Moles whacked

Bath Moles, one of the UK’s endangered grassroots music venues, is no more. And Mark Davyd knows why.

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.

While arena shows and stadium shows break financial record after financial record, smaller venues are dying.

The Music Venue Trust has been trying to change this for years. As Davyd explains:

The truth is that the solution to stopping any more iconic venues closing is simple. It’s achievable, it’s easy, it can be done, and it will have to be done… 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. We’ve laid out exactly how such a fund would work and demonstrated that it can be done. 

This isn’t wishful thinking. It’s exactly what happens in France.

Every British promoter operating in France, every British artist performing in France, every British agency booking acts into France, accommodates this levy within their costing of every show.

The loss of key venues is part of a wider issue we have with the arts in the UK, where participation – as an artist or as an enjoyer of art – is becoming increasingly reserved for the rich and those willing to get into huge debt to see stadium shows with three-figure ticket prices. With successive governments uninterested in changing that – the Tories have previously described large-scale ticket touting as entrepreneurship – it’s up to the music industry to fix what’s left of the roof while the sun shines. The best time to introduce a ticket fund was five years ago. The next best time is now.