Music Venues Sub Group

News from the 'Music Venues' sub-group, who meet regularly to focus on the Board’s key priority of ‘Ensuring a sustainable and strong network of venues and to work with local authorities across the city region to introduce and implement the Agent of Change principle.’

February 20th 2024

2023 Stock take of our local music venues

Check out this blog post by Nina Himmelreich, a Researcher on the Live Music Mapping Project and Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Liverpool. In this piece, she delves into the evolution and expansion of the music venues map, offering insightful reflections on its development.

After the first month of 2024 has already passed it is about time to reflect on last year’s developments and the most recent additions to the Liverpool Music Venues Map. As one of the researchers on the project, it was a real joy to see the Music Venue Trust filter, identifying MVT accredited Grassroots venues, as well as the dedicated music venue filter, two things we had been working on for a while, come to fruition. With the successful trial of a period event filter for Independent Venue Week, in future the map will enable users to filter venues by the festivals and multi-site events they host.

September 2023 saw the tragically unexpected and to me personally, as one of their hosts, very sad closure of Melodic Distraction. Melodic was from its inception a grass-roots institution streaming radio shows in 2015 from their original studio in the Baltic Triangle. Since then, they had evolved into so much more than just a local radio station: a community hub, a place for local creatives to come together to dance, drink coffee and discuss ideas, an events venue at their new location in the Fabric District, workplace, inventive project laboratory and maybe even family of local creatives, where everyone was welcome. Toby Taylor, the former head of programming at Melodic, wrote a beautiful article detailing their journey and impact on the music culture of the North West.

Their shows offered an opportunity for pros to have a creative outlet and platform, and for beginners to try their hand at playing host or DJ. Their website fulfilled the role of curator, blog and events planner, showcasing what is going on in our lovely city, and cultural magazine, a spot that had been left empty since Bido Lito stopped publishing. Losing Melodic is therefore particularly significant considering its many roles, aside from being a music venue. Luckily, we are also seeing some music blogs pop up, such as Local & Live or Boot Music.

Aside from Melodic shutting down, 2023 also marked the loss of Jimmy’s, a 250-capacity music venue, bar and restaurant, which opened only in 2019 and will always be remembered for its fab display of lava lamps and offering a new place for touring and upcoming bands to perform. Sadly, the consequences of Covid made it impossible for Jimmy’s to stay open.

It is not all bad though, there are also plenty of good news for our lovely Liverpool. As the famous saying goes: Where one venue closes its doors some other venue’s doors open. Drawing on data from the Mapping Project, a total of 13 new music venues have opened, while 5 have shut down. Plus, there is also plenty of pubs and bars programming live music, although this is harder to track, which is why the focus is on dedicated or at least occasional music venues. With a net gain of 8 new venues, Liverpool’s live music sector is seemingly thriving.

Jacaranda Baltic, the newest additional branch of the historic venue, started with a bang, hosting intimate shows with The Libertines, Dizzee Rascal and Jamie Webster. The team behind the Arts Bar, local community and creative hub, also opened their second venue in the Baltic area; a welcome and encouraging development to see a community driven enterprise thrive. From the Baltic to Bootle: 2023 saw the addition of the newest food, community and events hub Salt and Tar by the Bootle Canal side, who have recently made the exciting announcement of Tom Jones gracing their stages in August 2024. And finally, the biggest Rough Trade Records store, inclusive of a dedicated venue space, is coming to Liverpool and opening on Hanover Street soon.

In 2023 Liverpool was home to 23 MVT accredited grassroots venues, at the start of 2024 we currently have 21 MVT grassroots venues. According to Music Venue Trust’s research 16% of venues have had to close in the past year due to rent increases and rising energy costs among other factors. In Liverpool, despite existing venues like Content, Lock & Quay Bootle and Outpost being assigned MVT status, there are some no longer considered as a Grassroots Music Venue by MVT (“due to reduced music offering and no longer meeting the criteria of GMV”), and therefore there has been a net loss of 2 GMVs (due to closure: Melodic Distraction and Jimmys) which equates to 9%, so slightly below that national number. The Music Venue Trust has recorded 2023 as the “most challenging year for the Grassroots Music Venue sector” and these challenges have been seen here in Liverpool too. But all in all, the, LCR Mapping Project statistics are promising at least on a local level and despite some big losses throughout  last year, and considerable national grassroots sector uncertainty in early 2024, Liverpool’s live scene is well positioned to survive the inevitable challenges this year will bring. So, support your local grassroots music venue, by purchasing gig tickets in advance, attending local concerts, discovering new venues and making sure your favourite venues know you love them.

January 29th 2024

Promoting our Music Venues Map at the Eurosonic Festival

This blog post was contributed by Liverpool Mapping Project Team Researcher, Grace Goodwin, in which she documents her recent trip to the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen, Netherlands, to promote and represent the Liverpool City Region (LCR) Music Board Venues Map. 

On the 19th of January, I had the privilege of being part of the panel titled ‘Building better Live Music Ecosystems in European Cities.’ I shared this platform with my colleagues from the Live Music Mapping Project, including Timo Wiseman from Hamburg Music, Patrycja Rozbicka from Aston University, Martijn Mulder from Rotterdam University of Applied Science, and our moderator, Simon De Wijs from Breda University of Applied Science.

During the discussion, I had the opportunity to present the LCR venues map, which highlighted over 600 active live music spaces in the city region. I demonstrated various filters, such as capacity and open mics, sparking a conversation on how these maps and their data can play a role in shaping cultural policies, especially concerning cultural spaces and late-night provisions. An example of t=it’s use was the recent reintroduction of the night bus in the LCR to support audiences and workers engaged in the nighttime economy.

The panel also featured the unveiling of our team’s extensive heritage venues mapping, a project spanning several months. The map revealed an initial list of over 100 venues in the region that have unfortunately closed post-2000, providing a poignant insight into the changing landscape of live music spaces.

The audience displayed great interest in the panel coversations, with many expressing a desire to initiate their own venues mapping projects for their respective towns or cities.

Amidst enjoying some outstanding new music, I also had the pleasure of exploring venues around Groningen, including The Forum, OOST, and VERA. VERA, operational since 1899, holds a rich history, having hosted iconic musicians such as Joy Division, U2, and more recently, Dua Lipa. I learned about their ongoing archiving project, compiling materials dating back to the 1970s, including posters, newspapers, and booking logs. Notably, VERA strives to cover all aspects, offering a free-of-charge on-site hotel for musicians and even possessing an in-house printing press for crafting limited edition posters for every gig. Recently, VERA collaborated with our local venue, Futureyard, to host an exhibition of these posters, which are also available for purchase.

January 24th 2024

Celebrating and mapping Independent Venue Week 2024

One of the map developments we want to experiment with and incorporate in 2024 is how to integrate and display regional festivals and multi-site events using the map’s filter functions. To begin this part of the project, we’ve collaborated with the team at Independent Venue Week (IVW) to highlight the LCR’s involvement with their annual weekly international celebration of the importance of independent venues. This guest blog by Erin Gibson, from the IWV team, elaborates on the great work the organisation does, and their plans for the future. Displaying all participating LCR venues, the IVW filter is now live on the map. We’d encourage you to check out at least one of the shows.

Independent venues are cultural hubs for learning, creativity, and arts and culture more widely connecting people in their local community of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, genders, ethnicities, skills, experiences and walks of life. These venues, all local businesses, are the backbone of the live music scene and Independent Venue Week recognises all that they have done to create some of the most memorable nights of the past so they can continue to do the same in the future.

For IVW’s 10th anniversary, an impact report was produced in which our Founder and CEO Sybil Bell stated that she believes that IVW has become a project that people enjoy to support because they ‘’feel a part of something’’. Liverpool undeniably shares this characteristic: no matter the length of time you spend there, you feel a part of its community and the city is buzzing with art and culture to find around every corner. So what better way to let people know about the fabulous spaces Merseyside has to offer than the work the Liverpool City Region Music Board is doing?

Those who already support local and independent venues know and understand that these places and their teams are the lifeblood of the live music scene. However, to see not only venues, but Exhibition Centres, Concert Halls and Outdoor Spaces highlighted on the Liverpool City Region Board Map will aid people in recognising the vital role that hundreds of independent-owned venues and business’ play within local communities across the local area. As this project is rolled out, people will learn more about the importance of independent music venues and that the purpose they serve is greater than just putting on live shows at the weekends.

This year for IVW 2024, we have more independent venues in Merseyside outside of the city centre than ever before. This, along with the creation and growth of Independent Venue Community (IVC), an initiative supporting a network of independent venues to innovate by exploring the day-time use of their spaces, the team hope to highlight that along with Bold Street and Duke Street, Merseyside has so many more cultural hotspots that are worth visiting and supporting too.

Venues involved in IVW this year include Future Yard in Birkenhead, Arts Bar in the Baltic Triangle, Handyman Bar and Brewery in Smithdown and Round the Corner in Islington. We hope this new collaboration will help to continue IVW’s message year-round and highlight the importance of so many magnificent spaces and communities in the region outside of the city centre.

IVC was born out of IVW’s success, and are now rolling out development, education and community programmes around the country with venues involved in IVW. The IVC programme offers a range of music focused activities, taking place during the day, throughout the year, across the country, with a strong emphasis on under-served communities and those in low socio-economic areas.

Seeing this activity taking place in venues feels like such a natural fit. Venues are located at the heart of their communities yet many aren’t currently opening until bands arrive for their soundcheck ahead of their evening show. Our goal is to drive additional activity into venues so they can sustain themselves alongside live music, explore additional revenue streams directly and indirectly and grow their relationships with other groups in their local community as well as around the country. This is an aim shared with The Liverpool City Region Board who are ensuring a sustainable and strong network of venues and to work with local authorities across the city.

December 13th 2023

Mapping Grassroots Music Venues

As part of the ongoing development of LCR Music Board’s live venue mapping project, we are incrementally adding filters that enable users to quickly identify certain types of venues or programming. Our newest filter identifies the region’s Grassroots Music Venues through their membership of the Music Venue Trust (MVT). To recognise the introduction of this filter, the following is a guest post from MVT team member Chris Sherrington about the fantastic work MVT does in the Liverpool City Region and across the UK. 

Liverpool’s place as a city of music is undeniable and at the heart of this reputation are the Grassroots Music Venues that have fostered and nurtured artists, providing a space for them to reach fans and develop their work. Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) are uniquely placed to provide long term and sustainable cultural delivery and their position at the heart of regional music ecosystems supports a wide region beyond their doors.

In the Liverpool City Region the venues are as diverse as the music produced within them with historic icons such as the Cavern and The Jacaranda as well as new ground-breaking cultural centres such as Futureyard and the Arts Bar. Despite the deep association between music and the Mersey the venues in this city face the same challenges as those around the country and that threaten the future of the industry.

Music Venue Trust (MVT) is a UK charity, created in 2014, which acts to protect, secure and improve over 840 GMVs across the country and it works to gain recognition of the essential roles these venues fulfill, not only for artist development, but also for the cultural and music industries, the economy and local communities. We work with the industry, government, venues and academics to support the amazing venues across the country but the challenges faced by venues in 2023 are harder than ever before with one music venue closing every week. The impact has been seen in Liverpool with the closure in recent months of Jimmys and Melodic Bar and threats to Meraki from nearby developments, whilst many operators are having to reduce their musical offering to reduce risk.

It isn’t because people aren’t interested in music anymore. The total value of the sector is over £500 million, and there were 22 million audience visits to a gig last year. However the industry is failing to invest in its Grassroots music venues which currently have a profit margin of 0.2% meanwhile, eight new arenas are proposed to open in the UK in the next five years. Those arenas are totally reliant on the talent pipeline that starts at venues like those across the region, but they have no plans to make a financial investment in that pipeline.

Music Venue Trust have been working hard to ensure that industry and government invest in the region’s spaces and 2023 was a successful year with “United By Music” celebrating the best music and venues that the region has to offer and our Pipeline Investment Fund delivering grants to support venue improvements at Meraki.

Change is also coming, thanks to our lobbying, from within the industry with recent announcements by artists, Enter Shikari and ticket companies, including Ticketmaster, Skiddle and Good Show of new partnerships with Music Venue Trust. These will provide funding support through ticket levies and donation options to our Pipeline Investment Fund to aid and develop venues which have struggled to be recognised by other funding sources.

2023 has also seen us secure the first music venue property purchased as part of the groundbreaking own our venues campaign which has brought together over £2.5M investment and funding support from communities, industry and government. The Snug in nearby Atherton is the first of many venues to be secured future generations from the threat of commercial ownership and development At the heart of developing this recognition is the identifying and mapping of music spaces and the communities they serve. Support and representation rely on data and it has been great to work with the team at University of Liverpool and the Liverpool City Region Music Board to help place these wonderful Grassroots Music Venues on the map. We hope that through work like this we can secure the venues we have and see more flourish, continuing to be creative centres for social and educational development and helping the Liverpool City Region develop a legendary musical future.

August 30th 2023

Mastering Open Mic Nights: Advice for artists

Liverpool’s own singer-songwriter, Matt Decombe, shares valuable insights in this blog article. He offers guidance to fellow artists on effectively capitalising on the prospects that stem from participating in open mic nights.

Open mic nights can be a fantastic way for artists to develop their performance skills, to network within a local music industry and to create new opportunities for themselves.

I am a developing artist myself under the name ‘MATTERS’ and as part of my Masters research I curated a list of tips for how artists can approach open mic nights in Liverpool to further their careers. I am sure you will find this advice useful if you are planning on attending one yourself. It can be a nerve-wracking thing to do but anyone who performs at one should definitely be proud of themselves!

  1. Go to lots of different open mics

There are a huge variety across the city, all offering a different experience. Some allow covers, others only accept original material. Some are very social, others are quieter and artist focused. Some are acoustic in a small room, others you’re up on stage. Don’t end up in a clique at one venue, push yourself to explore and grow.

  1. Network

Network at each open mic. Congratulate acts who have done a good job, congratulate acts who mess up, swap social media handles. Thank the host and get speaking to them, they are a fountain of knowledge and may have some hints and

tips for you as well as opportunities. You may find a future producer or collaborator or even paid gigs; this happens often.

  1. Artist Development

Open mics are a great space to improve your performance skills and to test new material. If a song isn’t working, ask your audience for genuine feedback. If the audience isn’t responding in a way that you wish e.g. talking during your performance, don’t berate them. Think about how you can engage them with eye contact and movement. Audience interaction between songs is also a big part of the artist’s development.

  1. Attendance

Turn up on time, if not early. Open mics are starting to get over subscribed so guarantee your slot. Stay the whole evening and be respectful of the other performers. If you’re not present for other people’s performances, you can’t expect the same back.

  1. Friends

Bring friends along to support. They can take photos and videos that you can use on social media, but they can also provide support and the venues will also appreciate the extra drinks sales.

  1. Attitude.

Don’t be apologetic during your performance. Be confident, yet humble. If you make a mistake, laugh it off and keep on going. Don’t be selfish. Play the number of songs that the venue allows, if the audience chant for more, which does happen, and the host allows it feel free to play more, but don’t demand more than what the host can offer.

  1. Keep things fresh

Switch up your set-list, it will get boring for your audience and peers if you go and perform the same songs all the time, at the same venue. Push yourself to expand and play with new ideas.

  1. Song releases

If you’re releasing new material, think about how you can engage with open mics in the run up to the release to promote your song. Artists also organise song release events and launches at music venues too.

  1. Prepare

Prepare well. Rehearsing beforehand will mean you are confident in your presentation. It may be worth contacting the venue to see what equipment you may need to bring.

  1. Have Fun

Lastly, have fun! It can be easy to put pressure on yourself but remember everyone is there to grow and have a good time!

August 09th 2023

Now over 500 live music venues mapped

We’ve reached a significant milestone in our project: successfully mapping more than 500 live music venues across our city region.

This achievement owes a huge debt of gratitude to the responsiveness of the venues themselves, as well as the dedicated research team at The University of Liverpool. Through our collaborative research efforts and the insightful borough-focused consultation events, we’ve now proudly documented a grand total of 504 venues on our dynamic digital map.

The map showcases an eclectic array of venues, each with its own distinct character and purpose. With just a few clicks, you can explore the map, filtering by location and venue type (i.e. pubs, concert halls and stadiums).

But we’re not stopping here. Our journey continues as we delve deeper into this mapping project. Our next step involves spotlighting those venues that offer open mic nights. These are the stages where grassroots talents truly shine, giving them a vital platform to showcase their artistry and get their music heard.
Stay tuned for more updates as we bring this evolving map to life…

#MappingMusic #CitySoundscapes #AmplifyingTalent

May 20th 2023

We’ve Mapped over 400 Music Venues across Liverpool City Region

The digital map of Liverpool City Region’s live music venues has been updated to now include over 400 live music venues across the region.

The map aims to illustrate the breadth of live music offering in the region; to be used as a tool by promoters and other professionals in the live music sector to find hosting spots for their shows; and for the LCR Music Board to generate data insights that can be used to support the local music eco-system and the development of policies.

In addition to the map’s previous features, which include detailing each venue’s precise location and categorising the venues, the map now enables users to filter the list of venues based on their capacity, and whether live music provision is core to the premises’ business. We’ve also added a filter that shows the venues which host Open Mic Nights in the city region; up to now we’ve identified 19 of these venues, but we’re sure there are more. If you know of any Open Mic Nights we’ve not already listed on the map, get in touch using the details below.

The map is an ongoing project, with more filter options and developments in the pipeline. We are want to ensure that all lesser know venues and those outside of Liverpool City Centre are well represented, and so we welcome information about these venues, so that they can be added to the map.

To add a venue, complete this quick form: https://www.lcrmusicboard.co.uk/directory/#join_directory

If an existing venue has incorrect or out of date information displayed, please email info@lcrmusicboard.co.uk and we will amend accordingly.

May 15th 2023

About the Music Venues Sub-Group

The LCR Music Board Venues Sub Group, is a collaboration of Music Board members and individuals from across the region who represent or are involved with one or more local music venue.

The sub-group aims to strengthen connections and communication between venue owners and promoters throughout the city region, while establishing effective ways of working together for the benefit of venues, related organisations, their staff, artists and punters.

This group aligns with the music board priority of ‘Ensuring a sustainable and strong network of venues and to work with local authorities across the city region to introduce and implement the Agent of Change principle’ and is currently chaired by Louise Nulty, manager of The Studio in Widnes.

Other voluntary sub-group members include Mat Flynn University of Liverpool Music Industry Lecturer, Saad Shaffi of 24 Kitchen Street, Ian Thomas from the British Arts Council, Andy Dockerty of Adlib and ‘We Make Events’, Craig Pennington from Birkenhead’s Future Yard, Mike Walsh the UK head of Strategic Partnerships at Serenade; and they are supported by Sarah Lovell from Liverpool Combined Authority and Kevin McManus and Cathy Skelly from Liverpool City Council.

The venues sub group has already hosted industry events in the region, including the ‘Keeping LCR music venues on the map’ event at the Philharmonic Hall Music Room; and they have played a vital role in the ‘Let the Music Play’ roadshow of events, taking part in each of the six LCR boroughs.

A key project managed by the sub-group is the digital mapping project, led by Mat Flynn and research students at the University of Liverpool.

Mat said: “The recent forthright of Eurovision festivities has shown the world Liverpool’s love for live music. The LCR Music Board’s music venues map identifies over 400 places and spaces where residents and visitors go to enjoy gigs and shows every week of the year. These venues are the foundation of the LCR’s music economy, and our aim is to continue to develop the map to better understand, inform and represent the sector.”

Reacting to insight from venue owners and gig-goers across the city region, the sub-group has also dedicated time to creating a proposal and lobbying for the reintroduction of a Night Bus, which will improve access to and from venues in several of the LCR boroughs. We look forward to revealing more about this project shortly.