top of page

What I learnt from grassroots music venues.

This week I look at grassroots music venues and the Peer Support Group experience, and reflect on what I learnt from this community.

In today’s blog I take a brief excursion from my usual exploration of research surrounding mental health and musicians. In a way, this is a continuation of this area as it does shine a particular light on the sociological impact surrounding mental health and the stressors of running a grassroots music venue. Of course, firstly, it goes without saying, without these smaller venues we don’t have anywhere for musicians to play or develop their art. This may not matter to the consumer, the profiteer or those on the periphery of musical artistry but it matters deeply to me! Without these smaller grassroots venues, young musicians will not have the opportunities afforded to me when I was developing my craft. As a clinician I also see the psychological impact surrounding the decimation of these venues therefore it would be unethical and inauthentic of me to have any other position than activism, challenge and regret.

My experience facilitating a peer group for grassroots music venue operators and staff, made this struggle even clearer as I was able to immerse myself alongside the resilient venue operators openly expressing their concerns and difficulties of running these small grassroots communities. When I say communities, this is a crucial and under-emphasised component of these endeavours. They are not just places to host an artist and a crowd, they are hubs of belonging, meaning and inclusion. Places where all the people who don’t quite fit in can feel at home as they discover both themselves and their tribe. Places to exist free from prejudice, judgement or the pressures of normality. As I witness the ever-increasing divide between the big glossy super structure venues, the immense profit of the big industrial agents and the crushing lowering of digital income, I feel huge concern. I feel concern for an industry that allowed me to flourish and to find my own meaning and hope at a time when musicking was valued and existed in a greater spread of fairness and investment.

The peer group reminded me of the importance of these venues and the experiences they provide. Despite all odds, here was this group of people struggling on a weekly basis to keep the bills paid to prop up these community hubs of musicking passion. Hitting wall after wall from a host of issues yet maintaining their cultural vision with a thread bare courage and vital action. It felt both intense and heartening to be with these purveyors of authenticity and cultural commitment. Despite this, another part of me felt scared, what if, what if, what if these venues go under. What’s left, the big venues, the big agents, the big digital music people. Then what. Down goes the grit, the grassroots, the nucleus of a musician’s creative legacy. What will we be left with? Just the art that is pushed onto us!

As an end note, use it or lose it! Go and support these hives of realness or be beholden to the sterility of the big players where profit is placed way before the emergence of the glorious mess of musicking creativity.

The Peer Support Group was provided by Tonic Rider in partnership with Music Venue Trust and Music Minds Matter.

For more information about Music Venue Trust, please visit


Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.


bottom of page