Music has been a saviour for so many. Now it is our turn to save music.
I don’t know where to start with this. All I know is that I hold an immense passion for music and I want to help in this pressing time. I hope that through writing, I will be able to do so.
Sadly, unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you will be more than aware of the current health crisis our world is facing. It is without doubt that this is a worrying and uncertain time for almost everyone, and honestly I am struggling to process it all myself. It feels as though we are in some dystopian universe. Unfortunately however, I am more than aware that this is indeed real. I am continually trying my best to remain positive amongst all of this chaos, but it isn’t proving to be an easy task.
Almost everywhere you look COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, is being talked about. It has sent our world into a state of panic, and has had an impact on each of our day to day lives. In particular, a part of our world that I hold very close to my heart is being hit hard. The music industry, and at its very core, our independent venues and emerging musicians.
Many independent music venues exist as small businesses. With mass gatherings such as gigs being discouraged for the time being, they will struggle to survive. Recently many of them have made the completely selfless decision to close amid this health scare. They have put the health and safety of everyone above their businesses.
Other venues have no choice but to stay open, not for thoughtless reasons, but because heartbreakingly they have no other option for their future to remain intact. Officially the government haven’t yet forced music venues to close, which means that by closing, many will not be covered by insurance. They have been placed in a very awkward situation. Anger and vengeance are being directed towards venues if they close, and if they stay open, which is awful to witness.
Whether these venues close or stay open, is not what I want to dwell upon in this post, as I know this is currently a topic for debate. However, I urge that from reading this, you join myself and many others in helping to support these venues and emerging bands in whatever way we can. We are all music lovers, and when this all hopefully comes to an end, we have to ask ourselves – how will we feel if these venues cease to exist? Without venues there will be limited spaces for our emerging artists to flourish and we could lose a very big part of our culture too. That could be the harsh reality we are potentially looking at in the not so distant future.
Organisation such as the Music Venue Trust and Independent Venue Week are posting regular updates and information on how you can support venues at such a crucial stage. Each venue in your local area will also be keeping everyone up to date via social media too. It is worth keeping an eye on your favourite bands too, as they may be feeling a little lost, especially if they had a tour planned.
I have been scouring the internet and my brain for ways to help, and have compiled a little list of some ideas which we could try, to reach out and support music venues so that they remain loved and looked after during this difficult time. Likewise many bands have had their tours postponed too, so they will need lots of love and encouragement. Please use these tips for both.
♡ Follow, share and like their social media posts. Build up future audiences. Keep the momentum and love for live music going
♡ Look out for online gig streaming. Many local venues and bands are now looking towards this as an alternative to real life gigs
♡ Keep hold of tickets for shows that have been cancelled and rescheduled for a later date, instead of requesting a refund
♡ Sign the MVT Petition for our government to force music venues to close so that they will have further financial support
♡ If you can afford to and fancy an addition to your wardrobe, buy their merch. Many of your favourite music hubs have t-shirts and merchandise you may never have known about. Now is the time to look. Bands will have vinyls and all sorts online too, so check out their websites.
♡ Organise or contribute to a fundraiser, again this one is only if you are financially happy to. Don’t feel pressurised.
♡ Keep talking about our live venues, don’t let them fade away into the background. Future dates outside of March/April are still in place for now. Hype up your favourite bands and music venues on social media! They will still have tickets to sell online.
♡ Love and support one another. If you don’t agree with a venues choice to close or stay open, then sending a torrent of abuse their way certainly won’t help anything. Support and encourage bands to keep writing and recording songs. We will never stop listening.
Always be kind.
♡ Blast your favourite music out LOUD! By doing this you are also supporting musicians in a huge way! We may not be able to go to a gig, but we can cheer ourselves up all the same.
Music is a powerful message.
Basically I am of the belief that we’re better solving this together than apart, despite the social distancing of course. We’re all going to need each other in this situation. Music Venues, Venue Staff, Gig Promoters, Musicians… the list goes on. The Music Industry as a whole and fans alike, I’m talking to you. We all require our wonderful music community more so now than ever, so let’s remain a glorious crowd.
Music has been a saviour for so many. Now it is our turn to save music.
If you have any further suggestions on ways we can all help, please comment below. I kindly ask you to share this post far and wide.
Independent Music Venues that I adore, and I know you will too
Through my last two posts, I have shared with you the reasons why I love going to gigs in independent music venues, I have spoken about the wonderful music community ensuring their survival, and have hopefully inspired you to visit to your local independent venues too.
For my last post in this series, I’d like to introduce you to some venues local to me that I absolutely adore.
This article is going to involve venues in South Wales, so if you are not from this area, think of this as your handy little guide to some independent venues in South Wales. Hopefully I can persuade you to pay us a visit sometime, and when you do it will be well worth you knowing where you should check out, for some amazing gigs and nightlife.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
The venue that really takes the crown for me, is Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach. Situated in the heart of Womanby Steet, a music hub in Cardiff, home to an array of similar music venues and bars. Clwb is a venue that I truly feel most comfortable and at home in, if I could only choose one venue to attend for the rest of my life, then this would be it. Clwb may be small in size, but they host mighty gigs. Brilliant artists perform here, including well-established musicians, as well as emerging talent. I have seen so many bands and have made some fantastic memories along the way. Clwb really holds a special place in my heart, by being the place that ignited my love for independent music venues.
The venue currently has two rooms, allowing gigs to be hosted both upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs room has a lush, cwtchy atmosphere. There isn’t a stage as such, rather a performing area, so bands are at floor-level which provides a wonderfully intimate gig-experience. This is really rare, and strips music back to it’s roots entirely, allowing bands to connect with their audiences on a much closer level. There are no barriers, or a gap between the crowd and the stage. This setup allows for some truly incredible moments.
The upstairs room at Clwb is a little bit larger, and is the main room for bands to perform in. This is the part of Clwb I have visited the most, and being honest I just love everything about it. From the exposed brickwork, to the layout. The room is the perfect size, so that you don’t have a bad view wherever you’re standing. There are no pillars or barriers blocking your view, and the room is the ideal width and height to be small and intimate, without being claustrophobic. The bar is in a separate room, which reduces the problem of noise often experienced in gigs. As a live music venue, Clwb Ifor Bach really is the reigning champion in my eyes, and I’m sure many others too.
Clwb is also set to expand in the future too, with recent rebranding suggesting this won’t be too far away. The venue plans to make use of the derelict building next door, with plans for a 500 capacity venue downstairs and a 300 capacity one upstairs. The 1980s venue we have all come to know and love a lot, is going to be changing, but hopefully its 21st century makeover will bring an even better era for our beloved Clwb Ifor Bach.
The Moon, Cardiff
The Moon is Cardiff’s pint sized music venue. Again, this venue can be found nestled amongst Womanby Street, opposite Clwb Ifor Bach. Here you will receive a warm welcome. The entrance is wrapped in cute fairy lights. As you make your way into the basement venue, in no way does it feel encroaching, instead bunting, string lights and colour decorate this vibrant venue. The Moon is tiny, but being so small gives the space a unique charm, with the stage nestled in the corner. A miniature venue, with a huge amount of charm.
The Moon is a space for emerging bands to showcase their talent. However, if you head downstairs in this venue then there are old gig posters plastered all over the walls, as if they were wallpaper. The posters show that some pretty well known bands such have all started out playing gigs here. The Moon has an incredible catalogue of very successful bands having began their very first tours here! Boasting that The Moon has been home to some renowned initial gigs, means that the venue clearly provides bands a wonderful platform to boost their musical careers. The posters themselves are incredible to behold. When I first visited the moon honestly I spent quite a bit of time just looking at all of them. Whoever came up with the idea of decorating the walls with these posters deserves a medal. It makes for incredibly cool decor, giving the moon a quirky individual style all whilst showcasing past gigs.
Decor aside, The Moon is also a brilliant venue to watch bands performing in. Again the size of the venue works in their favour and means there isn’t a bad place to stand in the room (minding the poles that support the ceiling of course). The bar is in the same place, however people tend to remain respectful when gigs are on from what I’ve seen, meaning that drinks being served doesn’t interfere with the music. I really enjoy watching bands perform in the venue, and The Moon is a wonderful little venue for music, certainly not one to be overlooked on your trip down Womanby Street.
The Globe, Cardiff
Located just outside of the City Centre of Cardiff, The Globe is a wonderfully unique music venue, although it may not be what you’d expect. The Globe is an old cinema, dating back to as early as 1914. Therefore as a music venue, it makes fantastic use of beautiful historical features. The stage is very grand, but also unkempt enough to provide an edgy-punk vibe. A lot of the original features within the room have also been kept and harnessed, despite the seating having been cleared, I expect the building has been mostly unchanged from what it would have been originally. It really is fascinating and brilliant to see The Globe standing proudly as a music venue. Of course the room is designed to enhance sound to an audience, so the purpose compliments the building perfectly well.
The Globe is a fantastic gig environment, which gives you a cultural experience as an added bonus. Initially you feel the room is small when you walk in, but the space is very wide, which means you’re closer to the stage than you would be in a lot of other venues. The Globe also has a brilliant balcony area, which you can choose to watch bands from if you don’t feel like standing. This gives a vastly different viewpoint, not often found in many venues asides from arenas. Whereas on arena balconies you’d be metres away from the stage, but not in The Globe, as the balcony overlaps the standing area.
The Globe provides a mix of music and comedy, and is an eccentric, but wonderfully different music venue to pay a visit to. With an array of acts performing there, you never know shows The Globe is going to advertise next, and this adds an intriguing element that makes you keep your eye on who is going to be playing there. Following in the footsteps of Clwb and The Moon. The Globe also has an impressive list of acts who have previously performed there, and my guess is that there will be many more great names to come.
The Tramshed, Cardiff
The largest venue on my list is The Tramshed. However despite its medium size, this venue does not lose charm as an independent venue. I’ve been to a few gigs in The Tramshed now, and every time I’ve been blown away by the professional, quality of music delivered from this venue. From the sound to the stage, they really do have the art of delivering a live music performance spot on, regardless of whatever band graces the stage. That list is impressive enough by itself. I have stood at the barrier of Tramshed, and I have stood at the bar at the back of the room. Either location provided me with an equally as satisfying gig experience, which tells me this venue knows exactly what they are doing, with confidence.
The Tramshed is a cool, industrial space. It’s origins as a Tram Depot, mean it is exactly what it says on the tin. The outside of the venue is fascinating before you even step foot in the door, consisting of bright, red brickwork and semi-circular windows. The building itself dates back to 1902, and was categorised as a listed building in 1997. The Tramshed as we know it now, opened in 2015.
Hosting an array of gigs, with a large number of bands playing there. The Tramshed has quickly risen to become one of Cardiff’s finest music venues. As I’ve said their monthly range of gigs is seriously impressive, with the venue hosting a number of well-known musicians and bands, as well as tribute acts that are so convincing you’d swear they were the real thing. I’d also like to praise their marketing team, as whenever I’m looking up gigs at The Tramshed, there is always an organised list of who is playing there over the next few months available. Despite advances in social media, a lot of music venues do still just rely on posters, so for The Tramshed to be actively encouraging a larger audience in this way so efficiently, makes me realise how they have established themselves in the scene very successfully over a short time period. A huge well done to all of their staff!
The Bunkhouse, Swansea
Located in the city centre of Swansea, The Bunkhouse is a small, passionate independent music venue that packs a punch with the quality of music it delivers. The venue has only been open for just over a year, but has already been awarded ‘The Best Music Venue of 2019’ from the Swansea Bay Tourism Awards. The Bunkhouse has done incredibly well, and their staff should write the book on how to successfully launch a music venue from scratch. Welcoming emerging talent from Swansea and further afield, The Bunkhouse primarily provides a mixture of rock and indie music, but has a variety of genres on offer. It is a brilliant vibrant fast-paced music venue hosting some of Swansea‘s finest bands, along with a few more famous names thrown in.
As well as gigs, like many other venues on this list, The Bunkhouse is also home to club nights, following in the footsteps of Clwb and The Moon on this front. More excitedly though, The Bunkhouse also has even bigger plans up their sleeve. As their title suggests, a gig venue isn’t all we can expect from this vastly growing little music hub. The Bunkhouse, as their name suggests, also has plans to provide accommodation in their form of an upstairs hostel. This will provide accommodation for bands on tour, gig-goers or anyone wishing to stay at a reasonable price within Swansea city Centre. If this wasn’t enough, The Bunkhouse also announced recently that below their music venue and bar, lies a basement spanning the entire floor length of their existing bar and music venue. The Bunkhouse have obtained planning permission to convert this space into a 500-capacity music venue, which will enable them to host even bigger gigs.
The question is, which will they do first? The Bunkhouse may be a small venue now, but their sights for the future are very huge indeed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering a little bit more about some of my favourite Independent Music Venues in the South Wales music scene. I’d like to thank you as always for taking the time to read my writing, and I hope I’ve inspired you to pay a visit to your nearest music hub. Independent venues, wherever they may be across the UK, all host a fantastic range of gigs from incredible emerging acts. If you have a particular venue that you adore, please let me know. I’m always looking to broaden my music horizons! I have trips to Bristol and Bath coming up in March, so any suggestions are warmly welcome!
Writing this series ‘Indepedent Venues: The Heart of Music’ has been incredibly meaningful to me. I’m passionate about attending and in turn supporting Independent Venues, and along with many others, I hope to strive to do all that I can to ensure their survival. These venues are all so unique, and full of character. They are run by passionate music lovers, and adored by fans and bands alike. A fundamental core of any music scene. With all of us continuing to show our love and dedication for them, I hope they will remain with us forever.
You can read the other two parts of this post series here:
The Community Spirit Surrounding Independent Music Venues
Together we are the music community. All of us care for and love our Independent Music Venues. It is our spirit and dedication that will keep the heart of music beating.
Since I’ve started my blog I have felt more involved in the warm, friendly community of our music scene than ever before, and it has truly overwhelmed me how kind and encouraging everyone has been towards my writing. I have been so welcomed into such a friendly and supportive network, that makes up our music community. Everyone involved in the music scene has an ultimate shared love, of helping talented emerging artists to grow, but with this exists a fantastic sense of belonging, passion for music and care in the way music is manifested, that is far more intricate than I ever realised before. In my local area, names in the industry are all so encouraging of one another, it is truly beautiful to behold. However you are involved within the music scene; whether you are a fan, someone who works within it, or are part of a band, then you must see that this lovely community are so important. Hence why we must protect our Independent Venues at all costs.
Independent Venues provide spaces for bands to perform, and for music to flourish. They hold moments, they hold memories, and are such brilliantly vibrant places to visit. Despite all being home to the same purpose, none are carbon copies of each other. Each has their own quirky design, décor and a valid place within the community. Independent Venues have a charm and spark about them, which I personally think you’d struggle to find anywhere else. They are run by a team of hardworking individuals, that are supported by equally as hardworking organisations, along with musicians.
Now, more then ever, we need to support our Independent Music Venues. Many of them have been in danger of closure over the last decade, and a lot have unfortunately had no choice but to close in recent years. Crippling business rates and economic struggles have made maintaining these venues a lot of work, and this is a terrible shame as they are such a fundamental, and loved part of our music scene. Thankfully for those that remain today, there has been some marvellous news arriving from the UK government recently. A 50% reduction in the business rates of small and medium sized music venues, releases a staggering £1.7 million back in to the live music sector. This is a huge, rejoicing moment for these venues, that have been provided with a helping hand needed to survive financially. This announcement came from the Music Venue Trust. An organisation established since 2014, working with immense drive to support these music venues and fight for their survival.
On a local scale, across the UK in each town or city, there have been outpourings of care and generosity in helping our much loved venues to remain in business throughout difficult times. However, despite everyone’s best efforts, before the announcement was made, certain situations involving closure were inevitable. In the last year alone, Cardiff has sadly lost both Gwdihw and 10 Feet Tall’s Undertone, which has broken the hearts of our Capital. We’re an adoring city of music with a thriving scene, yet there have still been venue closures. Independent Music Venues are primarily businesses of course, but they are also so much more than that. These venues are workplaces to an array of staff, a stage for incredible rising musicians, and a place to enjoy and make memories for music fans.
Despite the continuing fight against closure, there is one important word to hold on to and remember, this a fight. It’s an ongoing one and it may not be easy at times, but it is one we strongly hope and believe we can win. There has already been great support with government funding. It is worth remembering though, that by doing something as simple as buying tickets, visiting these venues and showing your love for music, you are helping to support these venues and keep them alive too. A small act can make all the difference.
Many organisations host brilliant schemes which in turn support venues also, by enabling emerging musicians to begin touring and performing within them. In Wales there are currently some wonderful funding schemes for musicians available from companies such as Horizons Cymru. An example of this is their Launchpad. This scheme is currently open to bands and artists based in Wales, who are starting their musical journey. Up to £2,000 can be offered to each successful applicant, funding activities that will help them reach their musical aspirations. If you are interested, or know someone who is, then applications will need to be emailed to Horizons by February 9th. Further details can be found on their website which I will link below. By supporting emerging artists, these companies harbour the existing potential of music venues, but also help them to grow.
Caring individuals and organisations in each locality keep their music community knitted together. These wonderfully kind and passionate people provide the heart and drive behind our venues, true champions who help local venues to thrive. Our music community is made up of many different shapes and sizes, all of whom work equally as hard to protect and nourish different areas of the music scene. These people help to create a music hub, which allows music venues to thrive, despite economical challenges. Independent Music Venues will never stand alone. Take for example Cardiff’s Womanby Street, home to a number of music venues and a variety of similar bars and supportive neighbouring businesses. The music scene there is second to none, it’s always lively, quirky and vibrant, providing a wonderful atmosphere of hope, that music is certainly set to remain.
Venue owners and staff, promoters and event organisers, journalists and bloggers, bands and musicians, fans and so many more. Together we are the music community. All of us care for and love our Independent Music Venues. It is our spirit and dedication that will keep the heart of music beating.
The final post in my series, Part 3, will be shared on Friday. Thank you all so much for reading.
I have been an avid gig goer for a number of years now, and during this time one recurring thing has become apparent to me, that I felt would not only be interesting, but crucially important to write about. In the heart of this blog itself, you’ll see that I do not hide my preference for attending gigs in smaller independent music venues, over larger corporate arenas and stadiums. Following on from Independent Venue Week, through a series of posts I will be writing, I want to share with you the many reasons why I love smaller venues, show you the wonderful community that comes with them, and help bring recognition to hardworking venues that I’m sure you’ll love as much as I do. I hope to inspire you and in turn highlight how truly important these venues are to the local music scene.
Intimate Gig Experience
It wasn’t until I became older and my music tastes developed, that I discovered smaller local venues, and it’s safe to say that from the moment I did, I fell in love. For me, a smaller venue provides a much more intimate gig experience. Home to a gorgeous array of musicians, longing to perform and passionate in doing so; I have been able to see so many unique, talented bands and musicians in a very short space of time thanks to my local venues.
More Connected With The Bands
Independent venues are often smaller in size, and due to this enable a better view of the stage, and what I have found to be much more intricate gigs. On almost every occasion I have attended smaller venues, I have been provided with a happier, more enriching experience. I personally feel closer and more connected with the band I’m watching, and find that it’s nice to have musicians playing at a level where you can interact with them, rather than them being miles away, separated by barriers and a sky-high stage. I love a gig where band members are able to dive into the crowd if they so wish, not ones where they’re so far away you can barely see their faces unless you’re stood at the front.
Able to Speak to Bands and Musicians
More often than not, you will also get the chance to speak to the bands and musicians, before, during and after the gig at independent venues. I have met and spoken to musicians I absolutely adore in smaller venues, and although larger arenas and stadiums can offer meet and greets, it just doesn’t quite have the same appeal to me as a band that are just mingling around after the show for the love of it. I’ve had drinks with my favourite band members, and even become friends with some of them simply through interacting at gigs.
Smaller Crowd Helps Reduce Anxiety
Independent venues tend to house a smaller crowd, which is great from the perspective of being able to watch a band and interact with them. However, a smaller crowd can also be a huge benefit for a much more meaningful reason, which could help support more people than you’d realise. Due to these venues being smaller in size, they generally allow for an overall easier gig experience, by having less people in them. A smaller crowd, reduces the swell of gig-goers, and the common problem of pushing and shoving that puts so many off going to see a band. Although of course this may vary depending on the genre of gigs you prefer. I’m not the most confident person in the world, and as a result I don’t always enjoy being crammed into a larger venue with thousands of people, especially if I’m standing. Personally, I find smaller venues far less anxiety-inducing, and would argue that these venues make being able to watch live music much more accessible for those who may have anxiety, autism, or phobias which often make them feel uneasy and distressed amongst a large group of people, especially a boisterous crowd. Smaller venues have clear entry and exit points, and everything is in easy reach, thus reducing the claustrophobia effect which many people can find frightening in an overwhelming, crowded environment.
Low Price of Tickets
The next point I wanted to talk about was how incredibly worth your money, a ticket for an independent venue is. Ticket prices do not often rise above twenty pounds, which makes seeing a band in a small venue an amazing bargain. Also many smaller venues cut out the admin and booking fees that can be attached to the cost of tickets purchased from giants in the industry. The low cost of tickets at these venues, mean you can afford to go to more gigs as a result, and in turn you will get see a lot more bands and musicians. Not to mention all the better for visiting that precious merch table. Keeping costs low also allows you the means to visit a variety of local venues of the same nature, many of which even host free gigs or club nights that don’t require a ticket for entry. I cannot emphasize enough how important exploring your local venues is, if you have five minutes spare take the time to look them up and follow them on social media. See what they have to offer. You never know who may be appearing on stage next.
Local venues bring so much variety to the scene, by not only hosting amazing worthwhile gigs, but also special events. All-day gigs and charity events can be a regular occurrence, and these usually have a high number of acts on the bill, allowing you access to not just one but half a dozen of brilliant musicians. Just last week, I attended a gig hosted by Horizons Cymru, which was free and only required a contribution to Children in Need on the door. There were eight different musicians in the lineup, all of varying genres and I thoroughly enjoyed. Events like this are not uncommon amongst independent venues, who are passionate about what they do and love music. In addition, many local venues often collaborate together through multi-venue weekend festivals such as Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival and Swansea’s Fringe Festival. These events bring your local venues together, by hosting different bands in each one and giving them the opportunity to showcase themselves to a wider audience throughout the event. Bringing the music community together. Tickets for events such as these are usually very reasonable also, for the multitudes of entertainment they have on offer. If you fancy trying a multi-venue event for yourself, Ritual Union is Bristol’s answer, and this will be taking place at the end of March. I will link further information and tickets at the end of this post.
Supporting Emerging Bands, Culture and Economy
By attending local venues you are not only helping to support your local economy, but you’re also helping to nurture culture within your town or city. Local venues allow you to support and help grow wonderfully talented emerging bands and musicians. In return, you get to see these bands at the very beginning of their career. I can say from experience, that it’s such an incredibly humbling privilege to witness a band developing their music career. Even the most famous have started somewhere. As I touched upon at the start of this post, smaller venues allow you that space to be at one with a band, you can get to know them, support them and follow their journey. To think that attending a gig in a local venue can allow you this pleasure should make anyone want to buy a ticket for their next gig right this second. Smaller venues are home to so much talent, and many of these musicians are more than capable of really making it big. For example, Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival, hosted a set from Sam Fender a few years ago when he was only just stepping out in to the music industry, and look at how successful he is now. Even if bands you see at smaller venues do not initially make it big as the industry would define, then I’m of the opinion that I’ve gotten to know and see some absolutely wonderful, talented individuals, and that is certainly not time wasted. Bands are so grateful for your support at local venues. If you don’t choose to go to these gigs, then you’re not giving these emerging bands and musicians that chance to prove themselves. Support what they have to offer you, and you’ll have an amazing time doing so, discovering some fantastic new music in the process.
Discover Your Own Unique Music Tastes
I have my own unique flare and music tastes that I am overwhelmingly fond of, and I have these musicians and lovely venues to thank for it. Smaller venues have allowed my love for music to truly flourish. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
Music will allow you to find yourself, if you give it the chance. By supporting independent music venues you are enabling this opportunity.
The Community Spirit
The last and most crucial element in why I love small venues so much, is the wonderful sense of community they bring with them. This leads me on to the next part of my series ‘Independent Music Venues and the Community Spirit Behind Them’ which I will be sharing with you in a couple of days time.