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 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.