The Importance of Small Venues
by Tommy Docherty
October 03, 2022
With the general public starting to make their way back to their favourite venues once again to enjoy concerts, plays, and stand-up gigs, small venues need their support more than ever. And not just financially.
First, let’s get the obvious thing out of the way. The pandemic single-handedly broke the events industry, with various aftershocks still being felt now. Lots of people may never feel safe going to events ever again, big or small, while others may not feel that the concert experience they once held on to will match up to what it was before 2020. However, the biggest ripple effect of the pandemic is that your favourite venue may not even be around anymore.
The Music Venue Trust charity, thanks to their #SaveOurVenues campaign, has brought to our attention that only 17% of UK grassroots venues are currently secure for the foreseeable future, leaving the other 83% at risk of permanent closure (and with the energy bill costs looming over the horizon, that number could be even higher come 2023).
So, the venues that are still up and running now are doing just fine then, right? You’d like to think so, but due to staff shortages and other financial restraints, some venues will truly never recover.
But let’s break away from the venues for a bit and instead talk about the other people that need your help; the artists.
Musicians, both new and old, are desperate to get back on the road and onto that stage. Not just because it’s their main source of income, but because it’s what they live for. Interacting with fans and performing songs for them is what it’s all about. But this isn’t about the artists that can sell out the O2 in 3 minutes while charging £126 per ticket (Travis Scott, I’m looking at you). This is about the artists that started making music a few years ago and are finally ready to take to the stage and showcase it to hopefully soon-to-become fans. But the problem is it’s so hard for fresh artists to make a name for themselves when the music game is so crowded. So, when you see an artist that is headlining at a small venue for a fiver, or possibly even a pub for free, maybe think twice about giving it a miss. They may just turn out to be the hottest new artist, which then gives you bragging rights to say you saw the “real” so-and-so for the first time ever.
But this doesn’t even have to be out of pity to “give them a chance”, it can purely be because most of the best gigs happening right now are at the more intimate venues.
Let’s get Travis Scott back into the conversation. I paid, as previously mentioned, £126 to see him at the biggest music venue in London, the O2. Due to the venue having a capacity of roughly 20,000, it’s hard to really get a look at the artist you just paid to see unless you’re right at the front. This results in you having to wait hours before the shows slated to begin or barbarically shoving your way to the front during the show. And when you do, they’re so focused on the 19,999 other people looking right at them that they barely pay attention to you.
However, when it comes to a smaller venue like the Electric Ballroom in Camden (which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting multiple times) and there’s only a capacity of just 1,500, you are guaranteed a decent view of the gig wherever you are. Plus, they’re gonna pay more attention to you in return as you’re right in front of them as opposed to a few hundred metres away.
And if you think all artists enjoy the thrill of big arena shows, you’d be surprised to learn not everyone feels that way. Nine Inch Nails, a band with one of the most devoted fan bases in the industrial metal scene, played at the O2 Academy Brixton earlier this year. That’s right, a band that was recently inducted into the official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and played Woodstock ‘94 chose to perform at a venue that holds under 5,000 people.
Another example; Deftones. A band that played a huge set just before the headliners of the Saturday at Download Festival 2022 played an intimate gig at the 2,300-capacity O2 Forum Kentish Town. Bands want to feel the crowd’s energy and that’s going to happen with a more concentrated crowd.
Hopefully, with the points I’ve made throughout this article, I’ve made you think twice about attending smaller gigs. The artists and the venues they go to are depending on it.
You can check out the highly anticipated event, The Fantasy Fair Experience by the multiple charted award-nominated artist Princess Wonda; also known as ‘Princess of Afrofusion’ at Omeara London. The show will take the audience on a musical journey enjoying international and domestic opening acts such as Damola Davis, Da Real3st, and Sona as well as a few special appearances from international and domestic artists.
The main event will consist of Princess Wonda performing various songs from the Fantasy Fair album with an intimate crowd. Audiences can look forward to her melodic vocals, on-stage energy, live band, and electric show.