Ahead of Independent Venue Week entering it’s sixth year, we sat down with Director Chloe Ward to see how the live music scene has changed and how IVW has fit into the culture of gig goers and musicians.
Entering its sixth year IVW has seen a lot of changes in the musical and political landscape in the UK. What has stood out most to you in these years that has affected live music and independent venues for the good and bad?
I think one of the biggest changes in the musical landscape in the past few years has been the increase in streaming which has had a knock-on effect for everyone in the industry, including the independent venues. The way in which people are discovering and consuming music is more online now and that’s had an affect on gig-going habits and people may not be going to their local venue to discover new music as much. A lot more in music is free now which again, might affect whether people are willing to pay entry for a gig, especially if the band is unknown.
Having said that, social media has played an enormous role in launching the careers of artists recently and is a great tool for promoting new artists which is helpful for the independent venues. The fact that a lot more artists are able to self-release is a great thing as well and the rise of artists through the DIY scene is really cool to see.
In the six years that IVW has been running, we’ve seen an increase year on year of venues joining the project which is a great sign for the live music scene. For the past three years at least, we’ve also seen venues who are less than a year old joining the project which is fantastic as well.
Congratulations on going international with Independent Venue Week starting in the USA 2018. How did this come to fruition and do you see any similarities with the US live scene and ours?
It’s always been the plan to take IVW to different areas and with five years of IVW UK under our belt, it felt like the time to explore a new territory. Foreign languages aren’t our strong point so, for ease, we wanted our first international territory to be somewhere which was predominantly English. We already had a great relationship with the company, Marauder, who run IVW in the USA, so it was logical to ask them to run the project over there.
I think the biggest similarity is that the people who own and run the venues are just as passionate about running a great live music venue and giving that platform to the artists. Similarly, the artists were all really grateful to be there and loved playing to the crowds which is just like the artists who play shows here in the UK.
Do you have any plans to move into Europe with IVW?
Yes, definitely. There are plans to expand into a lot more territories but we are a very small team here at IVW so it’s all about timing and resources for us.
Since 2014, IVW has grown exponentially from 17 venues and 69 artists to last year having 169 venues and 1390 artists. Does this give you hope for the future of independent venues?
Yes, it really does. As I mentioned earlier, for every year that we have been running IVW, we have seen brand new venues opening and taking part in the week and that’s really great to see We’re working with over 200 venues for IVW 2019 and of those, around 40 are taking part for the first time and three of those venues are less than a year old. One of the venues, the Beckenham Arts Lab, is actually opening on Friday, 1st February, during IVW 2019.
With IVW 2019 what shows are you most excited about that are happening across the country?
Oh, gosh, there are too many! I’m most excited about all of the different artists who are going out on tour and breadth of different genres of music being played in the venues this year.
How do you think the purchase of such iconic venues as the Manchester Apollo or Shepherd’s Bush Empire by o2 has had a detrimental effect on the UK music scene or it has helped?
I think all venues, regardless of their size, face different challenges so any support to keep these venues is a good thing. Venues of those sizes are still very much needed in the UK music scene and are a stepping stone from smaller, independent venues through to arenas. Having said that, a sponsored venue may not face the same challenges as an independent venue so there needs to be a definite recognition and support of how much independent music venues support the UK music scene. Without artists starting out in the smaller venues, they are never going to build the fan bases to enable them to play the bigger venues so support from sponsors should trickle down to the smaller venues as well.
What would your dream end goal be for IVW?
There are so many. I think our number one goal would be to continue to grow and work with as many of the amazing music venues as we can. We’d love to expand more internationally and eventually have artists travelling between countries, playing different IVW’s around the world.
With independent venues up and down the country playing host to hundreds of amazing acts and fans, be sure to support your local venues and catch an incredible gig!