Another fantastic live music haven, The Talking Heads in Southampton, has closed down. Artists from Everything Everything to Rob Da Bank and Camera Obscura have graced its stage, but dwindling attendances have seen its doors shut.
It is freezing right now. I went running outside earlier and my nose still hasn’t thawed out. It’s dark when you wake up and darker when you leave work. This does not make going to gigs any easier. Why bother? Turn your heating up, your iPod on and enjoy some music with added blankets and boiling beverages.
No, no, no.
Skipping gigs is an easy habit to get into and a hard one to get out of. Sure, if your favourite band is in town and you’ve bought tickets months in advance, you’re going to make a night of it. But it’s the chance gigs, the ones a mate mentioned a while back and you quite fancied but didn’t commit to, that will come back to haunt you. There are tickets on the door, you’ve heard one of their tracks on Spotify, they might be your new favourite band – but Borgen is on iPlayer, you could save a tenner and if they’re any good they’ll be back in three months. But these are unscientifically proven to be the only gigs that are ever any good.
Live music revenues dropped by 6.7% in the UK in 2010, according to PRS For Music. Primary ticket sales fell ever further, by 11.8%, after a decade of continuous growth. While we wait for the 2011 figures to be published, would you be surprised if there is a further dip in live music’s fortunes?
This can be seen as part of a wider trend in these times of rising youth unemployment and ever-deepening recession. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s recent Taking Part survey showed the percentage of adults attending any arts events (including everything from live music to theatre to exhibitions) has remained stagnant since 2005.
It’s not always easy to embrace the unknown and go see an untested band. So much cosier to stay at home and put your favourite albums on.
Yet if you don’t risk potentially seeing a tedious show you will never see a surprising one. Yes, Springsteen will be brilliant for Springsteen fans at Hyde Park this summer – but if you’re one of them then you already knew that. What about First Aid Kit, Daughter, Friends or any of the gigs you’ve thought about going to and dismissed lately? And if you don’t go to see a band at your local toilet touring spot, how are they ever going to get to Wembley?
I went to see Howler at the Lexington in London earlier this week. Though not overexcited by their debut album – Rough Trade’s latest stab at The Strokes – live they were everything five kids with guitars should be. Crass, loud, messy and with solid songs to back up the bravado. Without seeing them live, I would never have known Jordan Gatesmith is a charismatic frontman, they can’t always hit the right notes in the dark, or they might just add up to a cracking band.
Nobody (except maybe the odd mythical A&R) has ever wished they went to fewer gigs. If you’ve got a passion for live music, turn off your screen and get to the nearest venue with noise coming out of it – before you forget what a joy hearing someone play a song can be.
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As for the brilliantly named Talking Heads? Campaigners including local hero Rob Da Bank are battling to save it. The best thing you can do for every venue like it is to get yourself down to the nearest gig, tonight.