ELLIS DAVIES

Everybody has to start somewhere right? No-one begins a career of any sorts at the very top, we all find ourselves starting at the bottom. The lower rungs, the stepping stones. However, what if the places where we can begin disappeared?

In this case, it is the springboard of the music industry that is under threat, specifically live music venues. Music venues are baring the consequences of laws in affect since 2010 to allow construction for residential use to occur on spaces such as car parks, offices or disused buildings without planning permission, in order to deal with housing shortages and generate economic growth. With the addition of these new builds, venues are currently expected to pay out for improvements to reduce noise emissions, despite having often chosen such a place to set up previously due to the lack of residential buildings in the surrounding area. Venues also face the threat of closure if noise complaints are made. Under the current UK law, any noise pollution in the area surrounding a venue is the responsibility of the venue not the residents or developers, regardless of which party was responsible for the change in situation.

The most recent champion of these threatened venues is Frank Turner, who on 11th September released a video of himself reading a letter addressed to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid in conjunction with the Music Venue Trust. Outlining the issues spoken of previously, Frank goes on to demand the introduction of the ‘Agent for Change’ principle, already seen implemented in Victoria, Australia. The basic premise of this principle is that the charge of all improvements needed to address any noise pollution issues would fall under the obligations of whichever party made the change. Therefore, a developer choosing to build next door to a venue would have to provide sufficient soundproofing in their builds, whereas a venue perhaps changing equipment or structural variances would be responsible. Basically, whoever makes the change pays.

So is the ‘Agent for Change’ principle the solution to problem? It does seem to make a considerable amount of sense, as it appears almost absurd to expect an already established business to cover the cost of improvements that would otherwise be unnecessary, just to appease a new, knowing party. More so, the current state of affairs effects an entire industry from the ground up. Yes, these days success stories are known to just appear out of thin air, whether or not this is a good thing shall not be mentioned, but there are still hard working artists trying to work their way up, starting at these venues. This is where they cut their teeth, learn their trade, become the fantastic musicians they have the potential to be. Without these establishments, we wouldn’t have artists such as Frank Turner, who speaks of his time spent playing and attending pubs and clubs in his letter, pronouncing them ‘the cornerstone of the UK music industry’.

It is not just the future successes that lose out, its anybody who enjoys live music. Personally, I know that all of the best shows I have been to have been in small city venues, often free shows where I’ve never heard of the artist before. These music venues provide discovery, a pathway into the local music scene, and an irreplaceable experience. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that Frank Turner is backing this cause, and will be adding my name to his petition. Let us hope that the UK can follow Victoria and see the sense in the Agent for Change Principle.

You can sign the petition and put your support behind this petition at http://qr.net/changenow

You can also check out the Music Venue Trust at http://musicvenuetrust.blogspot.co.uk/ to see who from the music industry has thrown their support behind this drive and find out more information.