Don’t blame us for low gig attendance

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Chrisian Smith is the bassist in the band Veludo Planes and marketing co-ordinator at The Wedgewood Rooms

I recently saw an opinion piece in these community pages which stated venues, promoters, and bands were all partially responsible for falling attendance at live music events across Portsmouth.

The overarching message seemed to be that a lot of people weren’t doing their jobs properly.

As someone who has spent the past few years heading up marketing at The Wedgewood Rooms, while 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 is not 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 in the past 10 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 turnout, 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 and U2.

Additionally, the explosion of the festival market in the UK has led to increased competition between festivals and venues.

Gig-goers are now given more choice as to how they spend what is left of their spare cash.

While in some cases this leads to a more active music scene, it can really hamper venues, and losing venues is what ultimately kills a local music scene.

Of the hundreds of venues that have closed across the UK in the past 10 years, you will struggle to find even one example of a venue which has 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.