The live music scene has been in decline for years now. With fewer and fewer people actually going to gigs to see local bands, venues have been closing down at an alarming rate. There are plenty of opportunities to discover upcoming bands online, so people are now choosing to broaden their musical horizon in the comfort of their own homes.
Across the UK, an estimated 35% of grassroots music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015. London alone has lost over a third of its grassroots music venues in the last 10 years.
The reasons for the decline in live music have been discussed heavily over recent years, and it would be pointless to devote a whole article to such yesterday’s news. Instead, I would like to focus on the impact the current state of affairs has had on artists and the possible solutions which can be adopted throughout the music industry.
The show must go on?
It goes without saying that with fewer venues, there are fewer gigs up for grabs. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Countless bands are struggling to find promoters who will give them the opportunity to actually play live. It is becoming a huge problem, and I have personally spoken to many musicians who cannot get a single gig in their hometown no matter how hard they try. The only way for them to play is to run the shows themselves or cooperate with other bands. It all boils down to venues and promoters not wanting to take a chance on an unknown band. They prefer to choose the same old faces who can bring 20 friends, just to get people through the door. Why is this the case? Well, promoters simply can’t afford to take risks. Margins are extremely tight, and you need people through the door to survive. You could argue that it is up to the band to prove to whoever is in charge of the line-up that they can bring a crowd. But how can they do this when they aren’t given an opportunity in the first place?
Heard it through the grapevine
Bands have swarmed to social media over the last 10 years, desperate to build a following and attract new fans. The problem? There is simply too much out there to consume. You could sit on Facebook for months, going through all the bands’ fan pages. Everyone is fighting to be heard, and it has become incredibly hard to stand out from the crowd. The ease of uploading music online has created a situation where there is too much supply and not enough demand. It is a huge challenge for many people out there, especially if marketing is not your thing. You end up stuck in a difficult position. You need some online presence to try and convince promoters to give you gigs, but getting people to listen to your music is just as difficult.
Wind of change
Both of these problems are huge challenges for artists everywhere and it poses the question: is live music dead? It seems like the days of building a fan base by just playing local venues are largely over. You need to back this up with a seriously good social media strategy. And that requires either a large budget or some very savvy marketing skills. Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media service you can think of have changed the industry forever. Bands are getting frustrated, venues are struggling to survive, and people don’t seem to want to pay as little as £5 to see four unknown bands play live.
However, all of the above has created a whole host of exciting opportunities for artists. One of them is the possibility to reach out to thousands of potential fans in the comfort of their own homes. To continue with this growing trend, I have announced my 'Online Only Tour' – a set of unique, interactive and engaging shows, delivered straight to your screens. Gigs will only be streamed online on all major social media platforms.
Could this be the future? Will ‘virtual gigs’ soon be all the rage? I certainly think it’s the logical next step for the music industry, and the idea to organise an online tour is part of this emerging trend. Sure, there will be many sceptics and people who will say that I should not give up on local grassroots venues. But at the end of the day, the industry is changing.
People want things delivered straight to them. So does this mean live music is dead? Not necessarily. Maybe it’s just transitioning from the offline to the online. I firmly believe online gigs are the future. So unless there is a dramatic change, we might have to embrace the fact that ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’.