Good news this week for small music venues when the Agent of Change Bill moved to a second reading on 19 January. Very briefly, what the bill means is that developers are not allowed to build housing next to a music venue and then complain they have a music venue next door!
Daft as this may seem, this is what has been happening throughout the UK. Venues that had been adequately soundproofed for their location have been forced to close after complaints about noise from the occupants of new housing built right next door.
Of course, should a venue want to open up in a building, then they are the “agent of change” and would be responsible for any noise issues, but should a developer be the one to move in then they will be responsible for soundproofing the accommodation they build.
Given everything that has been happening in Edinburgh, all this has to be good news should the bill pass, but it would be wrong to think the volume of the music is the only potential problem for venues. They can also find themselves in trouble over the noise as people leave.
But truth be told, when it comes to gigs, often the attendances are so low that this is not an issue.
As commercial venues, those putting on live gigs qualify for no grants whatsoever compared to a not-for-profit theatre or gallery which does. So the tendency these days for young people and students, in particular, to stay in binge-watching TV series rather than be out at small gigs is a threat that should not be underestimated.
Certainly the noise issues that have faced venues throughout the UK have not helped, but probably this change in the behaviour of youngsters is an even bigger threat and one that is hard to reverse.
Another factor that annoys many gig goers is that people now seem to arrange to meet up with friends for a chat but then keep going even when the band is playing. Worryingly what started out as a complaint mainly against younger folk now seems to have spread to others who, many would say, should know better.
Given such problems, some venues are actually closing and becoming flats, and in fact only this week the popular student nightclub Silk in King’s Stables Road announced it was closing as it was to be turned into student flats. So while it has to be a good thing if the Agent of Change Bill is passed, these other issues should not be ignored or venues will continue to become flats for no other reason than commercial viability.