Grassroots music venues continue to feel the strain 

Featured image credit: bobby hendry on Unsplash

Grassroots music venues in the UK have said that the mix of the cost-of-living crisis, Brexit and cancelled shows have created a ‘perfect storm’. 

Talking to NME, Gareth Barber, owner, promoter and a band manager at Esquires in Bedford, said: “COVID’s not gone away, everyone’s feeling the pinch, there’s a cost of living crisis and people are generally more apathetic to going out. Plus, the way the country is being run is depressing and everything going on outside of the country is depressing too.”

On ticket sales, Barber added: “Generally, you’ll shift a load at the start, then you’ll stall, then sell more in the last week and sometimes you’ll double your attendance in the last 24 hours. That means it’s really hard to plan and budget. That causes its own stresses.”

The comments come after the Music Venue Trust (MVT)’s recently released annual report, which revealed there was a 16.7% decrease in events compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In a survey of almost 1,0000 grassroots venues, MVT’s report found that while the 565,000 individual performances and 177,000 events brought in £500m (€560m/$602m) in 2022, venues reported an average profit margin of just 0.2%. This resulted in the subsidising of live music performances by roughly £79m last year.

Dan Maiden, owner and promoter at The Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden, also told NME: “There’s been a drop in ticket sales. We’re not getting the crowds in that we used to get.”

He added: “One of our main problems isn’t just people not coming, but it’s also promoters pulling gigs at the last minute. They’re not getting the ticket sales so they’re getting scared and pulling the gig. They’re not waiting until the day when people buy tickets on the door.

“They panic that they’re not getting many pre-sale tickets, but people aren’t buying tickets because they’re not sure whether to put food on the table or go to the gigs that they used to. Maybe they used to go to four or five gigs a month and now they can only afford to go to one.”