'Without a lifeline they will struggle to stay afloat' - Kaiser Chiefs' Simon Rix on future of music venues in Leeds during Covid-19 pandemic

Live music has been hailed as the "lifeblood" of the industry by the Kaiser Chiefs' Simon Rix, who has warned venues may struggle to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday, 21st August 2020, 11:45 am
The Kaiser Chiefs playing a gig at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Evening Post as we today look at how the city's live music scene has been impacted by Covid-19, the Mr Rix has spoken about the importance of the sector.

He said: "Live music is, without saying an essential part of our culture in the uk, music is wheeled out on parade when we want to celebrate, commemorate, fundraise, even to commiserate Music is something that all people of all backgrounds can mutually access and relate to. As an artist working in the contemporary music industry, I can confirm that the lifeblood of all this is live music.

"From a numbers perspective, the live music industry in the UK is worth £5.2bn, with the music industry as a whole being one of our biggest exports. To me that sounds like a business worth investing in. In this instance, we aren’t talking about accessing funding for experimental projects that can draw down funds from the arts council.

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"We are talking about provision of support for live venues, viable (often small) businesses that if supported, will allow our industry to pay this money back in dividends through their proven contribution to our economy."

Mr Rix also underlined the importance of local venues, which have struggled during the lockdown and pandemic, and how their stages serve as a "right of passage" for emerging talent.

"A big part of this discussion surrounds our grass roots venues, which are so important to the whole infrastructure-operating not just as somewhere that artists can find their feet, but providing hubs where creative people meet, form bands, find work on the touring circuit, do fundraising events, hold political meetings," he told the YEP.

"They offer an essential right of passage, and are effectively essential to the industry as a whole. It’s also important to note that if only a few venues manage to survive there is no “circuit”, which makes touring unviable. If new bands offer new blood, then grass roots venues are main arteries of the UK Music scene.

"In my 20 years experience, these ‘hubs‘ aren’t run by people set on making their fortunes, they are run on guts, and a love of music and the creative communities in which they are founded and based. So, at a time when many such venues have been closed for almost 6 months, with no clear way forward in place - it‘s obvious that without a lifeline, they will be struggling to stay afloat."

Mr Rix urged others to call on the Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support the industry.

He added: "These smaller, unsupported venues don’t have the funds or the infrastructure or space to operate with social distancing measures in place.

"My main worry - is that we will not only lose these spaces, but also that people who run them because they have to find work elsewhere, and replacing them is really difficult, they so often ‘are’ the space. I’m not sure on the numbers involved because no-one is really sure when we can return to ‘normal’ gigging again.

"I feel that we all need to call on the DCMS to do whatever it can to keep these venues alive, so when this is over, we can return to the vibrant music scenes that Leeds and the UK as a whole are so proud of."

Meanwhile, emerging Leeds band Apollo Junction have told how Covid-19 has impacted them.

Speaking to the YEP, the band said: "It’s been a very strange time for us.

"As a band, gigs have been cancelled or moved to next year. Our biggest line up of summer festival slots were pulled away from us. Support slots to Leeds heroes The Kaiser Chiefs, as well as our biggest ever festival shows, including The Isle of Wight Festival and Bingley Weekend were all shifted back to summer 2021.

"Then our own national tour in support of our debut album got shelved leaving us with an empty 2020 calendar and no way of promoting ourselves live."

However, the band said that they had taken the opportunity to take stock and create fresh music.

They added: "Our answer has been to write, record and release new songs as often as possible.

"It’s clear that what live music now needs is a plan for how to move forward.

"Venues need people back inside and bands cannot survive without playing songs in as many cities as possible to as many people as possible.

"It has to be when it’s safe and done correctly but it’s time to start looking at how to find a way forwards."