A recent report by the data analyst company Expedia – utilising figures collated by Songkick – sought to rank the world’s most musical cities in order.
The methodology remained largely hidden, but the conclusive caused headlines: London, they claimed, was ranked top for gigs.
In terms of sheer volume, this certainly rings true. Virtually every single genre from every country on the planet is catered for, with venues spread out over one of Europe’s largest metropolitan hubs.
Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll find a number of problems with this. Sure, Clash loves being based in London, and we certainly make the most of its bustling gig calendar, but there are certainly a number of issues with being a gig-goer in the capital.
So, with civic pride intact and tongue ever so slightly in cheek, here’s a few things this report perhaps mislaid…
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Gigs cost more here.
You get what you pay for, as the old saying goes, and this is certainly true for London’s music fans. Even on nationwide tours tickets will regularly cost more for the London date in comparison with regional cities, while on stand-alone shows – artists frequently only come to London for the ‘UK leg’ of their world tour – the price has soared, with even Clash favourites like Kendrick Lamar getting in on the action.
Of course there are ways around this – the city’s plethora of record shops host free in-stores, while the demand for ethical ticketing is starting to make in-roads – but London remains an expensive place to soak up live music.
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The price of a pint is ludicrous.
Yep. It’s true. The price of a pint in London often costs significantly more than the rest of the land, thus taking the social edge off many gigs – particularly when the last train home sits perilously close to the final song of the encore.
We would certainly never say that gigs are best enjoyed with alcohol, but there is a slight lack of electricity at many London shows. This recent Gorillaz review of the project’s O2 Arena show perhaps sums it up best…
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Many of the city's best venues have already been demolished.
London’s historic reputation as a global capital for music has long been firmly established – it’s the city that birthed countless, countless seminal artists.
Yet in recent years the city’s authorities have largely attempted to (literally) cut the ground from under their feet with a spate of venue closures, including some historic names such as The Astoria, which housed important shows by everyone from David Bowie to Manic Street Preachers. With clubs such as fabric recently placed under threat, London recently appointed its first night mayor to oversee fresh measures to protect the global reputation of its night culture.
However this is already too late for some – 43% of music venues in the city closed between 2007 – 2015.
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Some artists can’t get their music heard.
In 2008 the Met Police established a measure called Form 696, which critics argued was a form of racial profiling for live music and club events. It certainly seemed to disproportionately impact on music made and enjoyed by people of colour – even cultural powerhouse the Barbican wasn’t immune to this, when pressure from police caused the cancellation of a grime-flavoured Just Jam event in 2014.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered a review into the practise, and following an internal discussion the Met Police decided to scrap Form 696.
But what will be put in its place? Clubs such as DSTRKT are alleged to operate a racist door policy, while Croydon’s Dice Bar claim local police told them to ban bashment being played in the club. Even with Form 696 placed to one side London still has work to do.
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It’s too quiet.
Noise laws are put in place so that everyone in the community can get along; sure, we want to go to gigs, but not everyone does, and that’s fine – it’s their choice, after all.
At times, though, it can feel as though the pendulum has swung the other way. Venues are placed under pressure by local residents, while outdoor shows have strict limits placed on volume. Victoria Park and Hyde Park shows are famously strict, with the latter’s muffled sound gaining the ire of fans.
Indeed, superstars aren’t even immune – when Bruce Springsteen played Hard Rock Calling back in 2012 he invited Sir Paul McCartney out for the encore, only for his mic to be switched off. The duo’s crime? Stepping over their curfew by seconds.
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Want to improve live music? Independent Venue Week returns early next year - full details HERE.
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