A progress report on London’s grassroots music venues has been published this morning, showing that the number of venues has remained “stable” for the first time since 2007. However, the total number of grassroots venues in the capital is still down on ten years ago, when 144 were up and running.
The report by the London Music Board shows that 94 grassroots venues are currently operating in the capital (the same number as 2015). These contribute £91.8m to London’s economy and support 2,260 full time jobs. The report also found that every night nearly 14,000 people attend a gig at a grassroots venue in London.
For every £10 spent on tickets to grassroots venues in London, £17 is spent nearby on food, drink and transport. These venues also invest a total of £44m per year in talent development – an average of £500,000 per venue.
Published today to coincide with Independent Venues Week, the report also includes a new map of venues across the capital. The map shows that there have been as many openings of venues as closures in 2016, including Omeara – a new music venue in London Bridge, which was opened by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons in October. New venues Kamio in Shoreditch and The Sound Lounge in Tooting are also set to open this year, while iconic nightclub Fabric recently re-opened after having its license temporarily revoked following two drug-related deaths at the venue last year.
Since being elected in May 2016, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been vocal in his support of the capital’s night time economy and his intentions to make London a 24-hour city. In October he appointed artist, presenter and performer Amy Lamé as Night Czar to help protect and develop London night life.
“As London’s Night Czar and the new chair of the London Music Board, I’m deeply committed to protecting live music venues across the capital,” Lamé said. “Over the past few years we’ve lost too many of these amazing venues so it’s vital that we act now to protect the ones we have and to encourage new places to open. Although these first signs of recovery are encouraging, it’s important to recognise that more work needs to take place to secure the future of the capital as a centre for music.
“In my first three months as Night Czar, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many venue owners, developers and local authorities to see how we can work together and I’ve been encouraged by the conversations I’ve had so far. For example, today’s announcement that the future of Village Underground has been secured for the next 15 years is a fantastic example of how venues and councils can work together. Over the coming months, I look forward to publishing my vision for a 24-hour city, and taking further steps to protect venues across the capital.”
Khan has also appointed Philip Kolvin QC, the lawyer who acted on behalf of nightclub Fabric, as chair of the Night Time Commission. Together, Lamé and Kolvin will work together to facilitate dialogue between local authorities, the Metropolitan Police, venue and business owners, developers and members of the public.
As part of his election campaign, Khan pledged to introduce the Agent of Change principle in the next London Plan, the Mayor’s statutory spatial development strategy for the Greater London area. The Agent of Change principle will mean that developers building new properties near existing venues will be responsible for ensuring their properties are adequately soundproofed to reduce sound from nearby pubs, clubs and live music venues. The London Music Board is also offering guidance on how developers can include venues in their developments, to encourage the opening of new venues in the city.
Khan said: “London’s buzzing live music scene is world-renowned, having produced artists from Adele to Ed Sheeran, The Clash to The Rolling Stones. Grassroots venues are the foundation of our successful music industry. We’ve taken positive steps to address some of the challenges facing grassroots music venues, but there’s still much to be done. That’s why I’ve recently appointed Night Czar Amy Lamé to act as a champion for live music venues and the night time economy and will ensure that the Agent of Change principle is implemented across the capital – delivering real change for Londoners.”
Coinciding with the progress report, Hackney Borough Council had taken steps to protect the iconic Village Underground venue. This week, the council will sign a 15-year lease to ensure the venue remains a grassroots music venue for years to come.
Auro Foxcroft, founder of Village Underground and member of the London Music Board, commented: “We're thrilled to have agreed a secure future for Village Underground with a new 15-year lease from Hackney Council. It shows what a progressive local authority they are and that they truly understand and value the importance of culture and grassroots venues as vital to our city and communities.
“It’s also very timely - there has been so much discussion and press over the plight of clubs and music venues – that this has been the first time in almost a decade that we've ended the year with the same number of grassroots venues as we started. The decline has stopped, the tide is turning and this is the beginning of good news and progress for London’s venues, clubs, and incredible nightlife.”
CEO of Music Venue Trust, Mark Davyd, added: “Since the original Rescue Plan for Grassroots Music Venues was published, we’ve made some great progress. We’ve set up the London Music Board, welcomed our newly-appointed Night Czar to chair the Board and we’ve taken steps to implement Agent of Change. I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor’s team to continue to address the challenges that grassroots music venues are facing in London, and hopefully, we’ll see a return to growth in the sector which will benefit not only Londoners and local communities, but the wider music industry.”
In October 2016, Khan and Lamé told Music Week about their plans to reduce the number of live music venue closures and boost London’s night life.
The progress report of the ‘Rescue Plan for London’s Grassroots Music Venues’, alongside the original rescue plan, can be downloaded here: www.london.gov.uk/musicvenues.