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The Importance of Independently Owned Live Music Venues


For the bulk of my life, I’ve spent evenings inside of one type of independently owned live music venue or another. Since the age of fifteen, the best shows I’ve seen have been in small rooms owned by a person or persons I can speak to on a regular basis. While we live in a time where multiple large companies own complete tours festivals and live music venues; it’s always better to see a band perform in a space that feels like all in attendance have a stake in the space. As a community, the music industry is built on the backs of independent artists on small record labels who primarily perform in independently owned venues. Those venues are run, booked and managed by people within our communities. People who support local bars and restaurants, who buy groceries from a local store and who value your attendance at their workplace. Now behind the pandemic, the fact that most independent music venues have had to be closed since March and the fact that our government has not offered support to these spaces, the bulk of them could close as soon as late October.

If you look at the economics of the independent side of the music industry, it’s a circle where everyone involved is in it for love more than for money. Though when closed for six months and seemingly longer, the independent music industry could face serious hurdles in the future. Independently owned music venues are at the heart of that economy. The careers that are built from the industry itself are irreplaceable. From the door guy who checks your I.D. to the sound engineer who makes sure the band sounds good, these spaces are where everyone who does these jobs on a larger scale cuts their teeth. The talent buyer can go on to book festivals and tours for a larger entity, but they begin in an independently owned venue. The manager may find a long term career managing a string of large venues, but they start off in an independently owned room.

The artists aren’t faring well either, and that’s not lost on us. However with various revenue avenues available, they have a shot at recouping a small amount of monies lost from not being able to tour. As it stands, there’s no way for a business that has to be open to earn money if they aren’t actually open. The margins in the live music world are already narrow. Between paying staff from security to sound personnel, bar staff to promoter representative as well as the talent that performs, there’s little money left for operating costs like energy, water, rent and insurance. If these spaces close, there will be no place for most touring acts to perform and the results will be catastrophic.

This means no staff entering the industry for the future, less bands selling records at their shows and less labels releasing their music in a world where there’s few willing to take a chance on new artists. Indie artists are the future of the music industry, indie labels deliver that new artistry to the public and independent live music venues host those artists who also sell those indie label albums at their merchandise tables. Without independently owned live music venues in place as part of the equation, the future of music and the local communities they serve is in jeopardy.

Photo by Daniel Jackson

To combat this we created Benefit Week with Wonky Power. A seven day twenty-one artist event to help aid six independently owned live music venues in Houston, TX. The live-streamed event aims to raise money for Red Dwarf, Rudyard’s British Pub, Satellite Bar, The Secret Group, Dan Electros and Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston, TX. Between these venues, independent artists have thrived for over fifty years. Each venue has helped employ bartenders, talent buyers, door personnel, sound engineers and more. They’ve offered independent artists a space to perform and to sell their merchandise, and they’ve helped keep the independent music industry going. Their presence in the live music industry is important and integral, and they help create jobs in an ever changing economy where there’s a future for those employed.

Benefit Week runs from August 24 through August 30. The seven day live-stream event will host sets from twenty-one artists from different genres, where the money collected will go to these venues as well as the artists performing. Seven day tickets are available to purchase directly from Noonchorus.

Image Credits: Photo by Daniel Jackson, Artwork by Derek Rathbun.

David Garrick

David Garrick has spent the last five years interviewing some of the most intriguing and engaging artists performing today. Everyone from Angel Olsen to Phoebe Bridgers, Wire to Yo La Tengo, Snail Mail to Soccer Mommy, Ghost to First Aid Kit, The Breeders to Protomartyr, and many more. He's a giant fan of music of pretty much any genre; but especially to the underdogs. He's been known to see more concerts in a week than many people will see in a year.


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