After experiencing rapid growth in the U.K. over five years, Independent Venue Week comes to the U.S. starting today with shows in Boston and Minneapolis.
For the uninitiated, IVW was founded by Sybil Bell in the U.K. in 2014. Inspired and modeled after the Record Store Day initiative, the event essentially invites venues to participate by hosting shows under the IVW banner in the U.K. in late January, a typically slow period.
The project jumped from 17 participating venues in the first year to 91 the second year, and now has worked with more than 250 participating venues. This drew the attention of boutique music marketing firm Marauder and its co-founder the Rev. Moose.
Participating venues in the U.S.’ first IVW includes White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, N.J.; Echo in Los Angeles; First Avenue in Minneapolis; World Cafe Live in Philadelphia; The UC Theatre in Berkeley, Calif.; The Crocodile in Seattle; and 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
“The core of [Marauder’s] business is to expose new stuff to a broader audience,” Moose told Pollstar. “The nature of that is you work with a significant number of independent organizations.”
“[Bell and I] had many conversations about how we could eventually bring this over to the U.S. We finally realized, if it’s going to happen it’s going to be a bit of a leap of faith on all of our parts. It was going to come from us saying ‘We’re going to commit to it, we’re going to do our best, and we’re going to see if the community responds.’ And so far the community has been very responsive.”
Moose and Marauder reached out to different venues, explaining the concept and invited them to join, though he said some stepped forward before they even had the chance to call.
“People in a market where it hadn’t previously existed were basically waiting for it come to U.S. shores so they could be involved.”
Eventbrite is a partner with Independent Venue Week in the U.S., and many of the venues are already users of Eventbrite ticketing services and platforms. Andrew Dreskin, Eventbrite’s President of Music and member of the board of its directors said the company is proud to be supporting independent music, which has been at the core of his work throughout his career.
“At Eventbrite, we feel very strongly about independent venues, promoters and music. They are often the farm clubs for the stadium and arena acts of tomorrow,” Dreskin told Pollstar. “We all want to live in a non-homogenous society. We believe one of the ways to do that is to foster a vibrant independent music scene with venues that have their own voice and initiatives like Independent Venue Week help fuel this.”
While defining exactly what constitutes an “independent” music venue can be difficult, Bell quickly set criteria for participating venues, which include that the owners can own no more than nine total venues, that the venue’s primary programming is live music, and that the building can’t be owned by a company that primarily does something other than music.
“Without supporting the independent sector of the music industry, there really isn’t the platform for continued growth,” Moose said, emphasizing that his work with Marauder already has him frequently collaborating with independent labels and artists, and that there is a lot of crossover from the different independent entities in the industry.
Moose said he wants IVW to give smaller venues without large parent organizations a banner they can fly under and a network of experience and knowledge they can plug into, as many venue owners can feel like they are on an island and may not be connected to anything larger. Bell said one piece of feedback she overwhelmingly gets about IVW is that it helps venue owners feel part of something larger.
“Our main goal is to be able to support business owners, the people that own, run and spend their days in these independently owned venues, and try to give them a bigger mouthpiece,” Moose said. “I think it’s important for small business owners to have infrastructure that continues to give them support, so that they can continue in their own local markets. You have these entities that exist in communities, some very small and some very large, and they are just as important to the ecosystem as anything else.”
Asked about expansion to other parts of Europe, Bell said she had considered it but has never been linguistically gifted.
She said she is very proud of how IVW has reached many smaller towns in the U.K. not generally associated with music.
“I think what we are able to do is shine a spotlight on places that might miss the main stream media because they’re not Manchester or Leeds,” Bell told Pollstar. “There’s a lot of good people doing a lot of good work for the creative industries [in small towns].”
She gave the example of a venue called The Warren in Hull, which does great work with local youth. IVW also drew the attention of the BBC and The Guardian to an 18-capacity venue in a tiny old electrical shop in Halifax, England.
Ultimately, she hopes people get out to more shows.
“If you go to a gig once a year, go twice a year. If you [normally] go once a month, go twice a month. Just try it. Get off your phones. Stop looking at your screens. Get down to a gig. Dance around at the front, build up a sweat, it’s a much better night out.”
Tonight’s shows include Cut Worms with Shy Boys at First Avenue in Minneapolis and Zonez with Blueberry Syrup and Mokamazo at
Middle East Up in Boston.
For a full list of IVW shows click here.