“Commercially, great music comes from adversity and people having to struggle and work hard. Artistes should be inspired by the struggle,” says Anton Lockwood of DHP Group, a Nottingham-based national promoter and owner of venues such as Rock City (cap. 1,900), Rescue Rooms (300) and Bristol’s Thekla (350).
“From a practical point of view, it is more difficult for us as promoters, though the opportunities are still there to get bands noticed – not least through newer methods such as Facebook.”
Lockwood says DHP supports local artistes with opening spots for bigger acts, and is well aware of the struggle faced by new acts, after the Group took on the management role for Dog Is Dead.
“Managing a band and getting them to that level is a lot of work. The big step up is when the audience stops being your mum, your cousin and your friends from school. From the band’s point of view, it’s a big difference when you see you’re playing to people you don’t know, but who still like you.
“The challenge, more than ever, is building something sustainable for the benefit of both artistes and promoters.”
Head promoter of Brighton-based Lout Promotions Patrick Marsden also books local emerging acts as supports for touring artistes such as The King Blues, The Wedding Present and British Sea Power, at venues including Concorde 2 (540) and Komedia (500).
“A lot of the smaller venues have perhaps fallen by the wayside, but from my point of view, Brighton’s got more venues than it probably needs, and many serve grassroots music.
“There are probably more bands now than there ever and the main thing for them to understand is that they need to promote themselves and bring their own audience.”
Head of Academy Music Group (AMG) promoting division Academy Events is Carl Bathgate, who believes that the best new bands are as likely to succeed as they ever were.
“From our point of view, there’s not been much change in the market. There’s not as much record company support perhaps, which affects touring artistes,” he says.
“But you’ve got the internet - and bands like Enter Shikari who find their own way. Then you’ve got Ed Sheeran who played gig after gig after gig before becoming known. There’s still a path there and people with talent will always succeed.”
Bathgate says AMG helps to develop local artistes by offering them support slots first and foremost. “In a way we’re filling the gap that the record companies have left. We have dedicated staff in each of our venues that book local bands because they know the local scene.
“The industry is struggling and that’s noticeable in ticket sales, and sometimes it’s hard for people to get into a band they haven’t heard anything about. So at that level, we try to keep ticket prices down and make the shows more accessible,” adds Bathgate.
Focus on talent
Tim Dellow is a co-founder of Transgressive Records and joint director of website Rockfeedback. He promotes new music with partner Toby L at the company-owned Lexington (250) in London.
“Most majors are signing bands that have an established touring platform and fanbase. Majors can then get involved in something they are good at, which is marketing,” he says.
“If you look across the board and take into account acts like Rihanna and Bon Jovi the live music industry as a whole is doing quite well. But the reality is you’re running a loss for all your shows until you’re acts are playing venues like [London’s] Shepherd’s Bush Empire [2,000].
“What we need to be concentrating on as an industry is the grassroots level, so we have the great headliners of the future.”
Dellow points to the emerging sector in countries such as Canada and New Zealand, which he believes invest in new talent in a way that the UK fails to, with government grants to finance travel and touring.
“It would be nice to see some government support in this country,” he says.
“Everyone’s budget is squashed, and especially in the independent sector. If you have an artiste like Rumer or Adele, you are selling records to sustain the live side. But real, genuine fans aren’t buying music anymore, so as a result it’s unsustainable.”
“The people who are in it for the wrong reasons will be pushed out, because there’s not the money there. It will hit a level - and maybe that’ll be a smaller industry working hard and working collectively.