Silencing Music

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 27, 2009 Ed Cartoon

A plague has hit London’s music scene and thriving venues, which once housed local musicians, are dying out.

After The Embassy, The Wick and Salt Lounge closed this past year, The Alex P. Keaton â€" a central venue for arts and local music â€" was hit next just last week. Despite The APK’s popularity in the community, the venue’s closing was due to a number of factors out of its control.

With London’s established student party scene that caters to the Western Bubble, music venues off of Richmond Row are often under the radar. Students are more inclined to blow off money on booze and a guaranteed good night at top 40 clubs downtown, rather than on a “pay what you can” fee which goes directly to musicians at smaller venues.

An obvious factor has to do with the economic downturn. The bar/restaurant business is tough enough as it is; the recession makes it even tougher for music-based venues to succeed if the reliance is on food and drinks, and not ticket sales.

Despite The Keaton’s altruistic atmosphere, which welcomed local acts, speakers and student-run events, its ambitious model was unsustainable. Venues need to focus on one direction to generate income.

But the nature of these alternative venues is usually not about making profit. Part of its charm and appeal is its desire to cultivate music and arts and encourage creativity in a city that yearns for it. Bands and musicians are a valuable asset, especially if a city wants to distinguish itself from bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal.

The question that remains is how is London’s local music scene going to survive without these venues?

The growth of the London Ontario Live Arts festival proves that people still care about having an active community. The business of Victoria Park and the streets of downtown every September makes music lovers hopeful that shows can draw in crowds. By including an equal number of local acts and bigger bands, more London musicians can get the exposure they need.

Musicians must also be creative in finding more interesting outlets to play. This year, people witnessed a Beatles tribute band play on a rooftop as well as inside cafés and organized house gatherings open to the public. Searching for alternative spaces to hold small concerts, such as laundromats and churches, can generate interest.

However, holding shows at these venues may be expensive, especially for new bands. More support from London City Council and potentially Western’s University Students’ Council is required to fund these acts, which would benefit the city’s image in return.

The London music scene has been on a roller coaster of emotions, both optimistic as well as discouraging. Western students and locals alike must realize that the culture of music in a city is crucial; otherwise, people will be packing their bags and making music elsewhere.

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