Sustainability is the key word to protect and preserve both our natural as well as our human environment. It is globally acknowledged that these are under tremendous pressure in this day and age. With regard to sustainable practices (be it on an ecological or social level), music venues have a distinct responsibility towards society in general, but also more specifically to audiences, artists, and towards the communities they are located in. On one side, this responsibility derives from their societal function as publicly accessible cultural meeting places; on the other, it has its roots in the significant ecological (and social) footprint of a music venue – caused by, for example, audience (and artist) mobility, energy consumption, catering, etc. In the case of 4AD, for example, a study showed that the club – though rather small-scale (capacity of 250 people) – emitted 66 tons of CO2 in 2012 (40% of which is due to audience mobility). Sustainable practices help to limit this footprint, are central to sustainable development of an organization, and raise awareness among audiences, artists or other people connected to the venues, and of course other music venues.Most music venues do not have their proper artist accommodation. For the organization of shows, this implies an extra financial cost for the venue (or artists, depending on the deal) and a practical discomfort for both sides. Aside from these disadvantages, having your own accommodation can also prove beneficial (and even lucrative) for other aspects of a venue’s operations than the organization of shows. Professional artists are often in search of locations for e.g. album pre-production, PA rehearsal in preparation of a tour, or simply to do a period of intensive rehearsal. Venues providing such multi-day services will find a great asset in offering in-house accommodation, which is a very attractive feature and a big practical advantage for artists.
4AD has offered artists performing at the club the possibility to stay overnight since its earliest beginnings. Although the accommodation provided was then still rather basic, this service has always been highly appreciated by touring bands. They can stay on the venue’s premises before, during, and after the show, do not have to drive to their hotel and they (or the host) can save on hotel expenses.
When 4AD moved to their present location in 2004, the club greatly expanded its infrastructure: the newly acquired plot contained a former warehouse which was built into a venue and adjacent bar, but also a house that was transformed into an artist accommodation dubbed the ‘artist hotel’ (next to an office space for the 4AD crew). The hotel offered accommodation to 22 people, spread over four bedrooms with bunk beds. It also contained a large living area, a kitchen and two showers.
In the course of the last decade, however, 4AD fully realized the attractiveness of its hotel to bands planning long term residencies and multi-day rehearsals in the venue. As the venue and rehearsal spaces are completely sound-proof, artists are able work autonomously and in all peace and quiet 24 hours a day. Since the facilities (both venue and hotel) are almost exclusively used in weekends – located in a rural community 4AD does not plan a lot of shows on weekdays – this maximizes the use of the premises and gives fair additional revenues. A few years ago, the club therefore switched to a higher gear and decided to invest in this aspect of their operations, one the one hand to meet the artists’ needs and wishes, and on the other to boost (and diversify) their revenues by offering a (successful) rehearsal formula that includes overnight stays.
Backed by funding from the Flemish and local government and some sponsorship, the club launched a tender procedure for contractors at the end of 2019. The selected contractor started (de)constructions in March 2020 which lasted until October. From November onwards the 4AD crew took it on themselves to finish the job (plastering, painting, varnishing, installing the kitchen, etc.) and to furnish the hotel. Early in 2021 most of the work was completed and the artist residence was ready for use.
The complete building has been renovated and restructured the from top to bottom in order to make it more ecologically sustainable, more accessible, more comfortable for performing artists and crew alike, and even more attractive for artists who want to do multi-day residencies. Where the artist residence once had a capacity for 21 people, 4AD decided to downscale this, investing in quality, comfort and accessibility rather than quantity. Their renewed hotel can now accommodate 14 people and answers to all basic needs, with the level of comfort now being closer to that of a B&B than a youth hostel. The residence consists of 7 spacious comfortable rooms with twin beds, a fully-equipped kitchen, a large living space, an outside terrace and all necessary sanitary facilities (three showers, three toilets). Like the rest of the 4AD site, the artist hotel is now 100% wheelchair accessible: on the ground floor there is a bathroom, a bedroom and of course the spacious living area.
When the renovation was finished, 4AD launched the online movie 4ADTV (the COVID-19 pandemic was still in full swing) to inaugurate and promote the renewed artist hotel. The movie included in-house performances by Belgian artists, interviews with artists and politicians (among which the PM of Flanders) and of course a tour of the artist hotel. Apart from 4ADTV, the venue also created a short promotional video for their artist residence which was distributed among their network of bookers, artist managers, etc. Artists also frequently share their positive experiences at 4AD with other artists or on social media, which means the club can depend on quite some word-of-mouth marketing.
For artists performing at the venue: Accommodation next to the venue is very much appreciated by artists as they can relax before and after the shows in a comfortable building. 4AD offers them the whole package: catering (fresh, hot veggie meals and sometimes breakfast), clean bathrooms with hot showers, spacious bedrooms in a quiet neighborhood, etc. When artists feel comfortable and at ease this often translates into better performances.
For artists doing rehearsal residencies: 4AD is the first venue in Flanders to offer the combined formula of rehearsal and accommodation, which is becoming quite popular with artists. It means they can work focused almost 24/7 and do not lose time by driving to and from the rehearsal space. A lot of venues are based in bigger cities with lots of distractions and other stuff to do (e.g. nightlife). 4AD is located in the countryside with a quiet rural environment, which is an ideal situation for artists that want to work focused. They have the feeling of being on retreat, can fully concentrate on their work and let their creativity run wild.
For 4AD: It is part of 4AD’s philosophy to support artists in every way possible and stimulate their creativity. Being able to provide artists comfort through accommodation fits perfectly in this policy. In financial terms, on the other hand, 4AD’s investment means they save a lot on hotel expenses for artists performing at the club and they can count on considerable revenues from their successful residence formula. Of course it is important to note that the artist hotel (and the increase in PA rehearsals etc.) means also considerable more work for the cleaning team and the technical crew (for the audio set-up).
The biggest constraint is primarily the availability of funds to do an investment of this size. 4AD was able to finance the upgrade of their artist residence thanks to governmental subsidies and sponsorship, along with their own savings. Secondly and naturally, there needs to be a spatial opportunity to realize a project like this.