Over the past decade, live music has become more important than ever to the income streams of artists and agencies. In 2017, touring income could become even more vital. But the revenue of individual rooms are as unpredictable as ever. That will have to change.
Instead of just relying on bar income to stay in the black from month to month, the venue business will need to find a way to better predict costs and touring income months in advance.
Brendon Anthony, the director of the Texas Music Office, works to make Austin and other cities more friendly to live music. Here are two ways he believes venues can make their business more sustainable in 2017.
Find out what else should be on your venue’s radar in 2017 in the complete report on 2017 Music Trends.
Venues need to protect their land against rising costs
“Venues will either buy the land they sit on, or they’ll move,” Anthony says. “We’re not going to see our favorite venues in the same place unless they own the land… The venues that are iconic and last make intentional choices for staying power — they understand their business, their margins, and that to operate they need to control their rent.”
Anthony understands that for most venues, raising the funds to buy their land may seem overwhelming. Luckily, independent funders can help make this dream sustainable — and, Brendan argues, the government should get involved in building those connections.
“Cities that succeed invest in their fine arts,” Anthony says. “It’s rare to see a major metropolitan area without an opera or symphony — but we also ought to invest in independent music. The role of the city and state is to encourage artists to use the resources at their disposal to make more money. We need to encourage private sector investment in the music world, and provide them a solid perspective on how to do that.”
There aren’t as many existing paths for donors (or sponsors) to get involved with small venues, so it’s up to venues to make those opportunities clear. “With independent music, there’s no music hall for donors to put their name on,” Anthony says. “But donors could invest in an affordable housing bill, or buy a rehearsal facility, or buy a venue’s land so they can stay open.”
Venues will band together to lobby for better policies
But venues may not be able to crack the code to sustainability on their own. Anthony thinks venues will need to band together to protect their businesses.
“There are real ways venues can work together to make their margins a bit easier to handle,” Anthony says. In Texas and other states, for instance, venues, bars, and restaurants are all taxed in the same way, even though venues have to put more of their money back into infrastructure. There could be a way for venues to reduce their tax rate, “but for that to happen, venues would have to define what being a venue means, and then go to work to lobby as a group for the change.”
If that sounds intimidating, there are smaller ways venues can come together to protect each other against rising costs. “Groups have been successful in bringing venues together with developers to make sure developers understand what it means to build in an entertainment district,” Anthony says. “These groups help developers avoid working to the detriment of those venues that make the district so cool.”
Fighting for this recognition won’t be easy, but it’s the best way to protect the venue business in cities with rising costs. Venues in the UK have already seen success with this strategy, led by the Music Venue Trust and their annual Venues Day, aimed at raising awareness and advocating for venue rights. Venues in the states will need to follow suit, banding together to protect the future of live music in their respective cities.
Want to hear more strategies to future-proof your business in 2017? Get all the expert predictions in the full report, 2017 Music Trends: 7 Eye-Opening Predictions from Industry Pros.