Industry News

Iconic grassroots music venue Moles closes after 45 years

Featured Image: Moles co-owner Tom Maddicott

Featured Image: Moles co-owner Tom Maddicott

An iconic music venue in the UK city of Bath, which helped to launch the careers of international artists such as Oasis, Eurythmics, Radiohead, Ed Sheeran and more, has closed down after 45 years.

Grassroots music venue Moles in Bath, Somerset has filed for insolvency, attributing the rise in costs and overheads, as well as the impact of the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, for the decision. 

The venue has permanently shut its doors with immediate effect and all future events have been cancelled. 

Since first opening in 1978, the 220-capacity Moles has hosted future festival and stadium headliners early on their careers, including The Killers, Fat Boy Slim, Blur, The Smiths and Idles. 

“Making the decision to close Moles was horrendous, but the cost-of-living crisis has crippled us,” said co-owner Tom Maddicott. 

“Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue. It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take, for our team, the staff, the local community, and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music. But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close.”

Maddicott added: “There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent. Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”

According to the Music Venue Trust, the grassroots music sector helped the development of new music to the tune of roughly £115m (€134m/$145m) in 2023, an increase on £79m in 2022. And while ticket sales for events at grassroots music venues were worth £133m this year, this was swamped by expenditure of £248m. 

The organisation further noted that more than 120 grassroots have closed in recent years, with many more in crisis, and that there were at least seven new arena projects currently planned in cities across the UK. 

“Today is a very sad day for our sector,” said Mark Davyd, chief executive and founder of Music Venue Trust. 

“Grassroots music venues like Moles – one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years – have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music. Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry.  

“Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts. Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development. In France all major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale into a fund to support grassroots artists and venues.”

Music Venue Trust has been campaigning for the wider live music industry to financially support the grassroots music sector. As part of its lobbying efforts, the organisation has proposed that for every ticket sold, an arena or stadium should make a £1 contribution to its Pipeline Investment Fund to help smaller venues and budding musicians. 

Davyd added: “We have today (Tuesday) written to the government and to opposition parties to insist that, in the event that the music industry will not act voluntarily, a compulsory levy on every ticket sold for every live music event above 5,000 capacity that takes place in the UK must be introduced by legislation to prevent the devastation of the sector.”