Live Music Venue Surveys

New York Howl

Last year Digital Central undertook a survey of live music venues in the West Midlands to try and pinpoint where investment is needed. They questioned 184 people, 141 of whom were audience members with the rest being promoters or performers.

You can download a PDF of the report but here are the conclusions:

The most significant factor was that a high proportion of the respondents (82.3%) felt that the live music venue needed to have a good sound system. Acoustics were also mentioned in relation to
sound in the open question.

The other factors that people felt were most important to a great music venue were that the venue wasn’t too large and that they can see the stage clearly.

Audiences value hearing a wide range of genres from both local and established bands. Venue owners and promoters should play their part in getting the mix right.

Audience members had different views on where their favourite music venues were with over half of responses being unique.

These findings have informed their Music Venue Development Fund where small to medium sized venues can apply for up to £7,500 to make a capital investment in the premises to improve the user experience. There are two round of applications, the first one ending on Wednesday with another on June 29th.

For me the big elephant in the room is what’s going to happen to the Carling Academy when that area is demolished in a couple of years. While it’s not a pretty venue by any stretch (“… basically an empty shell; empty, that is, apart from sticky carpets, sticky handrails, and sticky ceilings.“) it does have an important role. If it’s not replaced or relocated effectively the halo effect on Birmingham’s music scene will be negative.

Serendipitously, Russ of The Communion, a community site with an emphasis on the rock/metal side of things, also did a gig venue survey last year with an emphasis on asking the bands that play in them. The results, in two parts, are here and here and the league table looks like this:

The Actress & Bishop, Birmingham – 80.2%
The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – 79.8%
The Market Tavern, Digbeth, Birmingham – 74%
The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – 69.8%
The Flapper & Firkin, Birmingham – 68.8%
Scruffy Murphy’s, Birmingham – 68.4%
The Jug Of Ale, Moseley, Birmingham – 66%
The Medicine Bar, Digbeth, Birmingham – 59.4%
Edwards No. 8, Birmingham – 56.8%
The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – 52.8%
The Barfly, Birmingham – 50%
Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – 49%
The Bar Academy, Birmingham, – 47.8%
The Academy 2, Birmingham, – 43.4%
The Academy, Birmingham – 42%
Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 41.6%

Digital Central have a weblog which is good to see.

Russ is no longer involved with The Communion but has an active blog of his own which, amongst other things, covers the many gigs and events he goes to.

Photo of The New York Howl at the Jug of Ale in Moseley taken by myself.


  1. leejordan

    I too share those concerns about the future of the Carling Academy(s), those three stages are a very important part of live music in Birmingham, without it Birmingham’s marketing team would have a headache on their hands when promoting the city to young people. The niche and sometimes not so niche and very mainstream acts would bypass Birmingham without those clubs being in existence and it would be a crime for the council to not realise how important the clubs are.

    Just wondering what action music fans could take to ensure our voices are heard on this matter, if the Glee club was going to be demolished without being rehoused there would be a massive uproar from the people of Birmingham and I see no difference with the Academy, it has to stay.

  2. I think you Brummie sorts can be very much like Londoners at times. There’s a 2,000-and-odd capacity venue (that I certainly see as being) superior to The Academy in every possible way just down the road a bit in Wolves, but going out of the holy borders seems to be an unacceptable idea for so many people.

    I’ll have to admit that I don’t know anything about marketing, so you both may or may not have a point with that. I’ve no idea. I, however, will not shed a tear when The Echoey Concrete Box disappears.

  3. Tim

    It’s not so much about leaving Birmingham – I’ve probably been to more gigs at either the Robin 2 or the Civic/Wulfren complex than the Academy – but those venues do have drawbacks for people travelling by public transport (despite the excellent Metro links) who have to travel via the City Centre. In order to make the last bus out of Birmingham, I have frequently had to leave the venue before or during the encore. On occasion when the artist has been late starting, before the end of the regular set. Given the choice, I’d sooner watch bands at venues where I know I can stay to the end of the set…

  4. Ah, now, that is a very good point. I’ve had to leave prior to an encore numerous times at The Civic, but have come to accept this as ‘a problem’ to be set against everything else good and bad about the two venues.

    If that is the main consideration for someone (and I can see why it might be) then yes, there would be no two ways about this. For me, it’s “One of the many problems with The Civic” as opposed to “One of the many, many, many problems with The Academy.”

    Interestingly, it’s easier to get back to Birmingham Centre (last train to New Street is 11:15. Mind you, you do need to get over to the train station) than where I live (last 126 is just after eleven, and that’s my only option).

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