The legendary Bath venue Moles has closed its doors for the last time after 45 years.
The venue had played host to the likes of Ed Sheeran, Blur, Fatboy Slim, The Killers, Radiohead, The Smiths and IDLES since it opened in 1978 and was one of the last surviving venues from Oasis‘ first tour.
Moles announced it would be shutting with immediate effect in a statement on Facebook, in which it cited the cost of living crisis and “huge rent rates, along with massively increased costs on everything from utilities to stock” as reasons for its closure. All future events at the venue have been cancelled.
“We’ve weathered many things over the years, including a fire and a pandemic in the last 10 years alone, but this cost of living crisis has crippled the grassroots music sector. Although that is not the only problem, it has accentuated it,” the statement began. “Huge rent rates, along with massively increased costs on everything from utilities to stock, are all factors. This has been compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis.
“We are not the only grassroots music venue to close in the past year. Over 120 other venues have closed as well, which is over 15% of the sector. Places that mean as much to others as Moles means to us.”
It went on: “Meanwhile, the live sector at arena level and above is having a bumper year with record profits. While all these venues have closed, 7 new arenas are being built that will generate hundreds of millions a year. There needs to be a major shake-up of the live sector, with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent. This is something that Music Venue Trust has been saying for years; maybe now the industry will listen.
“We were one of the last venues remaining from the first Oasis tour. Of the estimated 366 grassroots venues Ed Sheeran played before making it big, 150 have closed. This decimation of the sector has to stop now. Unless bands have these stages to play, where will they hone their talents and become these huge artists that fill these arenas and stadiums around the world?
“But venues like Moles are also more than just talent incubators; they are also so important to communities. People meet their future partners in them, they make friends for life, they discover their new favorite band and sing their hearts out while forgetting their troubles for a few hours. And sometimes they can just be somewhere they feel safe and not alone. The importance of these venues can never be overstated. We hope that whoever takes the building over will keep it as a live music venue as without it, Bath will have lost so much.”
The statement concluded by asking supporters to “join us in raising a glass to the last 45 years of glorious music, good times, friends, and memories.” It added: “And thank you to everyone who has ever worked here; we achieved a lot, and it couldn’t have been done without them. And all the bands and DJs that have played, and all of you who came down, bought a ticket, and danced and sang, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
“Today, we are heartbroken, but the good memories will last forever, and for that, we will always be grateful.”
Today, we are heartbroken to announce that Moles, in its current form, is closing, effective immediately.
— MolesBath (@MolesBath) December 5, 2023
The Music Venue Trust released a statement of own, in which it described Moles as “a casualty of a music industry that’s lost touch”.
“GMVs, the lifeblood of creativity, are in crisis! 15% of venues closed, 84 in CRISIS. The Music Venue Trust SCREAMS for industry support! The Pipeline Investment Fund needs EVERY ticket at arenas & stadiums to contribute £1, ensuring venues like Moles can nurture future artists.”
CEO Mark Davyd added: “Venues like Moles are going out of business, while nurturing artists that generate millions.” This is a betrayal of the roots that birthed festival and arena headliners.
“France mandates a 3.5% levy on major live music events to support grassroots. TODAY, we DEMAND the UK government do the same. Unless the music industry wakes up NOW, legislation is the only lifeline.”
🚨Devastating news🚨 @MolesBath , a 45-year beacon of live music, declares insolvency, PERMANENTLY closing its doors! Rising costs & the cost-of-living crisis crushed this legendary venue. ALL future events CANCELED!
— Music Venue Trust (@musicvenuetrust) December 5, 2023
In a press release, the MVT added that the closure of Moles spelled particularly bad news for the grassroots sector because it had a reputation in the organisation as “one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country”.
The organisation has written to the government to plea for further action to be taken for structural change to keep the industry afloat. It is calling for a compulsory levy to be introduced – either by the industry or through government legislation – on tickets for music events above 5,000 capacity, which would then be reinvested into grassroots music venues.
Enter Shikari had voluntarily launched a similar initiative for their forthcoming tour in February, where they donated £1 from every ticket sold to the Music Venue Trust.
If the live music industry won’t act in its our best interests to prevent the closure of spaces like @MolesBath then they must be compelled to do so.
I am calling for immediate action from across the political spectrum to introduce a compulsory levy on arena and stadium tickets.
— Mark Davyd (@markdavyd) December 5, 2023
Indeed, the band’s frontman Rou Reynolds took the opportunity during his keynote speech at the MVT’s Venues Day event in October to call for solidarity and progress in securing the future of the UK’s grassroots music venues – urging fans and gig spaces to “show the Tory government and the landlord c**ts that our culture of live music is not for sale”.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the UK is set to lose 10 per cent of its grassroots music venues in 2023.
A MVT report from January warned that grassroots gig spaces in the UK are “going over a cliff” – shutting off the pipeline of future talent without urgent government action and investment from new large arenas.