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What's happening to London's Music Venues?

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

There was a time when London's live music scene was something fresh, something exciting, something to be part of... but unfortunately these day's seem to be numbered. The sad news that Jamboree is set to close it's doors, because the landlord wants to but a Yoga centre in its place, this says a lot about what's happening to London. For those of you who haven't heard of Jamboree its was a space in a time-warp, seemingly untouched by the outside world, an eclectic place that represented everything that was cool and exciting about London. The promoters had a music policy that was spot on and only put on the best acts, and as a result the place was packed very time I played there.

So there is obviously still a demand for these kinds of venues so why are so many of them closing down? I think the answer lies in a few different places. The Music Venue Trust, an organisation dedicated to saving London's grass roots music venues, was recently denied funding from the Arts Council. Of the £1.6bn allocated by the council to arts organisations in the latest funding round, about £367m went to those in the music sector. But 85% of this went to opera and classical music. And grass roots venues were left out in the cold. In my mind opera and classical music is usually enjoyed by the rich, mainly because of the high cost of tickets and life style it caters to. In other words the rich investors and city bankers that the capital is attracting more and more of in resent years.

The other blame lies with landlords them selves. In most situations music venues don't own the venues they operate in, but lease it from a landlord. In recent times landlords have either been intentionally putting up rents to levels that venues can't afford or simply not renewing the lease all together. The reason for doing this? In most cases the landlord has been approached by a property redevelopment companies and offered a hefty sum to buy the land off them so it can be turned into luxury flats. And who exactly is buying these flats? In most cases rich overseas invests looking for a ways to legitimise they earnings, money laundering in other words, or rich city bankers.

And what is the government doing to stop this you ask? The answer is simple, nothing. Because they like everyone else are making money from the process. So what we're slowly seeing is a London that is becoming transformed into a play ground for the rich and forcing out artists and creatives. The signs of this are everywhere, just look at the gentrification of Shoreditch and Brixton.

What this means for me as an independent artist operating outside of a the mainstream music industry is that I'm starting to run out of platforms for my music and it's not only me that's suffering. There has defiantly been a trend in British music of increasingly more manufactured acts getting snapped by labels not because of talent but because of their marketability. Just look at this years Brit awards. Dua Lipa won two Brit wards, for what I'm still trying to understand, an artist who cut her teeth doing covers on Youtube before making the difficult decision of becoming a model... or pop star.

But at the risk of sounding bitter it's not all doom and gloom. There are still music venues opening up in areas like Hackney and while traditional music venues are dying out a new bread seem to be popping up, not a music venue in the traditional sense but more a venue were music is one of the many attractions it has to offer to the public walking through it's doors

You can take at look at my recent vlog on the subject for a more personal take on the problem.

Ben Hemming is a London based singer/songwriter and one man band.

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