Why urgent action is needed to protect Sunderland’s live music scene and small venues

Sunderland has a vibrant and nurturing live music culture dating back decades – but urgent action is needed to ensure our stars of the future continue to enjoy the same opportunities.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 21 March, 2019, 09:40
Pop Recs in High Street West, Sunderland.

This week the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), of which I am a member, published a report on live music; the challenges it faces and what needs to be done to support it.

It is clear that the UK is witnessing a live music boom, with record numbers attending shows such as The Spice Girls at the Stadium of Light. Yet, away from the headline acts, there are tough challenges.

Smaller music venues are closing at an unprecedented rate, while ticket re-sale platforms such as Viagogo are damaging industry trust. I have been contacted by several constituents on these issues.

There is also widespread concern about the lack of training, and funding, for the next generation of musical talent. Action must be taken now before our internationally-renowned industry is stifled.

The DCMS Select Committee is calling on the Government to ‘decisively’ stop people being ripped-off when buying tickets from sites like Viagogo. Effective enforcement of consumer law is needed.

We are also keen to save venues from closure, by urging a review of business rates. An increase in funding for grassroots sites and protection of their interests during planning decisions is needed too.

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Sunderland band The Futureheads.

More investment in the future is vital as well – including from the music industry – to develop talent. In addition, we are yet again calling for extra arts subjects such as music to be taught in schools.

It is difficult to imagine Sunderland without music. Indeed, it has played host to some of the biggest bands in the world – from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin and The Who.

From the 1980s onwards The Bunker has helped to shape our city’s vibrant music scene, honing the talents of bands like The Futureheads, Frankie & the Heartstrings, Hyde & Beast and Field Music.

Today venues such as Independent and Pop Recs Ltd showcase local and national musical talent and, of course, a new multi-use arts auditorium is also under construction next to the Old Fire Station.

Live music is at the very heart of our city’s music scene – and that of the whole UK. It builds and sustains the careers of thousands of musicians, and contributes almost £1billion to the economy.

However, if it is to continue to make such a significant contribution to our lives, urgent changes are needed. It is time to stand up for the future of live music – both here in Sunderland and nationally.