Political parties urged to “seize the moment” as Music Venue Trust share manifesto for the grassroots ahead of election

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The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has called upon politicians from all parties to “seize the moment” and help support the live music sector ahead of the UK General Election on July 4.

The push arrives following the MVT delivering their full report into the state of the sector for 2023, showing the “disaster” facing live music with venues closing at a rate of around two per week.

Presented at Westminster, the MVT echoed their calls for a levy on tickets on gigs at arena size and above and for major labels and such to pay back into the grassroots scene, arguing that “the big companies are now going to have to answer for this”.

Now, a new report has been published, ‘A Manifesto for Grassroots Music’, which aims to get politicians working to help save the sector from the deepening crisis it finds itself in.

In the report, MVT set out the steps that need to be taken to slow down the closures of grassroots music spaces across the UK, and highlights the importance of these venues for both music lovers and for emerging talent. These include the push for a £1 grassroots investment contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold, which would be used to support grassroots music venues, artists and promoters.

An abolition of VAT on tickets for grassroots music venues is also listed, as well as a reduction of VAT on cultural ticketing in the live music industry to the European average (between five and seven per cent). It also pushes for a fan-led review to be carried out in a bid to identify and examine the long-term challenges to the live music ecosystem, and the creation of a specific business rates premises definition for smaller music venues.

The MVT has made the report in light of the forthcoming general election, taking place on July 4, and described the manifesto as “a once in a generation opportunity to save the UK’s grassroots music venues”.

Murray Matravers of Easy Life performs on stage at Cardiff UniversityMurray Matravers of Easy Life performs on stage at Cardiff University. CREDIT: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns/Getty

“The Manifesto is being delivered to every prospective MP in the country with the request that they come out in support of it as part of their campaign to be elected,” said Sophie Brownlee, External Affairs Manager at MVT. “Music communities across the country will also be asking the candidates where they stand on the future of live music in our towns and cities. The time to act is now.”

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust went on to highlight the importance for the changes to be implemented as soon as possible. “In 2023, of the 366 small music venues Ed Sheeran played while learning his trade, at least 150 are now closed. Another 72 grassroots music venues significantly reduced or ended their live music offer,” he said.

“38 per cent of GMVs in the UK made a loss in the last 12 months. The sector operated on a 0.5 per cent profit margin overall while running live music events at a £115 million loss.  All of this can be changed if the next government delivers the five simple steps we have set out in this report.  We therefore call on all political representatives, from all parties, to seize the moment and drive forward this change. We have a chance to save UK grassroots music venues from the crisis they currently face and we should not let it slip.”

The report also arrives after various figures from the UK grassroots live music scene spoke to NME about how 2023 was the “worst year for venue closures”. 125 grassroots venues shut down in 2023 – causing a loss of 4,000 jobs, with 14,500 events no longer possible and 193,230 opportunities lost to musicians.

At the start of the year, Featured Artists Coalition’s CEO David Martin told us about the issue of live spaces closing down and the impact it is having on emerging talent.

“Across the FAC’s artist community, there is growing discontentment about this issue – and the lack of acknowledgement from the wider industry. There are many artists who have built significant fanbases for their recorded music, but who cannot make the economics of domestic touring stack up. They either have to scale back the ambitions of their live shows, or rely on favours just to cover costs,” he explained.

Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari performs at The Academy DublinRou Reynolds of Enter Shikari performs at The Academy Dublin on March 21, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Kieran Frost/Redferns/Getty)

“These decisions are often occurring at the most crucial moment, when artists are just breaking through and building ‘momentum’. It leaves them snookered, and struggling to pay musicians to present their music properly in a live setting.

As well as stifling the development of new talent, it also stunts the development of new audiences – an essential factor to the future success of the UK’s live music sector.”

One of the biggest pushes to help support grassroots music spaces over recent months has come from the push for the aforementioned £1 ticket levy. While some critics have argued that it is unfair to the consumer to make already costly tickets more expensive, Enter Shikari have proven that it can be done with their own scheme coming at no extra cost to fans on their 2024 arena tour.

Back in October 2023, Ticketmaster also announced a new plan to allow its customers to contribute directly to the MVT and independent ticketing company Skiddle began donating 50p from every ticket sold towards saving grassroots music venues.

Elsewhere, The Piece Hall in Halifax launched an MVT donation scheme while Taxi app FREENOW pledged to give £1 from every journey in an effort to save grassroots music venues.

With an increasing number of UK independent festivals being either cancelled or postponed, the AIF has argued that the scene is at a “critical point” if they don’t receive a VAT reduction from the government.

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