This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Clara and Tom from Music Venue Trust. They reveal why saving London’s Grassroots Music Venues is so important and tell us what 5 tracks they’d definitely include in their BlueJay playlists!
Hi, our names are Clara and Tom and we are Music Venue Trust’s first ever staff! We work as Administrators based at MVT’s London office at Ministry of Sound.
Music Venue Trust is a registered charity founded in 2014 with the aim of securing, protecting and improving the grassroots music venue (GMVs) network around the UK. In London in the last decade 34.7% of GMVs have closed down and this is a wider trend we have seen across the country.
With business rates on the rise, numerous noise complaints, and the constant threat of re-development, running a grassroots Music Venue is an intense labour of love. MVT acts to highlight the important role these venues play in the fabric of our communities and to act as one voice for venues around the country.
At MVT we, unsurprisingly, believe that venues play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of towns up and down the country. Grassroots Music Venues act as incubators for tomorrow’s biggest acts. They provide a place for artists to learn their craft and grow their audiences.
Without these music venues, we wouldn’t have had the likes of The Beatles, The Clash or Radiohead. Consequently, if we don’t actively recognise, value and invest in our grassroots music venues, then there won’t be any more Adeles, Stormzys, Ed Sheerans to go on and break all records. GMVs are a crucial part of our cultural heritage and something we need to fight for.
There are also economic reasons to protect out live music network. The UK music industry has a long and successful history of exporting fantastic artists that have changed music forever. As a nation, we punch massively above our weight in this respect. However, now is not the time to become complacent.
Yes, our history of great live music is something we should be incredibly proud of, but just because we have been good at this in the past, does not mean we will always be a world leader in music. Without valuing our GMVs and investing in their future, we risk falling behind other countries. It, therefore, makes both cultural and economic sense to protect our fantastic network of Grassroots Music Venues.
The decision to focus specifically on Grassroots Music Venues was a conscious choice. Every member of MVT is an avid gig-goer and lover of live music. However, the choice to focus on Grassroots Music Venues runs deeper than just our love of live music. A primary reason we focus on GMVs is that they are not treated as cultural equals compared with other forms of culture.
There are systems of funding and support already in place for other cultural spaces such as theatres, arts centres, community centres, concerts halls and the like. Yet, time and time again, small Grassroots Music Venues are overlooked by these schemes and undervalued. Grassroots Music Venues are routinely viewed not as places of culture, but commercial ventures.
Music Venue Trust wanted to focus on GMVs because we avidly believe these are places of importance and want to change the lingering perception that GMVs are outside the realm of culture.
Grassroots Music Venues remain crucial to the development of artists and bands. Despite the rise of reality TV shows and social media, musicians still need brick and mortar venues to develop their talent and grow their offline audience. Performing at a small music venue is a vital reality check for most musicians.
Whilst, social media is now an integral part of developing an audience, its effects can also be deceptive. In order to see where you actually stand in terms of likes and follows, musicians need to pair their online platforms with performing in small venues. It is in these small venues around the country that musicians can track their social media reach in actual ticket sales and real people in the pit.
We are very lucky to have the backing of many artists and musicians across genres, from Elbow through to Billy Bragg, OneDa, Fickle Friends, and Rhoda Dakar, who act as Artist Patrons. Our biggest ‘name’ is probably Sir Paul McCartney, you don’t get much bigger than that!
Frank Turner is also a Patron who is incredibly vocal in his support for MVT and fronted our successful campaign to get the Agent of Change principle adopted. We are very privileged to have the support of so many amazing artists and bands. They all get what we are trying to do and we appreciate them massively.
We are also very fortunate to be involved with some great partnerships, including our Fightback: Grassroots Promoter scheme in collaboration with Music Planet Live. We have fantastic partnerships within the music industry including bodies such as UK Music and The Musicians’ Union.
As well as support from groups like Ticketweb, Live Nation, Kilimanjaro Live, Jack Daniels UK, and Safe Gigs for Women. They all understand how vital GMVs are to our cultural landscape and want to help secure their future.
We have just launched Fightback which is the fundraising side of MVT so there is a long-term plan to support that. We also have a very busy 2018 ahead of us. In October we have our annual ‘Venues Day’ conference which is always a highlight of the year.
Then in the longer term, we have some exciting projects in the pipeline to be announced throughout the year, and obviously to continue to support our grassroots network.
Sure, last year our Emergency Response service directly intervened to tackle and halt threats of closure faced by 41 Grassroots Music Venues. Amongst those cases were venues such as The Cellar in Oxford, King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow and Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.
Fightback is the fundraising arm of Music Venue Trust. This will see a series of gigs taking place in GMVs across the country. The funds from these shows go to our Emergency Response service. We have also just launched our Fightback: Grassroots Promoter initiative in partnership with Music Planet Live.
We wanted to tackle the lack of diversity in the music industry head on and do something positive. Fightback: Grassroots Promoter will see women under 25 promote their first ever shows at grassroots music venues across the country! We have been blown away by the positive response we have had to it so far.
Fightback is an ongoing programme of gigs taking place throughout the year. We will be posting more about it on our social media and on our website, so keep an eye on that. For more information on getting involved head here.
Tom: Rage Against The Machine – ‘Take The Power Back’. Why? It’s a tune and sums things up!
Clara: Tom Petty – ‘I Won’t Back Down’. Why? It’s a total classic and sums up the spirit of MVT.
Tom and I are always listening to music in the MVT office. We’re based at Ministry of Sound in Elephant & Castle so dance music is always playing in the office! Our Patrons Fickle Friends released their debut album ‘You Are Someone Else’ recently so we’ve been listening to that on repeat. We’re also both partial to The Xcerts, their new album is ace.
Clara: This is a tough question. Currently, I’ve been listening to these 5 songs a lot: Magnolia by Gang of Youths, Rollercoaster by Bleachers, Skin Tight by Hunter & The Bear, The Opener by Camp Cope, and Glory by Dermot Kennedy. They are all great, check them out.
Tom: Extremely difficult to answer I have a mixed taste of everything from UK Garage/Dancehall to heavy metal and singer songwriters in between. If I like it I like it!
Clara: ‘Songs that I sing in the shower, often and off key’
Tom: ‘Messed up, confusing and personal!’
If you want to actively support the work we do then consider donating to MVT, but by far the easiest thing anyone can do is head to their local grassroots venue, watch the bands, and buy a pint! In the longer term, make sure to get down to one of our Fightback shows, support the venues and have a good time!
To learn more about the work we do head to our website here.
Host your own live public radio shows with your music collection straight from your mobile! Download the BlueJay social radio app here: