Taken straight from the press release announcing the event’s US debut, “Independent Venue Week is a seven-day celebration of small music venues and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them, week in, week out.” You can think of it (as many people have in the five years that it’s been established in the UK) as a Record Store Day-esque celebration of independently-owned music venues throughout vibrant local music communities, bringing all aspects of the industry together to shine a light on the importance of the communities they continue to serve.
Ahead of the event’s inaugural launch in the States (with a date in Dallas to match), I was able to chat with Rev. Moose, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Marauder, the group in charge of producing and promoting the American leg of the event from scratch.
Dawood: First I just kind of want you to talk about Independent Venue Week in your own words, and the decision-making process behind bringing it from the UK to the States.
Moose: Independent Venue Week has been pretty successful for the last five years in the UK, and that’s been its home iteration. It was launched out of London by a woman called Sybil Bell, and she and I have been friends for many years. We’ve been talking about how to bring it over to the US, and finally around a year ago we realized that the fifth anniversary was coming up for the UK and it would be a perfect time to launch it in the US. So, I chatted with everybody else at Marauder and said “Hey, if this is going to happen, we’re the ones to do it.” We committed in January and made the public announcement that we were going to be all in, and venues started coming out of the woodwork to be a part of it. Artists have been really supportive about it, and we’re just hoping to be able to support the community that, generally speaking, could use a little support.
Dawood: So, this is sort of a double celebration, the inaugural US Independent Venue Week and the fifth anniversary of the UK Independent Venue Week?
Moose: Yeah, so the timing for the two different events (meaning the UK and the US version) are specific to complement relative quiet periods within the clubs’ calendars. What we’re trying to do, by picking the middle of the summer (in addition to there being a nice Independence Day pun) is to try to give people a reason to go into the clubs in a week where they might not go out otherwise. Touring bands and clubs in the summer particularly can sometimes have a more difficult time trying to draw, because there are other things you can do during the summer. You know, go outside and hang out with the family.
Dawood: Or, stay inside where it’s not 100 degrees like it is in Texas.
Moose: Yeah it’s brutal, brutal but I promise you that the lineup this year is worth a little heat stroke.
Dawood: Is this something that Marauder has done, at least on this scale, in the past?
Moose: I don’t think anybody’s done something like this before. The fact that we’re essentially building a community of community-based small businesses is a pretty bold endeavor. Marauder’s core business practices are that we’re essentially an artist development firm, and we’re very music-centric in how we build these things out. So, it did make sense for us on an ethical level, and also just the way we function as a company. We help build things, and in regard to Independent Venue Week, we’re helping build that but we’re also helping to build these independently-owned rooms and spaces across the country in giving them a little bit more voice within their market.
Dawood: As a promotions company, or as an artist development company, what have you guys learned throughout this process?
Moose: I think that it’s nice to get a reminder, when you’re trying to do something where the core tenant of it is to support something good, that you’re not alone and that people do tend to support good things. When we originally made the announcement, and made the public commitment that we were doing it, we really didn’t know what kind of response we would get from the community. From the venues, from the bands, from their agents and record labels, and it’s been overwhelmingly positive just with our very focused rollout plan. We’re blessed that Chuck D is helping us spread the word a bit by being our honorary artist ambassador for this year, and this follows Colin Greenwood from Radiohead as the first ambassador in the UK, and they’ve gone on to have everyone from Frank Turner and Adrian from Portishead, along with a handful of others that have helped out over the years. I really do think that the thing that we’ve learned is what we all like to believe to begin with, which is that if you do something good, good people will come and support you. It’s nice to actually see that happening too.
Dawood: Since this is the first time this particular event has been launched in the States, what differences have you or the UK team noticed in event planning for here versus over there?
Moose: Well, we’re modeling the US launch largely off of how the UK launched. This year we’re working with 20 different venues across 20 different cities, and we’re only doing one show for each venue across the entire week. That’s the same way that the UK started, and I feel like it’s a good opportunity to introduce it to the communities. The local communities, the music industry, the people that would normally talk about this two or three weeks in advance. Just to say “Look, we did this, and now we’re going to do it bigger.” From Year 1 to Year 2 in the UK, I think they went from 17 shows to about 200 different shows, and that’s a market the size of the UK. For us in the US, we’re looking at that as our kind of growth model. If we can go from 20 different shows this year to ten times that next year, then what are we going to need to do internally to make sure we can deliver? I think that a lot of that is going to be thanks to our sponsors, and this year we were very fortunate right out the gate to have Eventbrite come on board as our ticketing sponsor. They’ve been great, and they’ve been huge champions of the work that we’re doing. Songtrust has come on board as well, as another founding partner. You always see when you go to these events, people are up there thanking the sponsors and stuff like that, but truly this wouldn’t happen without the generosity of people like the ones that are at Eventbrite and Songtrust.
Dawood: So as soon as it was announced, people were interested and on board?
Moose: Oh, it was fantastic. We sent a press release out and kind of crossed our fingers, and had people emailing us back saying “I’ve been following this in the UK, it’s great to see it coming to the US, we want to be involved, sign us up.” Not that you can necessarily compare one room to another, but I think that a lot of music fans have their loyal spaces within their own communities, and it was the places that have been around forever that have really earned their place within the lore of their communities. These were the ones who were reaching out to us and asking to be involved, and I feel that having places like Deep Ellum Art Co, and 9:30 Club in DC, and The Crocodile in Seattle, and Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, these are legendary spaces and they’re excited to be involved. It’s not like we’re twisting arms.
Dawood: What was the curation process for both the artists and the venues for this event?
Moose: Because it’s the first year, we really worked with these venues to let them book a show that they feel is most representative of their space. Some of them had touring bands coming through town that made sense, and others put together bills that were customized specifically to give a little more attention to the evening. I feel that our role as a loudspeaker isn’t necessarily going to be to produce every single one of these shows. Certainly we’re open to it in the future, as far as new opportunities go and the name of the event carries a little bit more weight to the average fan, but our role is really to support what these rooms are already doing. To give them a little bit more of a presence on a national level and let other people know that you have a choice where you spend your dollars when you go out at night, and if you spend them at this room in particular, it’s going to be appreciated.
Dawood: What hope do you have for the artists and venues alike for participating in this collaboration? What are you hoping they’ll take away from the experience?
Moose: I think the real difference between being an independent venue and perhaps having corporate ownership is that, if something goes wrong, you don’t really have other resources to go to. You sort of look internally, go to the bank accounts, you do whatever it is you can do to be able to keep the lights on for tomorrow. That could be anything from the liquor distributor showing up two days late, or there’s a fire in the coat check and you have to close the place down for three weeks to renovate. Whatever the case may be, these are small businesses at their core. They’re fun, they’re entertaining, and we have a world of memories that come from these, but they’re also very fragile. I hope that if one thing is gotten out of this, it’s that this community has each other, and that there are other people going through and struggling with the same daily issues that, if supported by one another, it’s better for the artistic community. It’s better for the culture of these neighborhoods, and overall it grows people like you and me into somewhat more productive adults.
Dawood: I’ve been following some stories about the UK Independent Venue Week since I heard it was coming to the United States, and I’ve seen some people compare it to the idea of Record Store Day. It’s the idea that you’re promoting and supporting local music or independent record stores for the good of the community. However, some would say that in recent years, Record Store Day has taken a sort of darker and somewhat capitalist-centric turn, more filled with vultures who are trying to resell exclusives, or people who don’t genuinely care about the community and are just trying to participate for whatever street cred they can get for it. Do you think there are key differences between RSD and IVW that would prevent that sort of malignant growth within the community?
Moose: I think it’s important to also recognize that, even with the negative flack that Record Store Day has gotten for all the reasons that you’ve said, it has still brought more people to a brick and mortar store in recent years. Even though there are things that everybody would like to see be more “fair to the aesthetic”, the core mission is ultimately to be able to keep these places in business. For us with Independent Venue Week, it doesn’t matter if it’s Justin Bieber, or if it’s an unsigned band that’s playing their first show because it really is about playing these rooms and keeping these rooms open. I think it’s important to understand, when you’re talking about independent venues, it doesn’t mean a small dark club all the time. A lot of these venues can be these big theaters, or these large halls. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people being able to attend these shows. Some of these independently-owned spaces are wildly successful and, for one reason or another, they’ve been able to be the voice in their market as opposed to some of the more corporate-owned spaces. However, that’s generally the exception and not the rule. When you’re talking about supporting independently-owned venues, there’s this implied line that you’re going to be supporting independently-owned everything. That’s a difficult line to toe but I also feel that, in general, if you’re trying to do something with good intentions that, hopefully, people will realize that those intentions are good and everything else will fall into place.
Dawood: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, I’m beyond excited that the inaugural launch of IVW is coming to Dallas.
Moose: Of course, and I’m really excited about the room that we’re working with in Dallas too. The show that Deep Ellum Art Co put together, the fact that it’s such a special performance with LEV playing and the premier party of “Smart Cookies” with Jenni Tooley, it’s just going to be a really cool evening all around. It’s nice to have the show be such a special event as part of what we feel is such a special event. I think everyone has a point of pride to be involved with this.