We met one of the guys behind the music industry’s Independent Venue Week

This weekend sees the start of events as part of Independent Venue Week, which supports and celebrates Britain’s music venues that still standalone and have not been bought up by massive brands. 

It has been recognised by Independent Music Week’s founder Sybil Bell that local venues are so important to and for local musicians. They offer bands somewhere close to home to cut their teeth before going off on the, often daunting, tour of towns. By showing music lovers behind the scenes at a treasured venue, you are more likely to inspire them to consider a career in an industry they perhaps presumed was closed off to them.

Out of this, the Live Music and Touring Workshops which form part of the Independent Venue Week events were born. This year they will be hosted simultaneously in Birmingham, Bristol, London, Hull and Liverpool on Saturday 23rd and Saturday 30th January (Liverpool’s second workshop will be on Thursday 28th). Places on the workshops are free and open to 14-20 year olds looking for an insight and advice in to the world of live music, touring and production.

We found out more from Stewart Baxter, workshop coordinator and youth worker for The Warren Youth Project in Hull….


Image Credit: Stewart Baxter

1. In many industries at the moment the spirit of entrepreneurship and individualism seems to be alive and well, are independent venues on the rise or decline? 

While it seems there is more music around than ever, independent venues are in decline. Independent Venue Week is a reaction to this. Fewer young people seem to be going to gigs and social lives are being conducted on computers. Encouraging people to come to these venues and see what has to happen to put on a show can spark an interest to work in the industry.

2. Do you think most people see the only way to have a career in music is either as an artist in a band or as a producer? 

I think that’s partly true, but funnily enough they think live music jobs will be oversubscribed so they shy away from trying, which actually leads to them being undersubscribed!

3. It seems that live music fans feel at local level there is no career prospect because they often see the cliché of struggling bands making no money. What can you do about this perception? 

Last year a group of 20 young people I work with at The Warren were invited to a sell-out gig at Manchester Arena by You Me at Six’s tour manager, Rob Highcroft. Rob walked them through everything that went in to putting on a show of this scale, from catering to merchandise – a couple of them were even allowed to let off the t-shirt cannon! When Rob told them that there were around 150 people working in the backline staff all earning at least £100 a day their eyes lit up! This is a large venue, but it perfectly showed there is work in live music at all levels.

4. Your involvement with IVW has come from your work at The Warren, and specifically the emphasis on empowerment through music. Tell us more about the role of Warren Records 

The Warren is a centre of support for marginalised and vulnerable young people, who often come to us feeling disengaged and lacking a support network. From an education and careers point of view they have often been talked down to and never trusted and that has affected their confidence.

Warren Records is a free rehearsal and recording space. Getting involved in music is empowering as we let our members have a go and learn through doing. We’ll say ‘there’s an African choir in the studio’ or ‘there’s a heavy metal band in the studio – lets go and record them’. They get experience, ask questions and it’s good because they can get stuck in and engaged in a practical way first; sometimes this will inspire them to go and get qualifications in live or studio production. The support we provide isn’t tokenistic, it has to be encouraging but realistic. Careers advice in schools still seems to be against creative industries; if young people come to us and say ‘I want to do that’ we don’t say ‘no’, we let them know and experience what’s behind it.

5. What can people attending the workshops expect to experience? 

In the first sessions guest tutors from live touring professions will talk about the ins and outs of being on the road and give practical advice for working in the industry. For example, last year one of our tutors brought guitars and drum heads down so the group could try stringing and re-skinning. Guest tutors’ names might not be known to our groups but they have all worked with big name acts for many years, it shows that other side to music; many people don’t want to be in the spotlight, instead they like the backstage, technical side. These sessions will involve a lot of Q&A.

The second sessions will be hosted by venues and will walk through what is involved in putting on a live show, from loading in, to sound checking to the main event.

6. What is the best piece of careers advice you would give? 

I recently listened to an interesting talk by the choreographer Jennifer Irons; she is very successful so I expected her talk to focus on this but it didn’t, instead she said it’s important to fail. It’s about making mistakes as that’s when you learn, but to make positive mistakes you first have to give people opportunities in a supportive space.

For more info on the Independent Venue Week click here.

Words: Lucy Cox

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