Oxford’s live music scene has “long been dead” and not enough is done to support local bands, a music industry professional has said.

Last week, the Thirst Bar had an application for a premise licence at the Jam Factory approved, which means the arts venue will be able to host live gigs and film screenings.

Despite objections from Brasenose College, a compromise was reached whereby the applicant agreed to close the venue at 12am instead of 1am on Thursday and 2am on Friday and Saturday.

Oxford Mail: Spike HolifieldSpike Holifield (Image: Spike Holifield)

The historic Victorian venue was forced to close on September 17, 2022 as no agreement could be reached between the tenants and Nuffield College.

Since music professionals in Oxford have learnt about this venue becoming a new home to live music, Spike Holified, who has worked in the industry for over 40 years and was previously the technical manager at the Carling Academy (now the O2 Academy), said the approval would not help touring bands who are “learning their graft”.

Mr Holifield said the new venue would not “cater for the arts”, as these “plush places only hire cover bands”.

The music industry professional, who owns a PA business called Ox3 Audio, said the greatest issue was the University of Oxford had “failed” to help cultivate the live music scene and this meant it was “well and truly dead”.

Oxford Mail: Spike Holifield has played the guitar in bandsSpike Holifield has played the guitar in bands (Image: Spike Holifield)

He said: “We have lost venues where bands have first learnt their art form.

“Oxford City Council and the university don’t care about the arts.

“If it wasn’t for people cutting their teeth into these toilet venues, then these cover bands wouldn’t have songs to work with.”

Mr Holifield highlighted that Oxford’s live music scene has been in decline for a long time and he pointed to Wheatsheaf’s live music venue upstairs closing in 2021.

The Wheatsheaf was the last grassroots venue in the city centre after The Cellar, off Cornmarket, closed in 2019.

The Cellar was forced to close after a massive rent hike by its landlords, St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities.

More than 2,000 music fans did rally around trying to save the venue and a crowdfunding initiative was backed by Oxford bands Radiohead and Ride and Foals which raised more than £92,000.

Mr Holified complained that a ‘town and gown’ divide was responsible for the lack of music venues for artists and he called on the university to open up some of their buildings for live concerts.

He said: “I’ve got a PA system and would definitely be willing for pubs to use it as long as we could be successful in getting bands in.

“But the venue for this just isn’t there.”

Mr Holifield said he loved that the city was “vibrant and diverse” because of the universities but said that not enough was being done for people who lived in the city and wanted places to enjoy live music in the evenings.

He said: “The University of Oxford is one of the biggest landowners in the city so they must have buildings they could open up to support the local music industry.

“The city council should also do more and not allow the university to dictate where we can host live music.”

A Brasenose College spokesman said:"Brasenose is very supportive of live music venues, and supports restoration of the Jam Factory as a bar and music venue along the lines of previous usage, with music up to midnight.

"The College raised concerns about a proposal for use as a night club with music as late as 2am, as we have student accommodation directly next door, but were pleased that the applicant understood our concerns and agreed to amend their proposals."

An Oxford City Council spokesman said: "We are currently seeing the largest new music venue in Oxford for many years, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre, being built.

"The building will have a 500-seat concert hall for a wide range of music and will be open to the public.

"We have also recently determined to grant a licence application to the Jam Factory. 

"Oxford City Council’s Local Plan provides strong policy protection for cultural and community facilities which includes live music venues.

"The policy seeks to protect and retain these important facilities and resist their loss unless new or improved venues can be provided in an equally or more accessible location.

"In principle, the city council is supportive of applications to improve and intensify existing venues. 

"We are currently developing a policy for our new Local Plan 2040 that looks to continue to provide protection for the city’s important cultural and community venues which add to the vibrancy and vitality of Oxford’s centres and economy."

The University of Oxford declined to comment.

Thirst Bar has been approached for comment.