Despite the Drum & Bass scene booming in 2019, the UK club scene is still struggling to maintain a foothold.
There are many factors behind why this is the case, and it’s time to look into those factors. And to find out the impact that label nights and their interchangeable one-off events are having on the rave scene.
We’ve heard it many times, how UK clubs are getting shut down. With spotlight clubs such as Fabric, Rainbow, The Hacienda & Bagleys to name a few. They’re all examples of nightclubs which were forced to close their doors (albeit rather briefly in the case of Fabric). It’s already known that the popularly cited reasons for this are, high rental prices attached to the venues, the eagerness of struggling councils to land a more concrete investment by creating properties and a few other reasons. But I want to discuss another factor which plays a vital role. That is the rise of the modern label night.
The nightlife of London, Manchester, Bristol, and many other towns and cities is an abundance of events of labels all jostling for ticket sales wherever they can get them. The rise of social media has also been an aspect of this paradigm shift. Suddenly raves are so easily accessible online, and punters are presented with so many options that the easiest option, has been for labels to take over a club for one night and then enjoy the breathing space of going somewhere else the next.
That’s where the problems come in…
When the nightlife becomes less about the venues and spaces themselves, and more about the traveling events that might hang their hat there for one night. It becomes a lot harder to establish a community that keeps people coming through the doors regularly. Back in the 90s to 00s, there was a slew of homegrown venues that became the spiritual home for certain genres simply from being where regular genre nights were held. Goldie for example candidly talks about the significance of Blue Note in Shoreditch and its fundamental role in the forging of Drum and Bass as we know today.
The lack of defined places where the music can emanate from could also have repercussions when it comes to the music itself too. Without a clear community that can gather around specific spaces, it can be very difficult for new artists to develop and to find the traction that can take them forward into becoming better-established musicians.
Personally, I was lucky enough to see quite the perfect scenario play out in the Netherlands. I spent a year living in the industrial town of Eindhoven. Which for a city that is nowhere near the size of London, or even places such as Leeds or even Coventry for that matter, has an incredible nightlife.
When I lived there I discovered that the nightlife revolves around specific underground music clubs as opposed to specific nights. The genres stayed the same night-by-night despite the wide variety of DJs.
In my time of living there, there were two great success stories merged out of this setup.
The first is about a young DJ called Sander. Sander, who was playing frequently at a weekly underground Techno club on the outskirts of town, pooled the talent from other producers and DJs to form a regular Techno night called ‘Machine’. Machine grew and gained a lot of popularity, which led to it being mentioned on the local news.
The second saw a small D&B and Dubstep night called Nox, go from playing in a small bar in the city center, to only 2 years later, having a large enough local following to hold its first-day festival (still in Eindhoven). With the likes of London Elektricity, A.M.C, Turno and Lenzman all on the bill.
The point being; although it is great to travel around, visit different clubs and places to see big lineups. Think about the difference your contribution might make to a local club putting on a small-town event with a local lineup. All big things have small beginnings and despite it being harder than ever to make those beginnings, who knows, maybe next week you might opt out of a £25 ticket to a large label event and instead support a grassroots event at your local club. Perhaps then, maybe in a few years when it may possibly become the biggest event in the scene, you’ll be telling all of your friends how ‘I was there’.