The Music Venue Trust – the organisation which which lobbies to protect UK grassroots music venues – has written a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, demanding that the Government act after the closure of 125 venues over the last 12 months. The closures represent 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK.
According to statistics gathered from the Trust's members, the closures have led to the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9 million of income for musicians, and £59 million in lost revenue. To alleviate future losses, the Trust is asking that the Government to extend the 75% Business Rate Relief currently enjoyed by the sector.
Prior to the pandemic, then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak instigated a special 50% business rates relief for grassroots venues, a level that was raised to 100% during lockdown, before being reduced again post-pandemic.
The Chancellor is due to present his Autumn Statement 2023 to Parliament on November 22. Read the full text of the Music Venue Trust's letter below.
Grassroots Music Venues need your help. They need you to extend the existing 75% Business Rate Relief beyond April 2024 in the Autumn statement.
The Grassroots Music Sector is in the middle of a full-blown crisis. 125 venues have shut their doors for live music in the last 12 months, 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK. It represents the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9 million of income for musicians, and £59 million in lost direct economic activity.
15.7% fewer venues is an immediate economic, social, and cultural blow to the 125 local communities that have lost access to live music. These were treasured places that bond our communities together, foster pride in the places we live, drive creativity and create aspiration. For the British music economy, an area of the creative industries in which we are world leaders, this is 15.7% fewer research and development opportunities to support the next wave of British talent.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, Lucy Frazer, recognised the essential R&D role that Grassroots Music Venues play in the DCMS Creative Industries Sector Vision in July 2023. In that report, DCMS invested an additional £5 million into Arts Council England’s Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund specifically to support the grassroots sector because of its vital R&D role.
In January 2020, prior to the pandemic, Rishi Sunak created a special 50% Business Rates relief for Grassroots Music Venues which recognised the importance of these spaces. The Prime Minister, when he was Chancellor, chose to acknowledge that the current Business Rates system is an egregious and inequitable tax on Grassroots Music Venues that needs reform. Knowing that reform would take time, he chose to reduce the Business Rate bills faced by Grassroots Music Venues by 50%. That relief was extended to 100% during the pandemic, then reduced to 75% in the post pandemic economic climate.
The current 75% Rates Relief protects Grassroots Music Venues from an excessive and poorly reasoned taxation. Removing it would increase costs to the sector by £15 million. In 2022, the entire sector returned a profit margin of just 0.2%, £1million in cash terms on a total turnover of £500 million.
If you remove the Rates Relief, you will plunge the entire Grassroots sector into the red. Venues must and will close as a result. Even more local communities will lose their access to live music.
Artists will have nowhere to start their careers. More job losses, less economic activity, less Research and Development. The UK risks producing fewer world-beating artists as a direct result of the decision you make on this issue in your Autumn Statement.
You have said you don’t have the economic conditions to consider tax cuts. Grassroots Music Venues don’t have the economic conditions to allow tax rises.
Please extend the 75% Business Rates Relief beyond April 2024 in your Autumn Statement