A report published today sets out measures to help the night time economy of London. Gig venues in particular could get some much-needed protection, if recommendations are followed through.
London's live music venues have been falling like fag-butts in a door queue. The Astoria and 12-Bar Club are just the beginning of a miserable alphabet of closures in recent years. A new audit from the Mayor's Music Venues Taskforce reckons that a third of the capital's grassroots venues have closed since 2007: there were 136 then, but just 88 today. As Shain Shapiro recently argued on these pages, each defunct club is also a blow for the local economy.
London's Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan contains a raft of measures to stop the rot, pointing out reasons to support the industry that are both cultural and economic. One of the more eye-catching provisions is the suggestion of a 'night time economy champion', a role dubbed the 'night mayor' much like in Amsterdam, where Mirik Milan takes a lead on the city's night time economy.
It will be the job of the night mayor to "bring together businesses, residents, local authorities, transport, police and emergency services to build positive relationships, review policies and maximise the potential of a sector that in the UK is worth £66 billion a year".
Another recommendation is for the mayor to support Agent of Change principles. This puts power in the hands of long-standing night businesses whenever a developer muscles into their patch. Remember how the Ministry of Sound feared it would get noise complaints (which could lead to closure) from residents of a newly built block of flats next door? Agent of Change principles would force the developer, or the incoming residents to sort the situation out — for example, by paying for better soundproofing.
Other proposals include a London Music Development Board with representatives from music industry, venues, licensing authorities, police, planning departments and transport authorities, which would establish 'music zones' and advise on the optimum number of grassroots venues. The report also sets out "an ambition to create new venues" so that London's live music scene can reverse the trend of closures and being to thrive once again.
Ambition is the easy bit. How and when the various recommendations will be pushed forward is less clear.