UK’s Music Venue Trust publishes its manifesto

The Music Venue Trust (MVT), a charity representing hundreds of Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) across the UK, has issued a pressing appeal to politicians of all parties ahead of the UK General Election on 4th July. The MVT is urging leaders to “seize the moment” and address the deepening crisis threatening the sector.

In its newly published report, ‘A Manifesto for Grassroots Music’, the MVT outlines essential steps needed to halt the closure of GMVs, which currently exceed one per week, and to restore stability to the sector. Describing this as “a once in a generation opportunity to save the UK’s grassroots music venues,” the report stresses the need for immediate implementation of recommendations from the Culture Media & Sport Select Committee. These include a proposed £1 contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold for events over a 5000 capacity to support grassroots music.

The report also calls for the abolition of VAT on GMV tickets, a review of the business rates paid by venues, and changes to existing planning laws. Among its key proposals are:

  • A £1 grassroots investment contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold.
  • A fan-led review to examine the long-term challenges of the live music ecosystem.
  • The statutory implementation of the agent of change principle in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  • A reduction of VAT on cultural ticketing in GMVs to 0%, and a reduction of VAT on cultural ticketing in the live music industry to the European average (5-7%).
  • The creation of a specific business rates premises definition for GMVs, exempting them from paying business rates.

Sophie Brownlee, External Affairs Manager at Music Venue Trust, commented, “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. 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.”

The CMS select committee’s recent report, which backs the £1 levy on concert tickets, highlighted the precarious situation facing grassroots music venues. It stated, “Grassroots live music venues, the local, limited capacity venues integral to the pipeline of creative and professional talent and key fixtures of our communities, are now facing a crisis of soaring costs and closures. Artists, and the people who rely on them for business, are facing a cost-of-touring crisis and finding opportunities squeezed. Promoters are less able to put on shows or make them financially viable. Festivals, electronic music venues, and even academies and arenas are not insulated from the impacts.”

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, underscored the severity of the issue, stating, “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. 38% of GMVs in the UK made a loss in the last 12 months. The sector operated on a 0.5% 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.”

As the election approaches, the fate of the UK’s grassroots music scene hangs in the balance, with the MVT’s proposals offering a potential lifeline for the struggling sector.


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