Grassroots music is in crisis. Venues like this may cease to stay open.

Politicians urged to act on grassroots music crisis ahead of election

A charity representing hundreds of grassroots music venues has called on politicians from all parties to address the sector’s ongoing crisis ahead of the general election.

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has published a report titled “A Manifesto for Grassroots Music,” which outlines crucial steps to prevent the closure of grassroots venues, currently occurring at a rate of more than one per week.

The report stresses the necessity of implementing recommendations from a Department of Culture Media & Sport select committee, including a £1 contribution from every arena and stadium tickets sold for events over 5,000 capacity to support grassroots music.

MVT describes this as a “once in a generation opportunity” to stabilise the sector.

The report’s key recommendations include abolition of VAT on tickets at grassroots venues, a review of venue business rates, and changes to planning laws.

The five main proposals are:

  1. A £1 grassroots investment from each arena and stadium ticket sold to support grassroots music venues, artists, and promoters.
  2. A fan-led review to address long-term challenges in the live music ecosystem.
  3. Statutory implementation of the agent of change principle in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  4. Reduction of VAT on cultural ticketing in grassroots music venues to 0% and aligning VAT on cultural ticketing in the live music industry with the European average (5–7%).
  5. Creation of a specific business rates category for grassroots music venues, removing them from business rates obligations.

MVT External Affairs Manager Sophie Brownlee stated, “The Manifesto is being delivered to every prospective MP with a request for their support. 

“Music communities across the country will be asking candidates about their stance on the future of live music. The time to act is now.”

The DCMS Select Committee report highlights the severe challenges faced by grassroots venues due to rising costs and closures, which impact artists and businesses reliant on live music. 

It emphasises the urgency of the proposed £1 levy to sustain the grassroots sector.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd noted the significant losses within the sector.

He said: “In 2023, of the 366 small music venues, Ed Sheeran played at early in his career, at least 150 have closed. 

“Another 72 have reduced or ended live music offerings. The sector operated at a £115 million loss over the past year. 

“These issues can be resolved if the next government implements the five steps in our report. 

“We urge all political representatives to seize this moment to save UK grassroots venues from the current crisis.”

The manifesto’s delivery to prospective MPs aims to secure their commitment to safeguarding the future of grassroots music in towns and cities nationwide.

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