The U.K. arm of Sony Music has become the first major record label to financially back a campaign to save Britain’s “at-risk” grassroots music scene.
Charity organization Music Venue Trust, which works to protect the vital role that small-capacity venues play in the U.K. live industry, called the undisclosed donation a “game-changing” development and said it hopes it will encourage further financial support from the key players in the U.K. music industry.
“Sony is committed to supporting and developing artists from grassroots to festival headliners,” said Sony Music U.K. chairman and CEO Jason Iley in a statement.
“We recognize the vital role that grassroots music venues play in that journey, providing an essential platform for artists to be able to take their first steps and develop their audiences,” he went on to say, identifying Britain’s network of grassroots venues as being at “the heart of our music communities.”
According to Music Venue Trust figures, London lost 35 percent of its grassroots music venues between 2007 and 2015, when the number of concert halls hosting new, unsigned and upcoming acts fell from 136 to 88.
Some of the historic venues that closed their doors in the past decade include The Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos, with dozens more shuttered throughout London’s outskirts and wider U.K. contributing factors include rising rents, high business taxes and strict licensing restrictions.
However, 2016 did see fewer small-capacity venues close in London than in any year since 2007. There are currently 94 grassroots venues in the British capital, drawing 13,800 people to smaller-capacity gigs every night and contributing £92 million ($118 million USD) to the country’s economy, claims Music Venue Trust, which says, despite the upturn, the sector continues to face huge challenges.
In response, the organization is planning to continue its ongoing series of Fightback gigs, which have previously featured performances by Public Service Broadcasting and Everything Everything.
Paul McCartney has also pledged his backing to Music Venue Trust stating, “If we don’t support live music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”
“Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues, my career could have been very different,” the former Beatle said last year.
News of Sony’s support to Music Venue Trust came Friday (Oct. 20), the same day world-famous London dance club Fabric officially closed its #saveourculture campaign, which launched last September after the venue had its license revoked following the drug-related deaths of two 18-year-old patrons.
Over 7,000 people donated to the fund-raising campaign with contributions totalling over £333,000 ($439,000 USD).
After being closed for five months, the club reopened in January this year, having agreed to a strict set of council-imposed conditions, including age restrictions, CCTV monitoring, ID scanners and strict rules on drug dealing and/or possession.
Fabric has said that it will donate the excess £68,000 ($89,000 USD) left in the campaign fund to a number of charities aligned to their cause. They include the The Night Time Industries Association, homeless charity Centrepoint and Music Venue Trust.