by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
• Created: August 8, 2017

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While in Nashville for the Summer NAMM Show, I was able to carve out 20 minutes and meet up with a buddy – a Nashville local – for coffee.

In the course of our brief catch-up session, talk turned to venues he and I had gone to in the past which have shuttered their doors (he may have lived there for a few years, but I’ve been going to the annual NAMM gathering along the banks of the Cumberland since 2002, with the notable exceptions of the Indianapolis and Austin years). The Muse, City Hall, Blue Sky Court, and the Stone Fox have all closed down in the past decade or so.

Talk of clubs and other spots for live music closing in cities and towns around the country isn’t really new. In my own hometown (Boston), I’ve watched plenty of places I used to frequent and play – places which I once assumed would be around forever (The Rat, Abbey Lounge, TT The Bear’s, The Linwood, Bunratty’s) – give in to ever-increasing rents and declining public interest in attending live performances.

But if places are having trouble staying open in “Music City,” that feels somehow more dire A major economic impact study on the music industry in New York City from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment was published this past spring. Among the findings: 20 percent of NYC’s smaller venues had closed within the last 15 years. The report cited as the major obstacles to long-term success of such operations in today’s climate as being, “the rising real estate prices, zoning pressures, increasing operating costs and financial risks, noise complaints, and licensing problems.”

The malady isn’t limited to the U.S., either. A November 2016 article in Metro reported that, “In the last decade, 40 percent of grassroots music venues in London have shut down, and unfortunately this pattern is echoed in many other towns and cities across the country.”

Why do I care about all of this? Why should you?

Well, odds are if you’re involved in MI, you actually, y’know, enjoy listening to music and going to shows. So there’s that angle. Then there’s the fact that if there are no places to play out live, then fewer bands will bother forming (meaning they won’t be shopping to buy gear at your store) and folks won’t be going out to see bands, becoming inspired to acquire and learn an instrument (meaning they won’t be shopping at your store, either).

But there are less ominous angles out there to embrace.

As anyone who was at the recent Summer NAMM gathering can attest, it’s not as if it’s particularly difficult to track down live music in Nashville. In fact, an article in The Tennessean last April postulated that the city’s live music scene may be “oversaturated.” Additionally, the reality is that businesses do close and businesses do open. A music venue (or restaurant, furniture store, car dealer, et cetera) that’s been around for 50-plus years is the exception, not the rule – and that’s always been the case.

Nonetheless, smaller local venues truly are the lifeblood of the music industry. It’s where future legends take their first steps and where future hobbyists first get the itch to join the race. Keeping a mindful eye towards the support and preservation of these businesses is good for the local communities they inhabit – and good for (our) business.

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