> Grassroots music venue, Moles closes doors: Music Venue Trust insists on government action - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Grassroots music venue, Moles closes doors: Music Venue Trust insists on government action

One of the best-known grassroots music venues in the UK, Moles in Bath, has filed for insolvency stating that the rise in costs and overheads and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis have made it impossible to continue. The venue has permanently closed its doors with immediate effect; all future events are cancelled.

Since opening its doors in 1978, Moles has earned legendary status hosting and championing live music from acts on both a global and local scale. Countless festival and stadium headliners including Ed Sheeran, The Killers, Fat Boy Slim, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, The Smiths and Idles have played at the 220-capacity venue during the early stages of their careers.

Announcing the news Tom Maddicott, co-owner of Moles, said “Making the decision to close Moles was horrendous, but the cost-of-living crisis has crippled us. Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue. It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take, for our team, the staff, the local community, and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music. But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close. There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent. Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”

Grassroots Music Venues are widely acknowledged as the ‘research and development’ department of the music industry. In 2022, the grassroots music sector subsidised the development of new music to the tune of £79 million and in 2023, that figure has risen to £115 million; £133 million of income from ticket sales, which was totally swamped by £248 million in expenditure. Whilst the top tier of the live industry has had a remarkably successful year, promoting hundreds of additional large-scale events at significantly increased ticket prices featuring artists originally nurtured by the grassroots sector, over 120 grassroots venues (15%) have closed with a further 84 currently in crisis. Meanwhile, at least seven new arenas are currently planned in cities across the UK.

Music Venue Trust has been vociferously campaigning for the wider live music industry to financially support the grassroots music sector, proposing that every ticket sold at an arena and stadium should make a £1 contribution into its Pipeline Investment Fund, which was launched to help venues like Moles afford to programme and develop the artists of the future. Whilst artists Enter Shikari, promoters Cuffe & Taylor, venues Piece Hall and Swansea Arena, and ticketing companies Ticketmaster, Skiddle and Good Show have all pledged meaningful support in recent months the wider industry has been far too slow to take action and, in some cases, has actively resisted involvement.

Mark Davyd, CEO and Founder of Music Venue Trust, said:

“Today is a very sad day for our sector. Grassroots Music Venues like Moles – one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years – have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music.

Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry.  Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts. Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development.

In France all major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale into a fund to support grassroots artists and venues. We have today written to the government and to opposition parties to insist that, in the event that the music industry will not act voluntarily, a compulsory levy on every ticket sold for every live music event above 5,000 capacity that takes place in the UK must be introduced by legislation to prevent the devastation of the sector.”


Main image: The Cure at Moles (credit: Raven Cozens Hardy)

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