Taken from an interview we did originally with Portsmouth News.
I recently saw an opinion piece in the Portsmouth News that stated that venues, promoters and bands were all partially responsible for falling attendance at live music events in Portsmouth. The overarching message seemed to be that a lot of people weren’t doing their jobs properly. As someone who has spent the last few years heading up the marketing at The Wedgewood Rooms, whilst putting on shows with my own band, this got to me. Having done several interviews on this subject, I still find the dilemma of falling attendance an incredibly complicated issue, certainly too complicated to explain in 400 words.
Put simply, falling attendance is a self-fulfilling crisis. It is a fact that live turnout for smaller touring and local shows isn’t what it used to be. The result of this is that venues make less than they used to. When you combine this with rising rent, licensing costs, and the astronomical increase in the cost of putting on live music events, it is easy to see how so many venues have closed down in the last ten years. And fundamentally, fewer venues means less public exposure to live music, and the continuation of falling live music attendance.
As to the initial cause of this drop in turn out, there are dozens of reasons. Portsmouth’s falling music attendance is representative of a nationwide social shift in live music consumption. The number of people going to shows at smaller venues has dropped, with many now attending one off stadium shows by heritage artists, think The Who, U2 etc. Additionally, the explosion of the festival market in the UK has led to increased competition between festivals and venues, and gig-goers are now given more choice as to how they spend what is left of their spare cash. Whilst this in some cases leads to a more active music scene, it can really hamper venues, and losing venues as stated earlier, is what ultimately kills a local music scene.
Of the hundreds of venues that have closed down in the UK across the last ten years, you will struggle to find even one example of a venue having closed due to a lack of effort from the promotional team. Threats from housing developers, and noise abatement orders can bankrupt venues just as easily as rising rent, and business overheads. The venues are the bedrock of local music scenes. Protect the venues, and you protect the scene.