Corn Exchange – a wasted venue

So finally I have got round to venting my rage about the Merchants Suite at The Corn Exchange, and it’s piss poor approach to it’s events.

What finally tipped me over the edge? Posts on face book from Devizes 6th formers who have to pay £7.50 a head on the door for their Christmas party. £7.50!!! SEVEN POUNDS FIFTY.

It begs the question What are they paying for?

Apparently it’s due to requiring more security after a fracas at a previous event, which as far as I know, had nothing to do with the 6th form. Great, punish the teenagers for others mistakes.

That brings me nicely to my own personal rage towards the Corn Exchange.

I’ve used the Corn Exchange for 6 years on and off, those of you who are old enough may remember a series of gigs we did down their off our own backs, including a video shoot for LostAlone and gigs for Blackbud among others. I never once made any money from a Corn Exchange gig, but why?

Well let’s look at their costings…

Hire Fee – £140 – that’s one hundred and forty pounds before you’ve even sold a ticket!
Security £60 per head, minimum requirement is 5, so £250 !!!! I’m not naive, I know security costs a lot, and so it should.
PA and Lighting Hire – YES for £140 and over the top doormen requirements, you don’t even get a PA.

So just to refresh, hire fee, no hardware and lot’s of security.

Sorry why do I need so many security people? Because some drunken fools ruin it for every one else? And what’s that? I’ve done nearly 40 gigs and never had ONE problem, not one. As my gigs are aimed at 6th formers upward, as I like music to be accessible for EVERYONE, they don’t tend to be drunk, since they aren’t not old enough to be served at the bar, I’m not sure why I have to supply 5 FIVE fully registered doormen.

I’m extra upset since last Christmas a certain excellent local band sold the venue out, and didn’t supply one registered door person, but I suppose it’s who you know.

Now back to my venting.

I’m paying £140 to “hire” your venue, which actually means, to have the opportunity to fill your venue to make you money at your bar, and your not even going to provide me with any kit, so I’m having to hire the in house Pa and lighting rig too!

At what point do I make any money to pay a band!? – Oh, after I’ve covered your costs – is that why the 6th form party is £7.50?? 6th formers, who are teenagers, who don’t have a lot of cash necessarily, who I have never charged more than £5 – because it’s reasonable, who I always try and give an cheaper advance to – those 6th formers you are now fleecing for their money.

OK, so I’m not a businessman but charging people so much money for a poor product doesn’t sit well with me – it’s a rip off.

It was only earlier this year I discovered that the bar was in fact licensed out of house. That probably explains the astronomical hire costs. If the bar was in house they would see 100% of the profit, but they don’t.

The Corn Exchange needs a face lift, a dedicated group of people, who all work together to produce good quality entertainment. It really is a good venue, and since my arm wrestling with Ian James for the past 2 years has paid off, a fairly decent PA too – probably worth a hire fee, though It’s still not up to scratch even with the most toilet of circuit venues.

So a breakdown

£140 – room hire
£250 – 5 x £60 security (up to 250 people. 6 x £60 between 250 and capacity of 320) and that’s until midnight.
£160 – refundable security deposit, which is required in advance, and used as deposit for the night.
£100 – PA & Lighting Hire


£5 ticket = 130 break even point. (don’t take in to account cheaper advance tickets)

Due to this unrealistic and infeasible costing, how do you pay an act that’s capable of selling over 130 tickets? Because if you can sell over 130 tickets then your going to want to be paid. I don’t think a token amount would cut it.

And if you were capable of getting an act of decent proportions capable of selling that many tickets in their own right, I’m going to suggest, out on a limb, that the PA is not good enough for their set up.

(PA problems include, mixed drivers from the speakers, and mixed amps. Budget FOH EQ, low wattage currently at 4k, we need around 6 for that size room. no compression or gates, no FX, no dedicated monitors. a lot of this I supply myself, but again it begs the question why am I paying £140?)

Don’t get me wrong the PA is perfectly fine for our local shows, just lacking for a more serious approach.

I mean, we run EVERYTHING off 1 double socket. all backline which consist of 2 guitar amps and bass amps + effect pedals. Powered speakers for monitors or amp for monitors. My Outboard rack (2x EQ, Crossover, Compressor, Noise Gates, FX) a mixing desk and a lamp.

And after all that, we’ve paid the fee’s, covered the costs, dealt with the average PA – what’s that hiss? THE VENUES DIMMER SWITCHES CREATES A HISS OVER THE PA!!! AAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! (Note: We do turn off the dimmer switches and they don’t cause US a problem – not sure about anyone else.)

Imagine getting in a top rank Comedian, who your paying a pretty penny to, and then there’s this hiss in the pa, an annoying buzz. How freakin’ unprofessional. (on this note, I want to observe that Simon Stockley did invest in a fantastic piece of kit which acts as a overall mix gate, and cuts out the hiss, but only when the gate is closed, not when it is triggered, ie – when some one speaks, see also previous note.)

I did ask a day an age ago for more plugs, what I would consider a simple request, since it’s basic health and safety hazard to have so many extension cables laid all across the stage, some thing Carole Berry’s First Stages group found out too. But alas they never came.

Now let’s talk about the capacity! Anyone ever been to Baths Komedia? Or Oxfords Regal? Their capacities are 700 – that’s over 200 more than our Corn Exchange! They are roughly the same size, and face similar problems with their fire exits – ie not on street level. I notice how both The Regal and the Komedia have sloped exits… Why couldn’t we do something like this? Maybe if we had a decent capacity, we could aim for acts like Frank Turner who is playing to 700 audiences, and we *might* be able to cover the venues silly hire, security and PA cost problems too?

And I won’t even begin to talk about their custodian and bar manager, or the times we are allowed to load in and out.

I am only so annoyed because it’s a great venue going to waste, which I spent a lot of time into promoting and angling for higher spec kit from Ian, all I want to do is put on decent music in our home town, at a realistic price and would it hurt to treat us with a bit of respect and not judge us by every one else’s mistakes?

As it stands we average about 100 people to our shows, which doesn’t cover costs, let alone pay a band. Go figure.


3 thoughts on “Corn Exchange – a wasted venue

  1. Kieran, this is a great peice of writing, and shows your true passion for putting music and fair concerts for both the act and the audience. I had no idea you had to pay so much to use the corn exchange, that’s outrageous! They didn’t deserve to have you fighting their corner!

  2. Really interesting article Kieran, it really is a space that is going to waste! If they could get their act together, we could have so much more on in there and really put it on the map for this part of the south west!

  3. Take out the people in charge, get me in there 😛
    I have a personal license and soon to have an SIA license too, I know how to run a venue effectivly.

    Devizes music scene needs a big boost atm, except from a few people (Kieran, you being one) no one helps or has the passion to. Those people who don’t help or care, sort it out.

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