Edinburgh may appoint ‘night mayor’ to save dying music scene

The Edinburgh City Council is expected to go forward with plans to appoint the city’s first ‘night mayor’, following last week’s council elections.

This new figure will be responsible for coordinating between venues and the government to revitalise Edinburgh’s music scene.

They will also advise on the development of new venues, promote Edinburgh’s musical heritage and act as the first point of contact for industry professionals with complaints.

This initiative also aims to target noise complaints and regulatory barriers that prevent venues from succeeding economically.

The University of Edinburgh conducted a ‘Live Music Census’ which found that 44 per cent of musicians felt that noise restrictions affected their gigs.

Dr. Matt Brennan from the Edinburgh College of Art’s Reid School of Music is quoted on the University website saying, “While not an acute crisis, there are certain restrictions on live music in Edinburgh that has put a handbrake on the scene.”

“Changing the inaudibility clause would be a practical way of helping what is an economically and culturally important part of the city to thrive.”

However, appointing a ‘night mayor’ may not solve the problem.

In 2014 Edinburgh City Council created a taskforce called ‘Music is Audible’ with the purpose of addressing complaints from musicians and promoters about excessive regulations.

Despite this attempt, members of the music industry continued to express their concerns.

Young Fathers manager Tim Brinkhurst told Edinburgh Evening News in 2015, “Amazingly, with so much focus on this issue, the council are still implementing ridiculous practices that badly need to be improved.”

Brinkhurst also offered an alternative explanation to the problem.

He told Edinburgh Evening News, “The music scene in Edinburgh has always struck me as incredibly unconnected.”

“This is partly due to the mood of a city that likes to keep its curtains closed and its mouth shut – unlike Glasgow which delights in flashing and spraffing at every opportunity.”

“The interpretation of laws governing nuisance and the enforcement of other connected by-laws reflects this mood.”

It has also been suggested that the decline in Edinburgh’s music scene is as a result of gentrification.

Venues that once facilitated a lively post-punk scene near ECA like Tap o’ Lauriston and Cas Rock have been transformed through new building projects, and the nearby Picture House was turned into a Wetherspoons just this year.

The Leith Depot, which has been open for just a year and a half, has quickly become a cultural hub with monthly nights for new comedians and a consistent lineup of diverse artists such as Jess Aslan and The Reverse Engineer.

However, just a few years after opening its doors the new venue is scheduled to be demolished with Fruitmarket Gallery planning to start work on housing and retail units on the site in 2019.

The University of Edinburgh survey identified ‘at least’ 267 distinct venues with capacities for live music within city limits.

Whether navigating regulatory barriers will be enough to protect them is yet to be seen.

ugh new building projects, and the nearby Picture House was turned into a Wetherspoon Club just this year.

The Leith Depot, which has been open for just a year and a half, has quickly become a cultural hub with monthly nights for new comedians and a consistent lineup of diverse artists such as Jess Aslan and The Reverse Engineer.

However, just a few years after opening its doors the new venue is scheduled to be demolished with Fruitmarket Gallery planning to start work on housing and retail units on the site in 2019.

The University of Edinburgh survey identified ‘at least’ 267 distinct venues with capacities for live music within city limits.

Whether navigating regulatory barriers will be enough to protect them has yet to be seen.

Image: Henk-Jan van der Klis

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  1. Neil Cooper
    May 18, 2017 - 07:24 PM

    This article is out of date and pretty inaccurate about how things currently stand, I’m afraid. The ‘inaudibility clause’ was changed by Edinburgh Licensing Board in 2016, and you seem to be conflating the experience of Electric Circus, which closed because of retiral and has an amicable arrangement with Fruitmarket, with Leith Depot, which the landlord of the block it’s on has indicated they want to develop into housing. LD and other tenants have already started discussions with CEC and other parties to try and protect the block. The night mayor proposal at a very early stage in discussions, and is more likely to be referred to as a music champion than night mayor. All of the quotes in the article appear to be secondhand and are out of date. The Picture House was bought by Wetherspoons in 2013, and was a commercial arrangement which stemmed from HMV selling off assets to the MAMA Group and them selling to ‘Spoons. Most importantly, Edinburgh’s music scenes are not dying. There is more musical activity in Edinburgh at the moment than there has been in years. I think it’s good that Student is writing about this, but it might have been better to sit down with Matt Brennan and Adam Behr and go through all the work MIA has done since 2014 and not fall prey to the misconception that there’s nothing going on as you seem to have done here. Of course, there are problems with civic will and gentrification, but these are global issues and aren’t exclusive to Edinburgh. One of the things that has been discussed and would have been relevant to mention is the Agent of Change principle, whereby existing venues can be protected from new developments. All of this and more can be found in a report drafted for MIA by the Music Venues Trust which Matt and Adam can point you in the direction of. Agent of Change was written about just the other day in relation to a new hotel being built next to King Tuts in Glasgow, which, like any other city, is under the same threats of gentrification as Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Census was great, but there’s no mention here of the UK Wide live music Census which came out of that and which is currently ongoing. I know this article is meant to be supportive, but please, if you’re going to cover stuff like this please try and be more up to date.

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