Someone cheering you on…

The welcoming speech at this year’s Music Venues Day was from Ellie Rowsell of the band Wolf Alice. I thought it was a really great speech - reflective, honest and sincere, coupled with purpose.

In particular one bit stood out for me. How Ellie had noticed that back in those days when she was starting out and was playing to few people (or sometimes no-one), there was always someone cheering her on — the venue. Yes. Yes. Yes! How so many in the music ‘industry’ have forgotten that! Down at the grassroots it’s about love for bands and DJs and music. A passion from people to make things happen. To bring someone into your town. To give someone a chance to play. Putting an event together for a few hours of magic where everyone’s in a room to sing, dance, mosh, crowdsurf or rave away to enjoy that moment. We’re all there — band, DJ, venue, promoter, audience — because we want great things to happen.

Ellie was talking about venues, but without doubt that cheering comes from independent promoters too. Sometimes the venue is the promoter, but equally as often it’s someone else entirely — sometimes someone with a very different full time job who puts on a few shows a year in their spare time. Of course they’re doing it for the love.

I put music ‘industry’ into those inverted commas because I believe it’s that perception that’s contributed to things going awry. Yes, there’s an industry. Wolf Alice are an example of that — from no-one in the audience to tens of thousands. Without those early shows, that practice, that support and those ups and downs, there’d be no band capable of performing at the level that they do. It’s all part of a complex ecosystem.

But at the grassroots, the ‘industry’ rules of an Academy sized show have somehow come to apply to a 100 capacity show. And in applying them, there’s become unnecessary layers of administration; countless emails; ridiculous riders and cumbersome contracts. Through these processes there’s developed mistrust and lack of empathy between all sides. For many who do it for the love, the love’s been lost.

Ellie reminded us of that love. How important it is for everyone. We need to bring it back. I believe we can do that by re-building a framework for promoting at the grassroots that supports promoters, venues and artists. I can see many reasons why it’s gone off track, and principally that’s simply because no-one’s been around to voice that change in a meaningful way. That’s why we’ve established the Association of Independent Promoters — to bring all promoters together with one voice, to work with all areas of the music sector to make positive change, so that we can continue to cheer many more artists on.

[the full transcript of Ellie’s speech is HERE]