One of the UK’s best-known grassroots music venues, where acts including Oasis, Radiohead, the Smiths and Ed Sheeran cut their teeth, is to close after 45 years, while the 26-year-old music festival Nozstock is also coming to an end – both due to pressures from the cost of living crisis.
Moles, in Bath, has permanently closed its doors with immediate effect, and with all future events cancelled. Its co-owners said it had been a “horrendous” decision that they were forced to make. “Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue,” said venue co-owner Tom Maddicott.
“It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take for our team, the staff, the local community and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music. But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close.”
Maddicott called for a major shake-up of the live industry, and for the big players to support the grassroots to “secure that pipeline of talent”. He said: “Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”
Venues like these all over the country are going out of business. Unless it gets serious, the music industry will face catastrophic failure
Music Venue Trust
Since opening its doors in 1978, Moles has earned a legendary status hosting and championing live music. The 220-capacity venue on George Street in Bath has hosted early shows for major artists such as the Killers, Pulp, Fatboy Slim, Blur, the Cure, Eurythmics, Wolf Alice and Idles. Manic Street Preachers were signed after playing a gig there.
The news of its closure comes after the Music Venue Trust (MVT), the industry body that represents the UK’s grassroots venues, warned they were in the middle of a “full-blown crisis”. The charitable organisation said 125 venues have been forced to close in the past 12 months, representing the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9m of income for musicians and £59m in lost direct economic activity.
A number of new venues have opened, leaving about 835 venues linked to the trust – a net 12% drop over the course of this year. Those that remain made an average 0.2% profit margin in 2022 – “as close to nothing as makes no difference,” according to charity chief Mark Davyd.
Davyd added: “Today is a very sad day for our sector. Grassroots music venues like Moles, one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years, have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music.
“Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, while helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry. Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts. Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector, the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development.”
On Tuesday, the Herefordshire music festival Nozstock: The Hidden Valley announced its 2024 event would be its last, bringing a 26-year run to a close. “We love this event and our crew have put everything into helping Nozstock survive and thrive. But after the losses incurred over Covid, straight into a cost-of-living crisis, the financial risk is becoming too great,” organisers said in a statement.
Reacting to the announcement, John Rostron, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said: “This should serve as yet another alarm bell warning of the perilous situation that many in this cultural sector are facing.”
The music and extreme sports festival Nass announced in November that it would not return in 2024, with organisers also citing “the cost-of-living crisis and an increase in operational costs”.