How can music venues in Kent increase revenues and avoid closure?
By Marco Santesso, co-founder and CEO of Gigride
For a small island, the UK has long punched above its weight in producing some of the world’s best live bands, many known for putting on awe-inspiring performances. Kent has produced its fair share of musicians with sounds as varied as Sid Vicious and Joss Stone
As music – particularly in its live form – is a crucial part of culture in Kent and across the UK, it’s particularly worrying that gig venues, including nightclubs, have been put at risk.
It’s not exactly news that key and iconic music venues are closing up and down the country. We’ve already seen the loss of the London Astoria, the Manchester Roadhouse, the Harley in Sheffield, Bristol’s Bierkeller, Edinburgh’s Picture House and The Arches in Glasgow, among many more. You may remember the Union Bar in Maidstone if you were into indie, rock or metal!
Such closures are owed to a variety of reasons. Increases in local rents and business rates make it difficult for owners to make ends meet and poor economic conditions mean that music fans have less money to spend on gig tickets and drinks at live music venues. So, there’s less and less cash to cover staff and equipment costs, insurance and other outgoings.
Noise complaints are another huge problem. Though many venues have been in place for decades, newly built accommodation has seen residents make repeated noise complaints about live music. Bizarrely, the soundproofing onus is often on the owners of existing venues, rather than developers of new accommodation.
Despite this multitude of difficulties, live music is the fastest growing sector in the £4.5bn music industry. PRS For Music found that venues are three times more likely to go bust without live shows, and gig-goers spend 70 per cent more at the bar than other customers.
So, what can venues in Kent do to help bring in more people, and increase their overall revenues?
Venues often become iconic and famous even beyond their own cities by having a unique vibe that’s palpable throughout. Such venues are shaped largely by the clientele and know exactly they’re catering too. Sometimes this is defined by a specific music genre, like punk, metal or blues.
Those able to own a persona, such as being known as the blues club of that area, for instance, have a huge advantage. Consistency is key. A punk venue should get rid of the tables when a band’s playing, spray some graffiti, or have staff dress the part with denim and leather.
Other venues find their strength by wearing many hats. So, they might do blues on a Tuesday, rock on a Wednesday, pop on a Thursday etc. This way, they’re able to attract a diverse set of music fans, albeit a smaller number from each scene.
As 88 per cent of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, having a strong digital strategy is important. Promoters still flyer and stick up posters, but social media is the way most music venues find out who’s playing, and where.
Make sure your venue regularly posts about your nights and helps to promote the bands playing, as well as any promotions. You can use social programming tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts across all networks and make sure you’ve constantly got posts going out.
It also pays to make sure the gigs you’re hosting appear on as many sites as possible, such as Bands in Town, Gigs and Tours, The List, etc. You should also do your research to find out who the most influential bloggers, promoters and social influencers in your area and connect with them. They may well be your greatest allies.
Venue Programming services can help you build consistency in the gigs you’re offering, ensure a good turnout, and plan well in advance, which will also give you time to properly promote shows.
For example, Gigride – a marketplace for musicians, DJs, venues, and promoters – acts like an Airbnb for gigs. It also helps venues find bands, promote gigs and shows how many people a band is likely to attract.
Other services like Nextbigsound, Chartmetric and Soundchart can help you analyse the online engagement generated by a band or performer.
So, by using technology, venues can more easily gauge how many fans a band is likely to attract, and online hype they’re able to generate, which will help them maximise ticket and drink sales.
it’s not all about technology though. There are some old tried and tested methods worth adopting too. Venues can get creative by including promotions such as a free drink with each ticket (co-promotions with drinks brands can assist). You can offer free entry to shows for bloggers and music fans able to bring in a crowd or offer commission to local bands that can fill up a guest list.
You can even think about selling or giving away your own merch, such as t-shirts, tote bags, and badges to regulars to help you get your name out there. Membership is another option that could offer regulars free or discounted entry, a free drink or another reward for their loyalty.
It’s also worth compiling compilation CDs featuring local bands that frequent your venue, with their permission, of course!
There were more than 480,000 independent gig performances last year alone in the UK, held in 130,000 venues, all of which brought 9.5m visits. So, there’s still a huge market for live music.
While music venues have undoubtedly taken a few hits in recent years, I believe that live music can save them from closure. This will in-turn help to safeguard Kent’s music culture, give bands the opportunity to share their tunes, and help them find national and international success – which also reflects well on venues themselves.
By creating the right environments, we’ll have a plethora of live music to enjoy for years to come across Kent and the whole of the UK as well. Let’s make sure this happens!
About the Author
Marco Santesso is co-founder and CEO of Gigride – the Airbnb of gigs – which he set up after years of struggling to book tours for his band.
Gigride is a marketplace which brings musicians, DJs, venues, and promoters together to organise gigs. It also allows promoters and venues to find out how many fans a band is likely to attract to their gigs.