Small music venues are dying. The Princess Charlotte in Leicester could boast Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Verve, and The Libertines as just a few of the legendary names to have played there. But in 2009, it shut its doors for the last time after bankruptcy. An iconic venue, still fondly remembered by artists like Noel Gallagher, who rated it in the top five gigs his band ever played, is gone forever. So are we just not turning out to support our local bands anymore, or do the venues need to look closer to home?
Last month I went to see Twisted Wheel live at the Bodega, in front of no more than 30 people. As I looked around the room I couldn’t help but feel sorry for a band that where selling out venues ten times as big as this one not so long ago. Is this simply just a band in decline? Maybe it is, but I can’t help but notice a trend in the audience figures of bands I have seen this year. The handful of spectators usually becomes just another bordered up building gathering dust before becoming a Turkish Kebab house, a site all too familiar in English towns these days.
It was only when I went to the bar to order a can of lager I realised why such venues struggle to bring in the crowds - “That will be £4” said the bar man, I looked back with sheer amazement. Now I know fans are expected to pay a premium on drinks when visiting events, but I’m not watching The Rolling Stones at Wembley stadium. Even then I think I’d need to have had at least 10 pints before considering such prices! Yet after the £10 entrance fee, I’m asked to pay double figures for a round of drinks? I think not.
Is a student or simply any music lover facing the recession, really going to head down to check out the latest bands in their town on a cold, wet Tuesday night when they’ll be asked to shell out such money? A £3 entrance fee with drinks priced far more reasonably would encourage full houses and give such bands a chance to enhance their reputation and bring in crowds consistently through the doors. So if the Bodega doesn’t want to add to the long list of music venues locking up for the final time, it’s simple. Give them experiences that will make them come back. Let them fall in love with live music again, without spending a fortune.