Let’s make 2015 the year of the ‘fair play’ venue…


As some of you will know, the Musicians’ Union is one of the organisations supporting and funding us to deliver our Joining the Dots programme, which is all about finding ways to help all of us involved in independent music – musicians, venues, promoters, managers – make a living from the music we love. So, fresh from its launch at December’s Venues Day,  we asked the MU’s Live Organiser, Dave Webster to tell us more about the Union’s Fair Play Venue Scheme. Here’s what he had to say…. 

What makes a good venue great? Is the Agent of Change needed in the UK? What’s the next step for UK music venues? These are just some of the questions posed, dissected, and discussed by some 200 venues owners, promoters, industry bodies and politicians at Venues Day 2014. The MU were at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank just before Christmas, launching our Fair Play Venue Scheme and signing up venue owners willing to agree to the principles of our Fair Play Guide and treat musicians fairly.

So, what did we hear at Venues Day that made us prick up our ears? Tax Breaks for Venues – a welcome, forward looking, suggestion raised from the floor. Adopt the Agent of Change – a proven piece of legislation that works in Canada and Australia makes common sense and again it’s fair. Penalising venues for changes being forced on them by local councils and property developers is not fair. Are bar sales the cash cow for venues that people think they are? Apparently, in some cases not, but doesn’t that depend on how well subscribed the gig is and how thirsty the punters are? And it was sobering to hear just how many venues have to put on club nights to cross-subsidise their live gig. ‘It’s tough out there’, was a very clear message, along with ‘where is the support network?’

As I talked about in the video at  the top of this blog, our Fair Play Venue Scheme supports good practice amongst venues, offers viable alternatives to the despised pay to play model and recognises Venues that are prepared to work with musicians to everyone’s mutual benefit. So far we have 40 venues nationwide signed up. In 2015 we hope to expand that network through Independent Venue Week and beyond.

I think the network of support needed to do that was at the South Bank at Venues Day – Music Venue Trust; Independent Venue Week; the MU; UK Music; the hub; Mike Weatherley MP; Kerry McCarthy MP to name but a few. All were there to support the community. Bringing it all together and making a difference is the hard part.

2014 saw three organisations MVT, IVW and The MU taking a leading interest in the network of grass roots independent venues dotted across the county. We need places for new talent to play – these places need the protection from central government, local councils and the industry itself. We all care about live music and if we sit back, say nothing then we risk losing a vital part of the UK’s musical heritage.

So, do your bit… If you run a venue, then sign up to be a fair play venue. If you’re a musician, encourage venues you play at to find out more and sign up, and if you’re a punter, then tell your favourite venue all about how they can get involved.

For all you need to know, just email me at: live@themu.org.