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'Meltdown averted for now': Grassroots music venues' relief at Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement

Hundreds of grassroots music venues had been predicted to close if Jeremy Hunt had announced the cancellation of business rates relief

The Court House in Bangor - grassroots music venues were relieved at the autumn statement

Grassroots music venue The Courthouse in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Photo: The Court House

Grassroots music venues have reacted with relief to the Autumn Statement, which signalled the continuation of business rates relief, under which they receive a 75% discount.

The potential cancellation of relief had been predicted to send hundreds of music venues off a cliff edge. Co-chair of the Association of Independent Promoters, Luke Hinton – who also runs the indie promotion company Juicebox Live and programmes both The Horn and Hertford Corn Exchange – told Big Issue’s Venue Watch campaign “we would probably lose something like 75-80% of venues within two years” had rates gone back to 100%.

Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of Music Venue Trust had been warning of a “potential meltdown for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and jobs”.

“Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the continuation of the 75% relief to business rates for grassroots music venues announced by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in the Autumn statement,” said Davyd, following the announcement. “It was essential to keep this relief in place and we are pleased that our presentations to Treasury were listened to and acknowledged by this outcome.

“We hope that this further extension into 2025 for this relief will provide the necessary window of opportunity for the government to complete the full review of business rates on grassroots music venues which it committed to in January 2019.”

Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE, the voice of the UK’s live music industry, also praised the move, emphasising how important music is to the UK economy. “The UK’s live music industry is an engine of growth, generating £5.2bn in 2022 and employing over 228,000 people last year, with a gig held every four minutes,” he said.

“However, grassroots venues have been operating on a knife edge so it’s crucial that government continues to support this critical part of our sector with the right reliefs and funding mechanisms. The government is committed to supporting growth and innovation across the creative industries. The extension of business rates relief will be pivotal for those grassroots venues that are responsible for so much of the R&D [research and development] in the live music sector.”

James McAulay, CEO of the UK’s largest musician booking platform Encore Musicians, also greeted the rates relief news, as well as praising the decision to freeze alcohol duty until August next year. Many grassroots music venues rely on the money they bring in at the bar.

“I am particularly pleased that the government has listened to the concerns of businesses in the music industry and has taken action to support them. This should provide some much-needed relief for live music venues which have struggled immensely this year with 16% of grassroots music venues closing in the last 12 months,” he said.

However, McAulay added there was still work to do. “Although these policies help, I do urge the government to continue to support the music industry in other ways as well. For example, the government should invest more in music education and training programmes and invest more in grassroots venues.” 

Davyd warned that despite today’s good news in the Autumn Statement, the grassroots music sector still faces a severe crisis with over 120 venues having already closed in the last 12 months.

Launched this autumn, The Big Issue’s Venue Watch campaign supports and champions grassroots music venues across the UK. It recognises the vital role these spaces play in securing the future of music and UK culture, as well as the part they play in ensuring access to music is for the many and not the few.

Grassroots music venues are at the heart of their communities. They boost local businesses by attracting locals, visitors and tourists, contributing to a vibrant night-time economy. You can do your part by signing up for our Venue Watch updates here.

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