Independent Venue Week: How to make a new venue a success

By Jimmy Blake
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Independent Venue Week/Sean Hood

The number of new independent venues in the UK is on the rise, according to organisers of Independent Venue Week (IVW).

Now in its fifth year, the event celebrates small music venues around the country.

This year, 19 of the 172 venues involved have been open less than a 12 months - up from six in 2017 and the highest percentage in IVW's history.

But while new venues are springing up, it's estimated that around a third of the UK's small gig spaces have closed in the past decade, according to Music Venue Trust.

So what are the secrets behind keeping a new venue going?

Get the sound right

Image caption,
Alt J are among the names who have played at the 360 Club in the past

"I know plenty of venues in key locations but the room doesn't work and they just sound shocking," says Richard Watson, the promoter and founder of 360 Club in Leeds.

"So make sure you've got a decent live room.

"If you don't lay it out properly and can't get it to sound right, there's no point doing it."

Create a buzz

Image caption,
Lots of big names, including Florence and the Machine, were helped on their way by BBC Music Introducing

"Hopefully you'll be networking on the ground a long time before you actually start putting on gigs," says Richard.

"Get involved with the local music community. Talk to all your local music bloggers, press and writers.

"Chatting to your local BBC Introducing team is a key one, they're big supporters of live music of various genres."

Book the right bands

"If you start getting a few local bands in the door the others will get curious," according to Richard.

He says local acts "are where tomorrow's big bands come from". If you start supporting them, "then they'll start working to get crowds in".

"Eventually, some of the bigger, more established bands are going to hear about you - especially if they've got a link to your scene," he adds.

Live music is for everyone

"It's important for music fans to have equal access to shows," according to Natalie South, Grassroots projects manager at Attitude is Everything - which works to improve deaf and disabled people's access to live music.

Her tips include making sure you give details on your website about access - and whether there are suitable toilets at the venue.

"You could also allow some people in a bit earlier to give them time to get used to the venue," she says.

"Another thing that might be a barrier is being able to bring a personal assistant, some people can't get to a gig without someone's help.

"We also suggest venues offer tickets for personal assistants as well."

And small details matter.

"Venues can have a policy in place where staff come round to the front of the bar and serve customers there.

"That's an easy one but it's all about having the awareness that live music is for everyone."

Make bands want to come

"I love venues," says BBC Sound of 2018 runner-up Rex Orange County, who is about to start a UK tour.

"I have such a thing about where I play and where I want to play, it's super important to me.

"There needs to be a good space, with a good height to the stage so that wherever the crowd stand, they're going to have a good time.

"Theatre-style venues, where everything is directed at the stage, are ideal."

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