Unless a plan to hit live music venues with higher business rates is axed, many performance spaces could go under in a scenario that would be disastrous for emerging singers.
Fingers crossed the Chancellor tomorrow delivers some good news for grassroots live music venues and the industry at large.
Philip Hammond is due to announce his Spring Budget Statement (yup believe it or not, Brexit’s not the only game in town) and it’s hoped that it will include some form of business rate relief for live music venues.
Without such a measure, it’s feared that many live music venues will close their doors in the coming months – a move that would be hugely damaging for singers and musicians starting out in the business.
Why do grassroots music venues matter?
Local live music venues have long been a creative stomping ground for rising stars, offering them a place to earn their performing stripes, hone their skills and build a fanbase.
Pretty much every major artist, from Ed Sheeran, Adele and George Ezra to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, cut their teeth performing in small, local venues before graduating on to bigger stages.
But in recent years the pool of potential venues in which to gig has become increasingly smaller. In London alone, a third of all grassroots music venues have closed in the past decade.
Grassroots venues also offer music fans a chance to catch live music at more affordable prices. With the cost of stadium gigs skyrocketing (£230 to catch The Who at Wembley for example), smaller venues cater for those who don’t have hundreds of pounds to spend on a night out but who still love the magic of a live show.
Why are business rates a threat?
The government has plans to re-evaluate business rates across the board, a situation that would leave lots of businesses paying more. Aware that this could cause serious damage to the high street, it has set aside £900 million to protect bars, pubs, restaurants and retail shops from the full impact of the rises.
Unfortunately, grassroots music venues have been overlooked and will not benefit from this relief. This seems crazy to us as music venues create jobs, nurture creativity and make high streets and town centres more vibrant places.
How hard will venues be hit?
Under the current proposal a venue such as The Lexington in Islington, London – a proud supporter of emerging acts – faces a business rate hike of 118%. Meanwhile the nearby Emirates Stadium, complete with corporate boxes and lucrative sponsorship deals, will enjoy a 7% cut. Does that that make sense to you? Nope, us neither.
What the music industry says
Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music, says: “Grassroots music venues are a crucial part of the music ecosystem that generates future talent for an industry that contributes £4.5 billion to our economy.
“The current position discriminates against music venues compared to pubs and bars. Unless the Chancellor revisits this issue, there is a very real danger that too many venues will have to turn off the music or even shut down for good.
“If UK plc wants to retain its preeminent position as being a world leader in music, our industry needs the strategic support of government.”