Some Thoughts On The HMV Picturehouse Closure

The HMV Picturehoose has been bought by JD Wetherspoon with the intention of turning it into a pub. Here is the statement. A massive pub; and I’ve been left a wee bit confused by this. You’d think that a venue that regularly holds 1500 customers who pay to get in and then buy the overpriced beer would make a decent profit. Of course, the ticket money goes to the promoter who then pays for the venue hire or there might be some other kind of deal but the venue hire must still be a very decent slice of the pie.

On top of that, the beer and cider is an unbelievable £4.40. Maybe I’m getting old but 2 pints and you don’t have enough change left from a tenner for a bus fare home. There certainly is not a selection of microbrewery niche ales to choose from and on top of that the plastic glasses are so thin and bendy that they almost collapse in your hand.

It is safe to say that if the HMV Picturehouse is making a profit, then that is not a good sign for the balance sheet of its parent company HMV, [och, since writing this, I found out that the Lloyds Predatory Bustard Division bought the building from HMV last year. They had no intention of running a business, let alone a music business. They only buy a distressed businesses assets with the intention of selling off later on for a quick profit, then they move on. Good grief, the government own 1/3 of Lloyds bank], as you don’t sell off the successful parts of your business unless you’re in a LOT of trouble or asset stripping. Council tax is expensive for large businesses. Who knows, maybe that’s the problem.

Since the Picturehouse’s revamp in 2008 it has hosted a load of great gigs and for a wee while in the last few years it felt like I was never out of the place. John Cale, The Darkness, Frightened Rabbit, The Fall, Adam Ant, Stiff Little Fingers, Noah and the Whale, The Cribs, The Magic Band, Vintage Trouble and The New York Dolls. Perfect record shop owner pleasing music. Some real cool times, so I will miss it as a venue. Often local or smaller Scottish bands get to play the stage in the support slots to crowds they’d struggle to reach otherwise. (The support bands get paid a paltry £100 or so -but that’s a separate issue)


It’s hard for venues I think, for example The Usher Hall (capacity 2200 seated, 2900 standing) is publicly owned and required a £40 million refurbishment which took 10 years. It has recently hosted Jack White, Sigur Ros, my partner’s graduation ceremony (which reminds me, New Order played there in 2012 too) and Blondie. Next year it will be hosting er… Simon Cowell’s Little Mix. So the more the merrier and nobody’s perfect.

The Queen’s Hall (capacity 900 seated) only stays open due to a subsidy of £200 000 per year and has been struggling to get funding for renovation. Therefore, it is under constant threat of closure especially so with this government’s Austerity. I suppose a Wetherspoons is open all day and gets the breakfast market, the lunch market, the supper market, the evening pub quiz market and finally the weekend meat market. Maybe all venues should open as gastropubs during the day?*

I really feel that we risk the slow erosion of these concert halls and venues; a cultural vandalism that we need to confront head on. That is why I would recommend people sign the petition to keep the Picturehouse as a venue. It may not succeed but a firm show of support will let the planners in Edinburgh City Council and the Creative Scotland team see that we are serious about our music and that we will fight for our venues. They might even be kinder to those who act as a platform for live music, at all levels, in the future. – I am keenly await the exciting new and not for profit, Sound House.

The Picturehouse is not particularly close to being my favourite of Edinburgh’s larger venues and I am very aware of the faults of the place. I’m also not against JD Wetherspoon as a company and I’m sure they pay their taxes. It’s only that faced with the choice between access to a very nice and great value Wetherspoon’s 2 for 1 piri-piri chicken main meal with diet coke and no ice please, we’re at table 56; and getting to see The New York Dolls in a venue in my own city, every single time I will turn down the nice food so I can go out and dance like a monkey and get Trashed with the Dolls.

* I’m only half joking. I like the Mono model in Glasgow which I think makes the best use of a venue’s space without losing identity. It’s a café during the day, bar and venue in the evenings while also incorporating one of the best record shops in the UK.

**Yes, I keep my ticket stubs and I am not the only one, check out The Edinburgh Gig Archive for a real jog down Edinburgh’s musical memory close.

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