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Bath Moles is closing because right now, in 2023, it simply isn’t possible to present original live music in a 220-capacity venue without losing money.

He’s right, and he’s also right that by ignoring what’s going on at the grassroots level the music industry is letting those roots rot. Without venues like Moles (and similar venues, such as Glasgow’s King Tuts and recently closed 13th Note) the British arena-fillers of recent years would never have become famous. No Moles no Radiohead, no Oasis, no Massive Attack, no Ed Sheeran, no Blur.

True, they all played the place. But that’s rather different from saying they’d not have existed if they’d not played that place. For a very large number of bands which have existed have not played that place. Like, say, Tears for Fears who played The Bell around the corner….

27 thoughts on “Snigger”

  1. He doesn’t say ‘they’d not have existed if they’d not played that place’, he says without it and venues *like* it (and names similar venues), they would ‘never have become famous’.

    This may be right or wrong but it’s different from what you suggest he says,

  2. Regarding King Tuts in Glasgow, it is said that:
    “Oasis were discovered and signed by the record label Creation. According to the venue’s manager, Dave McGeachan, the band “bullied their way on stage” after discovering that they would not be allowed to play despite travelling the long distance from Manchester.”
    So the venue itself got in the way, bullying won the day. (Or talent or perseverance perhaps)

  3. @Interested

    Fair point, but in terms of cultural importance there’s a wafer thin difference between “the band would not have existed at all” and “the band would not have existed as a significant commercial entity”. You’re right that the issue here is about an entire class of venues rather than a specific place – maybe Tim’s example is enough to show bands can get by with fewer such venues, they’d just have to gig on the alternative ones that still exist. But doesn’t address what happens if all such venues shut down, or whether a squeeze in the capacity of places to learn to gig will in turn squeeze the pipeline of big homegrown acts in the future, either reducing their quality or quantity.

    A more convincing example that shows we can get by without smaller venues would be one of those newfangled acts that got famous online before they even played their first gig, and by then already had enough fans for a larger venue. Though that might be a mixed blessing in the same way those office workers during lockdown enjoyed the discovery they could get stuff done from home, until the realisation dawned that someone the opposite side of the world could do it too…

  4. There are plenty of middle aged people ( my 50 yo neighbour is in an all girl band ) who form groups and like to get on stage as well as the wannabe Sex Pistols.

    It all conspires against the venues: rates, leccy, licensing laws, Nimbys – there is no end to restrictions. Also many venues are in prime sites just aching to be redeveloped. Live music is in serious danger and the potential audience is not getting any younger.

  5. “For five years now Music Venue Trust has been trying to get the live music industry itself to act on these challenges. We have proposed a simple £1 charge on every arena and stadium ticket sold should be put into a fund to financially support venues like Moles so they can afford to programme and develop the artists of the future.”

    Or… you could cut regulation and business rates, stop local authorities from persecuting car owners in city centres, ditch the net-zero bullshit and bring energy costs down, and maybe get the economy moving so people have more disposable income. But that’s hard. Let’s just force people to pay for shit they don’t use again instead.

  6. @Anon

    I merely like to out-pendant the arch pendant now and then.

    I don’t myself regard Radiohead, Oasis, Massive Attack, Ed Sheeran, or Blur as having any cultural significance but in any event, as Steve sort of points out, these people are among the worst offenders for banging on at normal people about our ‘carbon footprint’ and thus the only just outcome is if their equipment is all taken away and destroyed, and their ability to create unnecessary ‘carbon emissions’ via gigging ended forever.

    As Steve says

  7. No Moles- no Ed Sheeran and wouldn’t that be a blessing. Living in Suffolk he’s always in the local rags. Sometimes it’s so bad I expect him to be stuffed and put on display when he dies. I’m just surprised that theres not been a mania (so far) to rename buildings after him like the mania for naming things after the late queen.

  8. @Interested

    Fair pendantry. I don’t see any point denying the cultural significance of Radiohead, Oasis, Massive Attack, Ed Sheeran, or Blur. Or even the cultural significance of acts like Little Mix and One Direction which didn’t come up through the gigging/talent scouting system. They’re all part of the cultural fabric of British life, in their own ways. You cut them out and replace them by something else, and we would clearly have a different national culture – even if it only affected you or me by us being subjected to a slightly different soundscape when out shopping, or in the dentist’s chair, or the awkward bit of wedding receptions, or when next-door are throwing a noisy party in the garden.

    Cultural impact can at least partially be measured by record sales or streams or column inches, even if that doesn’t catch the number of imitators spawned. And the adoresaid acts all left far more of a mark than I ever will. Whether any of them have any cultural value is a different, and more subjective, question. But pieces of music of zero aesthetic or creative value can still enjoy an afterlife of decades, so we do seem stuck with them.


    I’ve occasionally watched the local TV news for East Anglia and you’d think Delia Smith and Ed Sheeran are the only celebs, or even notable people full stop, that that region has got.

  9. Moqifen
    Last summer, I noticed Sheeran quietly drinking a pint at the bar of the Walberswick Bell, one of my favourite watering holes. A woman of c.35 came up to the bar to place an order, then she noticed Sheeran, lost her thread, blushed, stammered, tried to say something to him…Sheeran took it in his stride, smiled at her and moved to one side. His music is poor stuff, but he’s unassuming and modest.

  10. *flips through site*

    220-head just running a stage, with a bar-thingie on the side..
    “Grassroots” …. ah… Shitty Pretentious Noise by Artistes**.
    Pride… m’kay…
    Vegan Non-Alco featured on the drinks menu….
    Program is mostly themed “dance”/singalong parties….
    Half the actual bands are Tributes to the Glory Days of Big Names.
    The few Artistes/ Bands that are not Tributes might maybe pull 50 peeps.

    So…. Gone Woke, now Broke…

    **Not to be confused with artists, who actually do stuff people like, pull in peeps wherever they play, and get booked regularly.
    And may even make a decent (second) income out of that.

  11. Well, yes. Moles always was about pretentious tossery. It’s about 100 yards from my flat in Bath and even when living there in my late teenage/early 20s years don’t think I went in there more than twice.

  12. Steve

    You have a way of making a man chuckle!!

    I’d also make the point that in the Metaverse, which is the only place Messrs Schwab, Soros and King Charles will allow you and I to go on holiday these venues will still be viable, so you’ll get short shrift from ‘our new masters’ if you plead poverty.

  13. “Ed Sheeran,”

    Not much of a loss.

    And just because those people played tiny little venues at some point in their careers doesn’t mean those venuse – any of those venues – are important to getting these people known to a larger audience.

    Lilly Allen became famous through distribution on Myspace. Run The Jewels are self-published.

  14. Indeed, that you can’t make money at those sorts of venues anymore is an indication that they’re not important to listeners.

    If listeners aren’t going there, that means they are getting their music through another channel.

  15. I’ve played at The Moles, the 13th Note, and most of the other venues scattered around the UK that we’re performing the same role back when I did that sort of thing.

    I don’t think the answer to the problem is taxing Taylor Swift fans, but it is a problem. Original grassroots live music in the UK has been a bit of a mess for as long as I can remember. In my day if you were performers plodding around doing Led Zep and Who covers for marginally interested Saturday-night locals, you would be paid for your troubles and the venue would cover the cost from the beer sales to the people who were going to be there whoever was playing. Travelling around doing original material to people who are paying to hear it, on the other hand, was expensive and a lot of talented people couldn’t really be doing it.

    When I did it, I did it because I loved it and I could afford to subsidise it, just as promoters and the people running the small indies labels did. Venues , I guess, must have been turning enough of a profit for it to be worth it. They were businesses, we were hobbyists. But it is the hobbyists that scatter the capital which must be spread widely to enable to real talent to come through. The venues which peddle in original music are vital. They are a place where people come together, where artists meet each other and scenes and collaborations form.

    One the one hand, there’s the simple economic argument that shows that the paying public doesn’t value these venues highly enough. But the vast amounts of money spent on established music suggests that they do value what these venues output. Is it a ‘tragedy of the commons’ situation? I don’t know. But music that gets popular on the internet, or because it gets serious money invested to make it popular, is different to music that gets popular because the artists built a name and reputation by playing places like Moles and getting noticed by the people who spend their evenings there.

  16. Do we really need more music? We’ve got loads to listen to already and there’s nothing from the last twenty years that we couldn’t do without.

  17. Prior to Tears for Fears, the duo were in a band called Graduate. I saw them in 1980 at the Colston Hall (still known as the Colston Hall by 95% of Bristolians and something else by a bunch of dickheads). I remember “Ever Met a Day” as the only good song.
    Also at the Colston Hall I saw some band I’d never heard of who were supporting Toyah Wilcox. Don’t know what happened to them after that. Duran Duran. Sing along now “This is planet Earth”

  18. @Doc Bud
    I’m sure there were people saying that 20 years a go. And 30. And 40. And … I’m sure it was said in some medieval inn to the accompaniment of a geezer plucking his lute.

  19. Local town has a music academy in it. Loads of kids wandering around with guitar cases on their back, learning lead guitar in a classroom instead of going to UCL and reading astrophysics like Brian May. A side effect is no local pubs have karaoke…just open mike nights which are pretty high quality. Punters get high(er) quality live music for free, Stuadents get practice. Win win. And the Local music pay to see place (an old pub converted to a venue) does rip roaring trade . The only downside i see is all the astrophysicists we’re losing.

  20. “One the one hand, there’s the simple economic argument that shows that the paying public doesn’t value these venues highly enough. But the vast amounts of money spent on established music suggests that they do value what these venues output. ”

    1. Maybe people just aren’t interested in music anymore – then the closing of the venues doesn’t matter because no one cares about the product coming out the far end of the pipeline.

    2. Maybe stars are made differently today – then the closing of the venues doesn’t matter because that’s not where the top talent is going to start out and be discovered any more.

  21. “But music that gets popular on the internet, or because it gets serious money invested to make it popular, is different to music that gets popular because the artists built a name and reputation by playing places like Moles and getting noticed by the people who spend their evenings there.”

    Is it though?

    I mean, certainly a difference is that we’ve left the ‘age of superstars’ – its much more democratic now without gatekeeper labels controlling and developing talent. But people are still getting what they want – which is what they were getting before.

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