Following on from the Venue Surveys, which prompted this thread on LiveJournal, I’ve been thinking more about the Carling Academy and what’s going to happen to it when the area around Dale End is redeveloped. Plans are still sketchy (the page on BCC’s site is somewhat old) but it’s going to happen, probably in the next couple of years.
What’s struck me is not that the Academy needs to be saved – it’s in dire need of a gutting at the very least – but that Birmingham needs a venue of that size in order to have a vibrant live music scene. It was pointed out in the comments that the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton fulfills this criteria and that Brummies are just being blinkered in not seeing it as part of the tapestry, but if we’re looking at the West Midlands Conurbation as a whole is one venue really enough?
More food for thought is this post on the Long Tail blog noting that as sales of recorded music fall, attendance at gigs is on the rise, at least in the States.
“the one thing that you can’t digitize and distribute with full fidelity is a live show. That’s scarcity economics. No wonder the average price for a ticket was $61 last year, up 8% — in an era when digital products are commodities, there’s a premium on experience. No surprise that bands are increasingly giving away their recorded music as marketing for their concerts, which offer something no MP3 can match.”
The live music scene does seem to be pretty healthy in Birmingham at the moment, at least from my perspective and certainly when compared to the late 1990s when the Academy wasn’t there. City planner-types often talk about landmark buildings and destinations having a knock-on effect on the surrounding area and the Academy is one of these. Would the Barfly have moved here if the Academy group hadn’t proved it worthwhile? Would seemingly every other pub in Digbeth be turning into a music venue without the corporate behemoth to kick against?
Live music is a growth area for Birmingham. While improving medium sized venues is to be applauded we really need some reassurance that a 2-3000 capacity venue is part of the big plan, whether or not it’s sponsored by lager.
More on this as it develops.