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The decline and fall of the London music venue

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

A Happy New Year for one and all! Welcome to the blog of singer songwriter Ben Hemming. 2014 was a funny old year wasn’t it? Well it was for me anyway. There were ups, downs and even some sideways… but the less you hear about that the better. Being a positive kind of guy I like to concentrate on the good stuff and I guess my highlight of last year was my musical pilgrimage to the U.S. the home of the blues. It gave me a real sense of musical direction which can be a real inspiration, as it’s very easy to loose sight of what’s important in the cut throat world of the music industry, namely THE MUSIC. And I have in the past fallen in and out of love with music, but at least now I can safely say for better or for worse for richer or poorer I am well and truly married to the old bat!

But one sad bit of news that I found out about on my return to Blighty was the planed redevelopment of London’s musical heritage Denmark street, or Tin pan alley as it’s affectionately known. For those who don’t know, it’s a street just off Charing Cross Road, dedicated to musical instrument shops, music venues and rehearsal studios. In short a musical mecca, were artists such as the Rolling Stones recorded at Regent Sounds Studios at No. 4 and popular musicians often socialised around the Gioconda café at No. 9, including David Bowie and the Small Faces. Also the Sex Pistols lived above No. 6, and recorded their first demos there.

A shopping centre is now planned to replace many of the listed buildings that line the street which begs the question why has the local council approved a shopping centre on a protected site when some of London’s largest department stores are only 10mins walk around the corner on Oxford street? Money it seems, opens many doors. Fortunately all is not lost however although demolition was scheduled to start in October or November 2014, the plans have not yet been approved by the newly elected borough council. Consolidated Developments, developers for the new site, stated they were “committed to preserving and enhancing the rich musical heritage of Tin Pan Alley”. What that truly means remains to be seen.

Unfortunately this is all come too late for the 12 bar club, which is due to close by the end of January, I was lucky enough to grace the stage at it’s last open mic night, however it is moving to new premises in Holloway, so at least it will live on in a new guise. Other music venues have not been so lucky however, The Bull and Gate, the Astoria, and the Buffalo Bar to name but a few all sailed quietly into the night or are set to close their doors soon. A lot of this can be blamed on the recession and a shift to East London as a result of gentrification of much of the North, but undoubtedly it is a knock on effect in the change in the consumption of music. Because altho people are willing to pay for big acts at big venues, people are no longer willing to pay to see unsigned talent just, as they are unwilling to pay for music downloads. But interestingly are quite happy to pay £3 for a coffee or bowl of retro American cereal. Explain that one if you will.

But on a more positive note January is set to be another busy month with a gig at the Lucky Pig in Fitzrovia on Tuesday the 27th with my backing band and continued work on a new album set to come out later in the year.

Until next time Adios Amigos! Ben

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