Between the constant stream of Michael Bublé over in-store radios, carol singers on your doorstep, and Spotify’s annual round-up playlists confirming that you listen to more cheese than you might want to admit, music is a constant feature of the Christmas period.
Music’s power to define an experience is, of course, not just limited to Christmas.
Whether it’s your annual summer festival or the band you see in your local pub on a Thursday open mic, live music plays a fundamental and pivotal role in our lives. As anyone who has found themselves randomly dancing with strangers at gigs or bellowing out the national anthem before a sporting event can attest, live music has a remarkable power to act as a unifying human experience.
Yet Britain has lost a third of its music venues over the last decade and legendary places such as The Borderline in Soho and The Roadhouse in Manchester have shut their doors. This trend – driven largely by tougher licensing laws and the prioritisation of residential development – is eroding the cultural fabric and musical heritage of our towns and cities.
The property industry has a crucial role to play in reversing this trend, and with retail and offices facing an uncertain future thanks to the twin revolutions of e-commerce and co-working, culture could become the new anchor tenant. As Ken Dytor of Urban Catalyst noted in a Property Week column, cultural uses, including music venues, have the power to unlock regeneration and underpin mixed-use schemes.
Legal and General’s recent report ‘This Must Be The Place’ with music consultancy Sound Diplomacy, outlined a set of recommendations to public and private bodies to ensure that cultural development is prioritised as highly as housing, workspace, and infrastructure. Engagement from all parties will be fundamental in ensuring that the decline of music and culture across the UK is tackled.
For example, collaboration with public bodies will be important if we want to make our future cities liveable for the long term, and that means places to enjoy as well as affordable housing, decent transport links, and enough employment opportunities.
The private sector can provide the funding and development expertise to ensure that schemes with culture at their heart become deliverable, even if some public subsidy or more favourable commercial terms for cultural occupiers is required.
Ultimately, music and culture are part of what makes our towns and cities great places to live. It’s crucial that we start planning, developing and building the places and spaces that ensure music and culture can thrive.