Guest Post: Marauder’s Independent Venue Ethos

Rev. Moose
– Rev. Moose
is managing partner and co-founder of Marauder, a boutique music marketing firm that customizes long-term strategies and services for clients including economic development organizations; conferences and festivals; record labels from both established and emerging markets; music technology products; one-off events; and entirely self-funded artists. He also spent many years at the helm of CMJ, and Moose helped develop U.S. programs for national export initiatives. Independent Venue Week was July 8-14.

The independent sector has shown time and time again that it is possible to blend passion with business interests. It’s this blurred line that we all experience every single day when people say that the indies will develop careers and not just look at spreadsheets. There’s truth to that. Perhaps it’s this combination of art and commerce that makes the music industry so ripe for opportunities as an independent. It’s also what makes it so commendable that many of these independently owned rooms continue to operate in a landscape with increased corporate presence. 

When Marauder committed to bringing Independent Venue Week to the States, the UK was just going into its fifth year of the event. Sybil Bell, the founder of Independent Venue Week, had the long-term vision to spread this initiative outside its home territory. Much of Marauder’s client base is rooted in building successful independent careers, so the connection to an organized celebration of independent venues was, well, obvious. As Marauder has grown, we’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most impressive record labels, music festivals, and organizations from around the world, but it’s the independently owned rooms that we’ve found are more open to taking a chance on something new. And as the smaller artists become more well known, it’s these early spaces that are the anchor for future tour plans. 

What is it about an independent venue that affords itself to launching careers? It’s the personal relationships between the artists, the audience, and the venue staff that keeps people emotionally invested. This is a fully reciprocal relationship, giving a platform to emerging artists while populating a room with eager fans. Without being a part of the local community an independently owned venue has no chance of survival. These spaces, the ones that book your favorite new artist before you’ve even heard of them, the ones where you go to lose yourself yet find new friends, the new rooms, the historic buildings, the ones with state-of-the-art lighting rigs, and the ones with borrowed gear; these are the venues that embrace us. And these are the rooms that we should be embracing. 

It’s these personal relationships that are core to every independently owned business. But it’s even more important when your core business is your only business. There is no fallback plan. You aren’t worried about your stock prices, you’re worried about keeping the lights on. Your first and primary concern is taking care of your venue and the people in it. This is why we are championing independent venues and those who work in them every day. 

Independent Venue Week is one week. It’s one week out of the year where we get to shine a spotlight on what makes these spaces so special. Their independence, their flexibility, their fundraiser events, their tie-ins with the local schools, the matinee shows, record release parties, sold-out underplays, and even weddings – for one week out of each year, we can highlight what makes us all so emotionally connected to these venues. This local connection is why these independently owned venues and the people that choose to run them have such a special place in our hearts. For one week out of the year, we are bringing extra attention to the spaces that are otherwise on their own.  

When people define what it means to be independent, it’s often done by highlighting what it doesn’t include. It doesn’t include corporate ownership, it doesn’t include perceivably bottomless budgets, it doesn’t include multinational interests. I’m guilty of using similar language. 
Let’s reframe this definition, though, and define independent by what it includes, and that is the broader community. These independent venues, and independent record labels, and independent record stores and independent artists all work together because we’re all part of something bigger. For this one week in the year, we choose to celebrate those that provide a stage to everyone else’s dreams.