Growing Threats to Bristol’s Indie Music Scene

Credit: Bristol Culture

Credit: Bristol Culture

With The Fleece facing closure possible his year, Michael Whiting asks is there a growing threat to Bristol’s independent music scene?

The Fleece has hosted a number of well-known groups including Manic Street Preachers, The White Stripes and Radiohead

Since opening in 1982, the popular Bristol venue The Fleece has hosted a number of well-known groups including Manic Street Preachers, The White Stripes and Radiohead alongside popular weekly club nights including ‘Propaganda’.

However, the venue might be forced to close due to a proposed scheme to convert a nearby office block into 80 flats which would be approximately located within 20 metres of the venue. Chris Sharp – owner of the venue has said that ‘during its entire history The Fleece has not had any issues with noise complaints’ but if the flats are given the go ahead then ‘we would anticipate a deluge of complaints as soon as people move in’.

There has been a number of venues affected by new city developments in Britain over the past couple of years. The construction of the new Crossrail line in London led to the closure of a number of venues including the legendary Astoria, Astoria 2, The Metro and The Intrepid Fox.

…the lack of independent venues would be seriously damaging for beginning musicians to develop their sound and grow a fanbase.

Losing venues like The Fleece, The Attic and The Anson Rooms would be damaging not only to Bristol’s live music scene but also the British music scene itself. While we do have the 02 Academies and a wide range of festivals every year, the lack of independent venues would be seriously damaging for beginning musicians to develop their sound and grow a fanbase.

Ash Cook, guitarist of metal group Valis Ablaze, says that ‘venues like The Fleece are instrumental to bands of all sizes. They are nice enough to put on regular local showcases involving 4-10 acts from Bristol and the surrounding areas at a great price’.

Outside of performing in the metal quartet, Ash also helps promote metal shows around Bristol describing the scene’s current atmosphere as a ‘feeling of unity’. However, this threat to Bristol’s venues could be damaging for people like Ash who enjoy music both on and off the stage.

‘People have come down to enjoy something that they’re passionate about’ he says. ‘Without independent, alternative and cost-effective venues for big bands to come through and local bands to warm up, Bristol will lose a lot of elements that have brought people to this city in the first place.’

Online streams and illegal downloading are the common norm over purchasing CD’s.

It’s very clear that independent music itself is generally facing difficult times. Online streams and illegal downloading are the common norm over purchasing CD’s.

An article on Spotify’s website titled ‘Spotify Explained’ states that there is ‘an average “per stream”’ payout to rights holders of between $0.006 and $0.0084’ for artists. Which means unless you’re Miley Cyrus, this isn’t going to be paying your rent.

While this is certainly displays a worrying future for independent musicians, these venues are still able to produce shows for both signed and amateur artists. In order to help support the vibrant and constantly growing music scene, Bristol needs to protect venues like The Fleece in order to ensure this unique scene continues. Because if The Fleece goes, where is next?

Do you think closing venues will damage the independent spirit of the Bristol Music Scene? Let us know: @rifemag. If you want to save The Fleece, show your support with the hashtag #savethefleece. Sign the petition here

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