Local Music in Crisis?

 

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When it became clear the coronavirus was going to have a serious impact on this country, I selfishly became disappointed. Firstly, it signalled the hiatus of my beloved Liverpool’s title charge. The next thing I realised was that it would also affect my love of music, with live gigs cancelled and my job in ticketing effectively worthless.

The headlines were full of the big cancellations, the likes of Glastonbury and Coachella. Disappointment set in across social media, and in my household as both my girlfriend and I had Glastonbury 2020 tickets (shameless plug!) However, I quickly began to worry about the bigger picture in the industry.

If you dig beneath the huge artists, big arenas and the glammer of the Brits you find a starkly different picture. At the lower levels of the industry there are swathes of promoters, venues and artists that rely on a steady stream of gigs to stay afloat. According to the Music Venue Trust, who represent 670 small music venues, just 17% of venues are financially viable with no income for the next 2 months. The charity represents venues such as Jimmy’s in Liverpool, which was opened in 2019 by The Coral, and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, who have previously hosted Oasis and Biffy Clyro. The current period of lockdown clearly poses a huge risk to the grassroots music scene, which will in turn affect the Glastonbury headliners of the future.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. The grassroots music industry is full of innovators constantly working to develop their product, and this hasn’t stopped during the pandemic. Numerous live stream gigs have taken place, with the aforementioned King Tuts creating a 24-hour stream dubbed the ‘Sofathon’ in aid of small music venues.

I wanted to hear first-hand what it was like being in the industry now, and set up an interview with Liam Deakin, guitarist from Birmingham band The Clause.

Skype interviews are a little daunting, two relative strangers on a video call isn’t without its challenges. Liam answered, guitar in hand, and I instantly knew that music has nothing to worry about. He spoke of the ease at which he is able to write new material in isolation, as well as keeping the band active through the likes of WhatsApp and FaceTime. It was refreshing to hear someone so upbeat.

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However, what struck me about talking to Liam was his attitude to the bigger picture. Liam is incredibly in tune with the local Birmingham music scene and is acutely aware of the risks to the venues we know and love in the city. Yet he remains philosophical, he constantly returns to the idea that the future of music is of less value than the health of our wider community. Liam personally came up with an idea of creating a print using some of the band’s song lyrics that would be sold in limited numbers in aid of the NHS. At a tricky time for everyone, his idea raised £200 for the NHS inside 10 minutes. I feel like Liam underplayed this in our chat, but it really speaks volumes for him as a person and for The Clause as a band.

The live music industry is clearly under pressure during this time of crisis, but there is hope. I could’ve written about all sorts of positivity in this post, however it is probably better when it comes from within the bubble of grassroots music itself.

You can listen to the full chat with Liam at the following link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1y7tPgSB4JEqc8z8i4DB05?si=iAm3X9p8RwaHUy7qfXHs3A

All pictures via Livv Galbraith. (www.instagram.com/oliviajean.photography/)

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