Riches To Rags To Risers: Are we to blame for small venue closures?

Over the last few years, it seems that we can not stop hearing about small music venues being closed up and down the country. In the last decade alone, the UK has closed nearly a third of all its small music venues, and even the majority of those that remain have still come under pressure about the possibility of closure at some time. And when we read these stories, it usually comes down to one reason: housing. The housing stock in the UK has remained stagnant for decades and small venues, which are usually located in highly-populated areas, become a target for investors looking to build new homes. But while the enemy of most opinions of these closures remain with the property developers, the root cause of these problems may be closer to home.

The surge in closures in the last few years has been so severe that a new organisation, the Music Venue Trust, has sprung up to offer aid and support to those venues threatened with closure. But while this new trust is offering great financial support to these venues, even they admit that the problems first arise from a lack of support to the venues from us, the going public. The way these threats of closure usually begin is when property developers look around for businesses to buy out, so they can begin proceedings to build new homes. But as most businesses, large or small, usually have a large amount of inherent wealth invested in them, the price to buy them out can usually be too much to make it worth anyone's while. But most small music venues aren't run with the idea of making huge profits and usually only break-even most years, justified by saying that they "do it for the love of music". While this may be admirable to the music lover inside us all, it doesn't make for good leverage when the threat of a buyout comes looming. Most venue owners or landlords simply can not ignore some of these offers and with dwindling numbers through the door year on year, the reality is that people just aren't as interested in live music as they used to be.

While it is a shame to admit it, we are probably all to blame when it comes to these venues. Whenever I read about the closing of a much-loved venue, the article will usually pitch a number of achievements the venue had in its yesteryear. So-and-so played one of their first gigs here, or was once the main residency for this artist. Never something that it is currently going through, always what it used to be. Which there lies the problem it faces today. Of course a famous venue would never close in the peak of its popularity, but given time, all these places become shadows of their former selves, and that is solely on us. Simply put, rather than complain that your once favourite venue is closing, why not think about how long it has been since you last went.

Essentially, the future of any venue or club in this country is down to us. While we can all admit that we are getting older and we may not have as much time for nightlife anymore, that doesn't mean we should just give in and cut that portion of our life out completely. Live music is under threat right now, and while small venues may not get the love they deserve, they are an essential part of new artists climb to the top of the musical ladder. So rather than campaign to keep a venue open once the threat is made, continue to promote and support live music in your area, because we know that if we don't, those places will be a block of flats within a year.