'Vote for music!': London venue podcast host Jeremy Newton on the grassroots sector's manifesto

'Vote for music!': London venue podcast host Jeremy Newton on the grassroots sector's manifesto

With the arrival of the UK general election (July 4), If These Walls Could Talk podcast host Jeremy Newton argues that support for grassroots venues is a key issue for communities.

The Music Venue Trust’s Manifesto For Music includes proposals for a  £1 grassroots investment contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold; a fan-led review to fully examine the long-term challenges to the live music ecosystem; and the agent of change principle in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to be put on a statutory footing at the earliest opportunity.

As he interviews Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd for a new episode of the podcast, the head of agency business at DLMDD explains why voters should investigate the trade body’s election microsite and see which candidates are backing the MVT Manifesto For Music…

The last few weeks have been awash with headlines about new policies and pledges from each of the main political parties. Many of us may be fired up about going out to vote today – but others may not.

Political apathy is easy in a world where it can often feel we’re making enormous efforts for not much gain. Just the other week, new figures emerged showing 40% of young people don’t intend to vote in the general election. 

But if for nothing else – go out and vote for music. You really do have the opportunity to make a difference to the things that matter to you, in your community and in your country, and, if you’re reading this, chances are music is one of those things. 

Let me take you back in time for a moment. The year is 2003, and the sheen of New Labour, along with its eponymous strapline 'Things Can Only Get Better', is dissipating quickly in and amongst a concerning new narrative of Weapons Of Mass Destruction, The Iraq War and Bush and Blair's ill-fated coalition of the willing.

Seduced and somewhat intoxicated by a heady cocktail of A-level history, Das Kapital, Che Guevara t-shirts and teenage idealism, I – along with an estimated 1.5 million other people – took to the streets of London to march against the impending attack on Iraq. One thought was clear: if democracy is a political system that allows the citizens to participate in political decision-making, or to elect representatives to government bodies, then surely what better manifestation of democracy is there than 1.5 million people actively participating to change policy and effect its will on governance.

Job done... Surely.

Absolutely not... as we all know, weeks later missiles were launched on Baghdad.

And so political apathy set in, and over the next 20 years, I have watched from afar, often in a state of bemusement, indifference and helplessness as recessions, Brexit, Trump, pandemics, austerity, Farage and the rest of it have dominated the day-to-day, making it tempting to completely disengage and steer clear of the polling booth. The pervasive thought being that my vote or voice would not make the slightest difference to the outcome on a macro political scale.

What has become apparent to me though, is that my personal sense of citizenship has always been rooted in a sense of community and finding a ‘tribe’ of like-minded people. And music is the place I have found that.

Having had a deep love for music from an early age, and having been involved in many aspects of London’s thriving musical eco-system for longer than I care to remember, this community and circle of friends has always been rooted in a musical setting of some description. Record shops, musical scenes, club nights, community centres, radio stations, festivals and, pertinently for this election, grassroots music venues.

Alongside my DLMDD colleague and dear friend Greg Moore, last year I set up a podcast called If These Walls Could Talk, which celebrates and showcases London’s iconic live music venues.

In less than a year, we have been fortunate enough to record episodes at venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Roundhouse (pictured), The George Tavern and The Water Rats with a host of other legendary spaces in the pipeline. As we have embarked on this journey, there have been some recurring themes that have been applicable to all the venues we have spoken to, rooted in the enormous cultural, societal and even economic value of London’s grassroots live music scene. 

In our most recent episode, we were joined by Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of Music Venue Trust, which acts to protect, secure and improve UK grassroots music venues. 

The Music Venue Trust has a microsite, Vote For Music, which encourages music lovers to write to their local candidates asking them to commit to supporting grassroots music, and then see who has responded with that commitment. And speaking to Mark for If These Walls Could Talk has persuaded me to go out and cast my vote – for music, if for nothing else.

Grassroots music is key for creating the meritocratic, diverse, thriving music industry we all want to see in the future.

Music is a glue: a unifier, something that overcomes division and can be an enormous force for good. Think of the power of Glastonbury to lift the nation’s mood and bind people together. Even Taylor Swift’s Eras tour has dominated headlines and boosted the economy, with the star donating to food banks in every city she has visited.

Music really matters to young people – it’s where so many of us find our tribe and a sense of identity and creative expression.

If you are under 35 and unsure whether to vote this year - listen to Mark speak to us on If These Walls Could Talk, use Vote For Music to find out which candidates deserve your vote, and go out and vote today. 

The future of music is just one thing you can influence by doing so.

Jeremy Newton is head of agency business at sonic branding agency DLMDD, and host of If These Walls Could Talk, which explores the legend behind London’s most iconic music venues.

Subscribe to If These Walls Could Talk here via Apple Podcasts or other podcast platforms. 



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