home for culture generally – and last month we opened our live music space.
We now want to offer everything we have offered to electronic artists and fans, to live music artists and fans: incredible surroundings, amazing talent, unbeatable production and an absolute commitment to quality of experience.
We believe we can be one of the best cultural destinations in the world, helping and working with the local community throughout. Music Business Worldwide