Julie's Bicycle and EE MUSIC at Venues Day 2015

Venues Day 2015 explored how to support the future of the UK’s vital grassroots music circuit

Held at the iconic Ministry of Sound club in London, Venues Day 2015 was designed especially for the needs of small and medium scale music venues from across the UK, with a range of partners from government, the cultural and music industries joining over 300 music venue owners and managers to explore how to support the future of the UK’s vital grassroots music circuit.

As part of the afternoon's sessions, Chiara from Julie's Bicycle held an EE MUSIC Workshop for interested venues on how they could make savings on energy through efficiency. Discussion focused on how particularly in the UK, investment is prohibitive in an industry that receives close to no subsidy from the government and is often operating at almost no margins - but how understanding your energy use should be part of standard business practice for any venue due to the savings potential.

Photo credit: Derek Bremner

Key Advice Covered in the Workshop:

Analyse and Understand

  • Use the Julie's Bicycle Creative IG Tools to compare your energy use to the ‘average’ as an immediate diagnostic to see if you’re using a lot more energy than normal (could be an indication that you’re paying for someone else’s energy bill, or that you’re leaving a lot of equipment on unnecessarily, etc.)
  • Compare your bills to your energy meter to make sure you’re being charged the correct amount.
  • Track your yearly spend on energy: it’s a core cost of running your business; you should be aware of it and how it changes over time.

Use Power Efficiently

  • It is possible to make 5-30% energy savings through behavioural and management interventions only.
  • Ensure relevant staff have responsibilities for turning equipment and lights on and off (e.g. PA) and that the schedule of things being turned on and off corresponds to when different spaces and equipment are actually in use.
  • Clearly label all power switches in the venue so staff know what turns off where.
  • Equipment should be turned off at sockets where possible – this is also a Health & Safety consideration.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning are the biggest consumers of energy: make sure ventilation and filters are regularly cleaned and maintained.
  • Think about the impact of crowds in performance spaces: no point in heating these up too high if you then have to cool them down an hour later once a room is full. Also take into account your schedule – are you heating your gig room on days when there aren’t shows on?
  • Widen ‘dead bands’ – i.e. the temperature range before heating kicks in and/or a/c or ventilation turns on.
  • Refrigeration is another area of high impact. Turn off bottle fridges – especially if you aren’t open every night. Many venues do also turn off overnight – if you’re worried about fridges using more energy to cool back down again, trial it for a month and compare energy expenditure. Pre-cooling time of a few hours is more than sufficient. Restock at the end of the night if you aren’t turning them off (otherwise you’re expending energy on cooling empty space). You can also invest in fridge timers to automatically turn on/off – but make sure these timings match your hours/days of operation! Work with staff to make sure fridge doors are closed at the end of shifts.
  • One participant mentioned the InnServe InnEnergy device - an intelligent socket for beer and drinks coolers that optimises their energy use.
  • Be wary of sponsored fridges – these do not have to comply to ‘regular’ energy efficiency labelling so you may get a hugely inefficient model. Always ask sponsors for a minimum A+ efficiency rating.
  • LED lighting has a huge energy savings potential – but prioritise replacing lights that are in use all the time (e.g. emergency lighting, toilets, bar lights, house lights, etc). LED stage lighting will have a longer payback period because it are in use less, and are more expensive. There is also the ‘embodied’ environmental cost of their manufacture. But other benefits can include less hot performance spaces and less costs for cooling/ventilation (and an improved audience experience).
  • Not necessarily a huge savings potential in sound – if upgrading PA anyway, best opportunities are in design (speccing to the correct size of the room and laying out to minimise number of speakers needed), and going for switch-mode amplifiers which are reducing in prize (or a product like Flare Audio). Speakers should be vacuumed regularly!

Use Renewable Energy

  • Green tariffs can be more expensive, but can be a good ethical investment as it means your energy is coming from renewable sources. Note that the Big Six have a legal obligation for a certain amount of renewable energy in their energy mix, and may sell this as a premium 'green tariff'. 100% renewable energy providers like Good Energy or Ecotricity on the other hand will invest in additional renewable energy generation capacity – so your investment counts for even more. Julie's Bicycle has just launched a partnership with Good Energy.
  • Solar PV panels will be prohibitively expensive for many smaller venues in the UK (especially as the government has just slashed Feed-In-Tariffs) – though some installers will ‘lease’ your roof space from you – you enter a ‘power purchase agreement’ with them to buy the energy generated at a certain rate, but they cover all costs of installation and maintenance and own the panels. If you are interested in installing a solar power installation, organisations like Good Energy can help you assess whether your roof is right for it.

Communicate and Collaborate:

  • Think about who needs to be involved and who you’re speaking to about what: technical staff, bar staff, freelancers, contractors, incoming productions, suppliers on the role they can play in helping you use less energy.
  • You can speak about what you’re doing as a responsible business to your audiences, local community, local authority.
  • If ever doing public communications around environmental issues, make them people-centric rather than planet-centric and avoid greenwash by being honest
  • Consider the different ways to reach different groups – contracts, induction packs, riders, signage, etc
  • Share experiences and talk about what works/doesn’t work with other venues using forums like the MVA and Venues Day!

Sources of Financing:

  • Enhanced Capital Allowances allow a business to claim 100 per cent first-year capital allowances on qualifying plant and machinery (e.g. energy-saving plant and machinery and water conservation plan and machinery). The business can write off the whole of the capital cost of the investment against the taxable profits of the period in which the investment is made. This includes e.g. high speed hand air dryers, certain types of high efficiency lighting.
  • If you’re participating in the Creative United 1-2 business support programme, investment into energy efficient equipment or upgrades for your venue could be a good area to look into obtaining loan finance, as there will be quantifiable paybacks on energy savings.
  • The Julie’s Bicycle Fit for the Future guide contains a section on funding for capital development in the appendix.
  • An idea from Germany are ‘Club Mobs’ . You can do this in isolation by committing to ringfence profits from a certain night to invest into energy-saving measures at your club and advertise this to your local community. You can also try do it in partnership with other venues in your town and environmental organisations – clubs ‘compete’ for the Club Mob by making bids (i.e. the share of profit to be reinvested) and activists choose the ‘winning’ club for the Club Mob and on a specific date a group of activists mobilise their whole community to party and consume at this certain/selected club. 


EE MUSIC also joined a panel on 'Costs Down: Be Efficient' to discuss how energy efficiency fits in among other competing pressures and how there are opportunities to make efficiency work alongside other areas such as business planning and loan finance. Watch Chiara's opening statement here:

Sustaining Creativity