The Small Local Music Venues: The Toilet Circuit – Part 2

It can be easy to except the fact that the live sector is doing well from the figures shown in the previous blog (The Live Music Sector Part – 1) but to how much of an extent is that true? When thinking of live music venues doing well, from the thought of the live music sector performing well, most may think of venues like; The 02 Arena, Hammersmith Apollo, Wembley Arena, De Montfort Hall or Rock City. What people forget is that the live music sector involves small venues such as local pubs and clubs too.

These small venues are shutting down. This is a bad sign for the live sound industry as these venues are the grassroots of the live music industry, where unknown bands make their name and gain a reputation to becoming popular and successful.

The ‘Toilet-Circuit’ is a network of small music venues in the UK where indie, rock and metal bands visit to gain support and make their name. Famous bands have come from playing at venues in the toilet circuit including: Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, Blur, Pulp, Radiohead, The Killers, Primal Scream and The Libertines.

 As Frank Turner the punk/folk singer-songwriter and ambassador for Independent Venue Week states,

“The toilet circuit is vital. It gave groups like Biffy Clyro and Arctic Monkeys space to develop, hone their craft and build audiences. Without these clubs the only people able to play the O2 Arena will be X Factor Christmas tours.”

 The Toilet Circuit venues have been hosting live music for decades but in recent years, many have been or are being forced to close down including venues such as; The Buffalo Bar in Islington, the 200 Club in Newport, The Freebutt in Brighton, the Kazimier Bar in Liverpool and Nation also situated in Liverpool.

“Soaring rents, residents seeking to enforce noise pollution orders, and developers converting neighbouring office blocks to apartments have combined to force struggling venues, which have traditionally spawned stars from Arctic Monkeys to Ed Sheeran, to close their doors.” – (The Independent[1])

Nation in Liverpool - one of the many toilet venues looking to be closed down.

Nation in Liverpool – one of the many toilet venues looking to be closed down.

It can be quite disheartening to find out old well-known music venues are no longer running because of some noise complaints because the government have decided to build a block of flats next to or above them.

As Alex Turner says “I’m not opposed to development but there’s an imbalance of justice. It only needs one or two residents moving in to make a noise complaint and a venue that’s been there for 25 years can get shut down.”

It begs the question of ‘What do people expect, when they decide to live next to a live music venue that has been playing loud music for years?’

Other closures have been for building of high street retail shops, such as with ‘The Duchess of York’ in Leeds. Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix described the closure of ‘The Duchess of York’ saying,

“The Duchess is now a Hugo Boss. What’s the point in that? Leeds lost its musical history with the Duchess. Musical history is regularly torn down – CBGB’s is probably the most famous one. And for what?”

What needs to be realised is that if the small venues start closing down then there will be less bands being seen, which would mean less exposure, which would mean less break through acts. Without small venues, there would be less chance of a start to the process of bands making it to venues like the 02 or Brixton Academy or playing at festivals like Glastonbury, which make up a large percentage of the live music revenue.

If the live music sector is to keep on growing then the government needs to realise that the small venues are the grassroots of the live music industry and without them the live music industry may soon decline.

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