Frank Turner on the threat faced by independent venues: “Music will be dominated by the output of Simon Cowell”

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Frank Turner has starkly warned that music will be “dominated by the output of Simon Cowell” if independent venues cease to exist.

Over 400 grassroots music venues in the UK are at imminent risk of closing for good as a consequence of coronavirus, despite a campaign from the Music Venue Trust which has saved cultural 140 spaces so far.

Speaking to NME ahead of a gig to raise funds for The Clapham Grand this evening, Turner warned that the next generation of artists will fail to break through if venues cease to exist.

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“If the infrastructure of grassroots music ceases to exist then there will still be big shows at arenas and it will be entirely dominated by the output of people like Simon Cowell,” he told NME.

Simon Cowell

“I’m not here to fight a war against Simon Cowell, what he does is valid for the people that enjoy it, but I don’t want that to be the defining part of our culture.”

Turner went on to explain that some of Britain’s biggest artists relied on independent venues to hone the earliest stages of their careers.

“Whether you’re talking about Ed Sheeran and Adele and Muse and Biffy Clyro or dare I say it, me,” he said.

“That kind of music needs a place to gestate and germinate and to find its audience and evolve. But I also think it’s really important to say that there’s a type of culture that exists in grassroots music which is underground, outsider, strange, awkward music that isn’t going to arenas.

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“That is just as important to me and without these places, that kind of culture will just completely cease to exist and I think that would be as much of a tragedy.”

The singer also backed calls, which have been led by the Music Venue Trust, for the government to provide significant support to secure the future of venues.

“I think it’s important to recognise that what’s happened is catastrophic and everyone is making it up as they go along, but even with all those caveats, the government could do more to assist this industry,” he said.

“Whenever anything else goes wrong, people ask the music industry to do benefit shows and we do. It wouldn’t be terrible to get a little something in return for this industry.”

At present, the Music Venue Trust is calling on the government to provide a £50m cash injection in the industry to secure its future.

Speaking of Thursday’s gig, Turner said it was his first time playing The Clapham Grand, but he was asked to perform by friend Ally Wolf who runs the venue.

“It’s a privilege to be on that stage,” he said. “And it’s funny because before lockdown, Ally and I were trying to sort out a show for me there. I’m not sure either of us thought it would look or feel like this, but there you go.”

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