The Grassroots Venue In UK And Germany

Mark Davyd (Music Venue’s Trust) and Karsten Schölermann (LiveKomm) took the opportunity at this year’s ILMC to explain why small music venues are of such vital importance to the music economy. 

Both began by briefly summarizing two reports recently published in the UK and Germany respectively.

The “London’s Grassroots Venue Rescue Plan” by the Music Venues Taskforce calls for a change in the way we think about music venues. It particularly highlights the “agent of change principle,” which would make life easier for venues, as it puts the responsibility for noise management on the incoming individual or business. The German industry report highlights the fact that live music venues (size up to 1,000 square meters) only generate around 2 percent of the total revenue of Germany’s music industry, and 7 percent of the total live revenues.

This shouldn’t deviate from the fact that small venues are still the place where everybody develops talent, and not just the artists, Schölermann emphasized. Producers, sound engineers, and lighting experts went through there as well before moving on to the Live Nations of the world. Even the audiences develop there socially. Davyd pointed out some inexplicable discrepancies in the way the UK government treats culture.

Theaters for example don’t pay business rates, because of their cultural importance. While the Royal Opera House received £28 million in funding, there seemed to be no money for the venues network. Schölermann addressed one of the most startling findings of the German report: Operating expenses for small clubs in Germany include one third for artist fees, a third for miscellaneous costs and not even a third for personnel costs. This was only possible because so many volunteers work in clubs. Davyd added that 50 percent of the bookers working for small venues in the UK weren’t getting paid. While many artists never made it to arena level, they still had to be paid by the clubs, who were also in charge of catering and paying the collecting societies, said Schölermannn. “Remember,” he added, “the club doesn’t evolve with the artist.

It’s always starting at zero.” In terms of solutions, both pointed out two basic possibilities: subsidies or through the help of the big boys (“the ones making money off of our work”). The big players could for example charge an extra 10 cents on the millions of tickets they sell and forward that money into a fund out of which small venues can draw whenever a show fails. It’s already happening in certain countries. And it’s “incredibly cheap to do,” said Davyd, who added that it was easy to forget that at a conference where people are talking tours that probably generate enough money to buy literally every venue in London. “It is serious. We are losing clubs,” he emphasized.