'Night Mayor' Proposed for London to Help Combat Death of Grassroots Music Scene

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12 Bar Club 

London's live music industry is under threat at a grassroots level, warns a report from the office of Mayor Boris Johnson. Since 2007, the U.K. capital city has lost 35 percent of its grassroots music venues with fears that a combination of rising rents and licensing restrictions will further decimate a once thriving scene.

"From the Rolling Stones to David Bowie, the Clash to Oasis and Ed Sheeran to Adele, grassroots music venues have played a key role in enabling some of the biggest names in music to develop as artists and to build audiences. They are the incubators for the stars that go on to pack stadiums in London and across the world," said Johnson in a statement accompanying the "Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan," written by The Mayor of London's Music Venues Taskforce.

The report states that in the past eight years, the number of spaces programming new artists in the city has dropped from 136 to 88. Numbered among the famous central London venues that have closed in that time is the Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos with dozens more shuttered throughout the city's outskirts.

In response, the Taskforce recommends the introduction of a 'Night Mayor' -- based on a model already used in the Netherlands - to champion and promote the sector by bringing together businesses, residents and local authorities. The report also proposes setting up a London Music Development Board -- made up of representatives from London's music industry, licensing authorities, planning departments and cultural sector - to implement an action plan to protect grassroots music venues under threat.

Another key point in the document is greater adoption of the so-called Agent of Change principle, which puts the onus on property developers operating in an area where there is an existing music venue to mitigate against potential future noise complaints. Equally, if a cultural venue opens in a residential area, then the venue is responsible for these works.

World renowned London nightclub Ministry of Sound successfully applied the Agent of Change principle when the building of an apartment block was proposed immediately opposite the club. Pursuing the legal case and protecting the venue's future still took over four years and a cost of over £1 million ($1.5 million), however.

"Without the spaces for new talent to discover itself and its audience, music in London will die a slow death, and the UK will lose a huge part of its culture," commented singer-songwriter Frank Turner, who serves as an advisor to the Music Venues Taskforce. He added: "Something needs to be done to protect these spaces."

Data collated by umbrella organization UK Music indicates that London's live gigs and festivals attracted 6.6 million people last year, around half of which were tourists. The total economic value of the U.K. music industry is worth £3.8 billion ($6.2 billion), according to the most recent figures.