Fans need venues too…

Ok, enough of me introducing myself and my blog, let’s get down to business!

I am currently studying for a masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York. The course itself covers a fairly broad spectrum covering subjects such as archaeology, architecture, museum studies and town planning amongst others. The final stage of my studies is to complete a dissertation on a heritage topic of my choosing.

As a music fan who spends most of my free time attending gigs it seemed only natural to focus my dissertation on live music. Some people may see this as a shallow attempt to appear cool and youthful or simply an effort to avoid a more academically dense topic such as the ongoing planning debate surrounding English Heritage plans to develop Clifford’s Tower and on some level they would be absolutely right in that assumption. However, the regular threats of closure faced by UK music venues is something that I passionately feel needs to be addressed.

The Roadhouse in Manchester closed in 2015 but it still holds many fond memories for me. (Image © Manchester Evening News, 2015)

That is not to say this issue has been entirely overlooked, groups like the Music Venues Trust do some fantastic work in supporting the needs of independent venues and the newly introduced agent of change bill has been adopted primarily to protect music venues from development enforced closure (although it only protects against very specific threats and is by no means a fix all solution). The vast majority of this work to protect venues has been built on two key arguments. The first being that small venues are essential to the development of new talent that can grow and develop into the UKs next major international musical export act like Muse, Ed Sheeran, Adele or Coldplay (Please note these examples are not indicative of my personal music taste, they just a few of the most regularly cited examples). The second argument focuses on the economic value that venues bring to their local areas. These points are completely valid and a great deal of serious research has gone into supporting them such as the UK Live Music Census. However one area that, whilst not entirely overlooked, hasn’t received the same degree of focus is that of the importance that of the fans that turn out to watch bands perform at these venues. Without an audience both the bands and the venues become redundant. Despite this, nearly all the discourse regarding the relationships between fans and venues offers little more than anecdotal evidence from individual fans. What is needed is a systematic study to truly asses the role music venues play in enabling genuine communities with their own cultural identities to form and grow and the impact of what happens to these communities when they lose a venue.

Clarks-Sunday-crowd-too (1)
Whether it’s 50 or 50,000 bands and venues need an audience (Image ©Daily Record, 2016)

What I intend to do for my dissertation is to conduct a survey of my own in which I will ask music fans about their experiences and relationships with the venues they frequent. My hope is that I will be able to demonstrate how live music communities fit within UNESCOs definition of intangible cultural heritage and as such the places in which they congregate should be subject to many of the same safeguards we apply to our historic cultural sites and the preservation of shared memories.

Thanks for reading, if you have any thoughts or ideas regarding this subject please leave a comment of drop me a message. Any contributions that make it into my dissertation will be fully referenced and credited. In my next entry I plan to talk about how I first developed the idea behind my dissertation topic and possibly share some entertaining anecdotes about my own little gig community

– Reed


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