From the Leeds Festival held every summer in Bramham Park to the iconic Roundhay Park hosting concerts for 80,000 fans, it is no surprise that Leeds is a city that embraces its music scene. Moreover, the city has seen many great artists and bands emerge from within, such as Soft Cell and Kaiser Chiefs. Leeds is no stranger to the new music scene with a new wave of up-and-coming bands and artists recently emerging, yet it could be said that there is a lack of support for bands and artists who are yet to make their debut or, after the pandemic, perform in a less adverse atmosphere.
The lack of support may be linked to the closure of many grassroots music venues, both in Leeds and elsewhere around the country. Although exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, small independent music venues were facing a plethora of issues prior to having to shut their doors for lockdown. The overall decrease in attendance at small music venues and gigs saw profits fall pre-2020. Coupled with the rising rent and licensing fees, smaller venues are struggling to keep their doors open. Acknowledging this issue, Music Venue Trust created a social media campaign named #SaveOurVenues to bring attention to their donations page which aids grassroots venues financially.
According to 365 Finance, independent music venues faced up to a 90% drop in revenue during 2020. Despite a return to some level of normality just short of a year later, many customers were still reluctant to return to shows due to the lack of social distancing and the possibility of being exposed to Covid-19. It is clear that financial burdens resulted in severe challenges for grassroots music venues and it may be said that the impact of the pandemic is the main reason many have faced permanent closure.
Grassroots music venues still facing existential threat
Although we are approaching the three-year anniversary of the pandemic it is evident small venues are still struggling, facing hardship, and closing. The increasing costs of living are affecting many of us, yet for small music venues they are proving devastating and pushing further establishments toward closure. Already facing financial burdens, venues must face the inflation of rent, loan interest, energy bills, as well as insurance costs – all of which are essential to keep their doors open.
The Live Music Census states that the live music industry contributed £1bn to the economy in 2017. This vividly illustrates the need for smaller grassroots music venues to host gigs. Furthermore, it is these venues that are significant in any musician’s career as it is often here where musicians take their first steps performing live. Here, artists and bands can begin to build a fan base and begin to get their music heard by people which otherwise may prove hard in a saturated digital market.
Breathing life back into the scene
Recognising the space for such a platform to aid rising musicians, Mia Jackson, a music promoter, created Party Time, a club night to showcase the best new talent in Leeds. After landing a full-time job at Futuresound prior to joining the team through work experience, Jackson was struck by the lack of space created for small bands and artists who are new to performing live. Partnering with the Key Club in Leeds, Party Time was born – creating the perfect way for musicians to be heard.
With a maximum capacity of 300 at the Key Club, Party Time has a vibrant and welcoming feel and delivers the ideal setting for a first live performance. Jackson states: “Everyone that plays sits and watches each other in soundcheck. A really friendly environment is created and there’s a good vibe. It’s just a place for bands to go and have fun.” The lack of pressure placed on bands allows the ability to trial playing live and hone their art. Additionally, it provides Jackson with exposure to rising musicians and the opportunity to offer any potential support slots at future events.
Party Time will be hosting its fourth event at the Key Club, Leeds, on Saturday 16 December with bands such as Velkro, Shaene and Leather performing.