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GROOVES: #FIGHTBACK and the Music Venue Trust

#FIGHTBACK and the Music Venue Trust

Mark Davyd

Published: 7 October, 2016

Music Venue Trust (MVT) founder Mark Davyd on the crisis facing London's live venues

THERE'S a lot the mayor can do but this needs to be across society. All of us have signed petitions saying how pissed off we are that our music venues are closing down. We need society to get this right.”

Music Venue Trust (MVT) founder Mark Davyd is talking about the emergency situation many music venues are finding themselves in.

“London is going to be a bloody boring place if you don’t have a music venue to go to,” he continues. “Look at Camden – if you suck all the music venues out of Camden you’d be looking at a whole lot of bored restaurant owners. It’s such a massive kickstarter engine.”

Mark and the MVT are behind the high-profile #FIGHTBACK gig that will take place at the Roundhouse on October 18. The gig, which will raise money for an emergency response team for music venues threatened by planning, licensing and development matters, was announced just a few weeks ago with a novel twist – one that tested the faith of the music industry to the max. And the industry responded en masse. #FIGHTBACK was announced without a single act being booked, no back office staff, no equipment, nothing, just the venue and a call for backing from the industry. 

“My inbox literally melted with offers of support,” said Mark, as more than 800 bands stepped forward and sound techs, lighting experts, paramedics and all the other hidden elements of the industry offered their time, expertise – and cars – for free. The final trimmed-down line-up was announced last week with acts spanning three stages. It includes Everything Everything, Public Service Broadcasting, Ed Harcourt, The Carnabys, Sisteray and a whole lot more. And the support didn’t stop there, with hundreds of tickets being sold before a single band was announced.

“There’s an awful lot of people who care about this,” said Mark. “We’re not an extraordinary organisation with a special interest, we’re vocalising something a lot of people feel strongly about. In London it’s very pronounced, but also right across the country, people are starting to ask, what’s happening to these venues, and to cinemas etc. 

“We started making this point three years ago. While we are incredibly concerned about music venues, these issues cut across planning, development and culture.”

The impact on culture can be “devastating”, says Mark, who points to the dearth of new big names as an example. 

“If you look at festival headliners these days you realise we’re not bringing bands forward to that level. The age of festival headliners is going up every year. The UK music industry has gone through different bubbles over the years but we’ve not seen bands coming through like they used to. There has been a kind of drying up of talent over the last 10 years. We’re still talking about the Arctic Monkeys as a new band – they came out more than 12 years ago. They’re a good band, not a new band. The Libertines are not a new band. 

“There must be a limit to the number of times Coldplay can headline Glastonbury.”

Venue owners are being drained by external factors, he said, adding: “People have a lot of views about why venues are closing down – one is people aren’t going to them as much. That’s not correct. Live music revenues across the UK are going up. This is the first year they’ve gone down but that’s because we’ve shut music venues, not because people aren’t going to them. They don’t have a great turnover, people don’t drink as much at live music venues. If we were just dealing with economics, half the venues would shut tomorrow. Why do they stay open? Because people are passionate about music. Why do they close? Because people are fed-up of dealing with licensing, planning etc, they run out of steam, they are exhausted.”

MVT’s Emergency Response Team includes the UK’s leading experts on licensing, planning, acoustics, noise, legal and tenancy issues who aim to respond to venues who fill in a simple online form within 72 hours with clear, practical advice.

Mark said: “We’ve gone for a high-profile gig in the national media because it’s so important that venues around the country know that we exist. You think they’d get this message but they don’t. 

“The people that run these venues are not generally people who have sat down with a plan, they are people who are passionate about putting on music gigs, but when they get a letter from the council saying they have to pay a noise fine of £30,000, they are freaking out. 

“We want this to be really known, so the first time they get a noise complaint, they write to us.”

• See a selection of new and emerging acts that offered their support to the gig and find out more about #

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