Grassroots venues and events are the heartbeat of any vibrant music scene and have long served as breeding grounds for creativity and community. Yet these essential spaces face a myriad of challenges today. Rising rents, regulations, and the long-lasting effects of the COVID crisis have put grassroots nightlife venues in jeopardy. However, the importance of supporting these venues cannot be overstated. In this article, we'll delve into why you should champion grassroots nightlife venues and their vital role in fostering creativity, diversity, and local culture.
With so many up-and-coming artists performing in venues like these, Amex is partnering with The Dome/Downstairs at the Dome, a grassroots music venue in north London. This is through the Unsigned initiative, aimed at emerging artists looking for their big break. On the 30th November, selected artists will be invited to perform in front of a capacity crowd of fans and music industry professionals, along with a DJ set from Mike Skinner. Get your own tickets for what will be an amazing night of entertainment here!
1 Nurturing Emerging Talent
Grassroots nightlife venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, often serving as the launch pad for emerging artists. These intimate spaces provide a platform for unsigned and independent musicians to showcase their talents, refine their skills, and build a fan base. Without younger, emerging artists being platformed at grassroots venues, larger clubs lack inspiration and keep recycling the same line-ups — and artists that are now mainstays of the scene may never have got an opportunity. It is important to respect how talent naturally grows, and spaces where artists can learn, make mistakes, and improve themselves, before they are thrust into the limelight, are essential in this process.
According to a study by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), approximately 80% of artists and musicians started their careers performing at grassroots venues. These venues offer a crucial stepping stone for talent to gain experience, connect with audiences, and progress to larger stages. Take ‘The Dome’ in Tufnell Park as an example, the venue that Amex is helping revitalise as part of the Unsigned initiative. Blur and Coldplay are two musical groups that played here during their early days.
2 Developing Cultural Diversity and Community Building
Grassroots nightlife venues are not just about music, they are hubs for cultural diversity and community building. These spaces often celebrate local artists, cultures, and subcultures that might not find representation in mainstream venues. They provide a welcoming environment for people from various backgrounds to come together, fostering a sense of belonging and unity. In a rapidly changing world, these venues act as cultural anchors, preserving traditions, and supporting underrepresented communities. By supporting grassroots nightlife venues, you contribute to the preservation and promotion of local culture and diversity.
Much of the beauty of grassroots venues is how they act as an alternative to bigger events — with a smaller scale comes the ability to take risks, provide new experiences, and give a home to scenes outside of the mainstream.
3 Economic Impact and Job Creation
Beyond their cultural significance, grassroots nightlife venues have a substantial economic impact. They generate income for musicians, promoters, sound engineers, bartenders, security staff, and more. According to a report by the NTIA, the night-time economy was worth more than £66 billion to the UK economy before the pandemic. The UK is now set to lose 10% of its grassroots music venues by the end of the year according to Music Venue Trust (MVT). One of the main factors for this is the economic crunch it's faced since the pandemic and the impact of the cost of living crisis. The industry is reported to have lost an estimated 86,000 jobs between March 2020 and June 2021 alone. Without the staff, how are these places supposed to run? By buying a ticket or even a pint at your local grassroots venue, this support makes a difference. Sacha Lord, Night-Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, has previously said: "Take any city, town or village in the UK, and you’ll find its pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants are central to its recovery. The nightlife scene is critical to our post-Brexit, post-COVID future and economic growth, and to ignore it would be a devastating blow to our cultural reputation." These venues create jobs, particularly for young people and those seeking flexible work opportunities. By supporting grassroots venues, you help sustain livelihoods and stimulate local economies.
4 Spotlighting Creative Innovation and Experimentation
Independent venues are often a hotbed for experimentation when it comes to music, offering a place for communities to come together and foster new sounds, emergent genres, and ideas that you won’t typically find at mainstream venues. Many grassroots spaces become a beacon for creative innovation where risk-taking comes freely, and boundary-pushing ideas make for the growth of emerging artists and sounds. Just think: without London’s Plastic People, there might not be dubstep, and without The Warehouse in Chicago, we’d probably never know house music. Supporting these grassroots spaces ensures that the spirit of creativity and innovation continues to thrive.
5 Preserving Local Identities and Sounds
As many artists are quick to point out, local scenes require protection and support if the music landscape is to remain a diverse and interesting place. “It’s important to amplify DIY promoters and grassroots venues and understand the specifics of the local scenes outside of London,” noted Glasgow-based VAJ.Power. “We are living in a symbiosis, and need to help each other grow.” Last year we saw the biggest underground dance music success story in years with ‘B.O.T.A.’ topping the charts, directly influenced by the organ bassline scene from the north of England. Dance music is at its best when it’s a hotbed of creativity and varying influences. By supporting grassroots nightlife venues, you help protect the cultural heritage of regional communities and enable that artistry to flourish.
To underline the importance of grassroots venues and their connection to unsigned talent, we're excited to announce a partnership with American Express. Amex Gold Unsigned is an initiative to find unsigned acts performing at grass roots venues This campaign will shine a spotlight on the incredible talent that these venues nurture and provide them with the recognition they deserve.
On the 30th November, selected artists will be invited to perform in front of a capacity crowd of fans and music industry professionals, along with a DJ set from Mike Skinner. Get your own tickets for what will be an amazing night of entertainment here!