Grassroots Ticketing Introduced At Venues Day

The third Venues Day event opened Oct. 18 at London’s  with a discussion led by Mark Davyd, who didn’t let the politicians on the panel get away with paying lip service to the importance of grassroots venues.  

“It’s not about slowing down closures [of venues], but opening up new ones,” said Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, which hosted the event. Davyd also pointed out that politicians had “no clue” about the day-to-day business of a venue operator and suggested putting “somebody in charge who knows what they’re doing.”

No wonder Lord Tim Clement Jones CBE, who was one of the politicians on the panel, joked: “I always come away from [Venues Day] feeling grossly dissatisfied with our parliamentary performance, I must tell you.” He might have been joking, but nobody laughed.

Venue operators seem to have had enough with the cheap talk. “How do you deal with soulless vampires who have no idea what culture is, which is the Tory government,” one of the almost 500 delegates of mostly venue owners asked. BBC Radio 6’s Steve Lamacq reminded everyone that saving venues wasn’t just about government regulations, but also engaging a young audience again.

“Young people don’t go to gigs anymore,” he said. While the opening panel did not offer anything concrete, a couple of announcements made by Davyd and Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick did. An initiative dubbed Sound + Vision in cooperation with White Light is aimed at equipping music venues with sound and lighting equipment. Some of the partners who’ll be providing equipment to venues at a discount include d&b audiotechnik, Shure and Yamaha.

To reach the goal of equipping 100 venues in the next five years, however, a budget of just under £5 million per year is required, which is why Davyd called upon the Arts Council England for help. The second announcement was all about offering grassroots venues a ticketing option created by MVT, TicketWeb, and .Tickets, dubbed TicketWeb Backline. It’s a management system that offers small venues (up to 1,500 capacity) and promoters a DIY ticketing solution.

Venues who use the new service exclusively will be able to delegate the painful PRS reporting to MVT, and create bespoke event pages that end with the domain suffix of .tickets. The second half of the day was dedicated to different sessions on different hot topics such as licensing, taxes and the general dynamics between promoters, agents, artists, managers on one side and venues on the other.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live, said, “Grassroots venues are the key to our business.” He also pointed out that small venues and promoters didn’t necessarily have the same agenda. While Kilimanjaro was about developing artists over years and accepting to make a loss in the beginning, small venues had to make a profit every night. Galbraith said he’d happily co-promote shows with local promoters if they were willing to take on half the risk, which wasn’t possible in most cases.

Operators and promoters of small venues, such as Rick Bates of Southampton Joiners, complained that they often helped build an artist’s career, only to see them being snatched away by the big players once there was money to be made.

“Communication is the key,” was the conclusion drawn. If national promoters and local promoters at small venues – whose knowledge of the local markets is of great value to the big guys – communicated with each other, ways of making it work for everyone involved could be found.

The day was concluded with a concert raising funds for MVT’s nationwide emergency response plan for small venues that are threatened by closure. Everything Everything and Public Service Broadcasting headlined the concert. Many artists, including Paul McCartney, have stepped forward to announce their support for small venues across the UK.

“Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to play in venues of all different shapes and sizes, from tiny clubs to massive stadiums all over the world,” the former Beatle said, adding, “If we don’t support live music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”