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Cost of living crisis stopping people accessing mental health benefits of live music

Ed Sheeran praises new scheme to support grassroots music venues as they struggle during the cost of living crisis

Ed Sheeran performs for Channel Seven's morning program Sunrise and Nova969 in Sydney 2013. He voiced his support for the new initiative which will give money to grassroots live music venues.

Ed Sheeran voiced his support for the new Ride For Music initiative, which will give money to grassroots live music venues. Photo: Eva Rinaldi / Flickr

The UK is a nation of music lovers – in a new survey, 89% said live concerts have a positive effect on their mental health – yet the spiralling cost of living crisis has caused many to forgo that wellbeing boost. Faced with rising prices on everything from housing to food and transport, 68% said they had cut back on the number of gigs they are attending.

This fall in the volume of gig-goers – alongside their own rising costs – is among the many challenges facing grassroots music venues. The Big Issue recently launched the Venue Watch campaign in response to the “full-blown crisis” facing these crucial cultural institutions.

The new insights into concert-goers’ behaviour were revealed in a survey commissioned by FREENOW in association with Music Venue Trust (MVT). It showed that eight in 10 people believe the live music scene is a very important factor for living in any city – but 48% of people were not aware that grassroots music venues have been struggling, 125 of them closing in just the last 12 months.

The research marked a new partnership between MVT and FREENOW – the ‘mobility super app’, which allows consumers across Europe to access all types of mobility services within a single app including public transport, taxis, car sharing, e-scooters, e-bikes and e-mopeds.

FREENOW’s Ride For Music initiative will donate £1 for every taxi ride booked through the app to MVT, at no extra cost to the customer. App users just need to opt in to the scheme to start raising vital funds.

Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of MVT called on live music lovers to support the initiative. “The Ride for Music initiative from FREENOW gives every music fan in the UK an incredible opportunity to play a role in directly supporting grassroots music venues. It’s exactly the type of joined up, creative thinking that we need to tackle the crisis facing our grassroots sector,” he said.

FREENOW has guaranteed a minimum commitment of £200,000 to save struggling venues impacted by the cost of living crisis. 

The music industry rallied behind the initiative with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Steve Lamacq, London night czar Amy Lamé, Ticketmaster and Academy Music Group all pledging their support.

“Like so many musicians, I started out playing in grassroots music venues,” said Sheeran. “They are such a vital part of the music ecosystem. Without them, I definitely would not have had the chance to hone my craft and become the artist I am today. I applaud the Ride for Music campaign and hope it raises loads of money for Music Venue Trust, who work tirelessly to both protect and promote these wonderful spaces.”

Lamé said London’s grassroots music venues have “a special place” in her heart. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than going to a gig and discovering exciting new acts bursting onto the scene,” she added. “These venues are essential to London’s place as a leader in the music industry and where global acts like Adele and Stormzy started their journeys. But, like many venues, they’re facing some incredibly tough challenges. That’s why I’m thrilled FREENOW is working with Music Venue Trust to raise money that will support these vital spaces in our music industry.”

All funds raised through Ride For Music go to the Pipeline Investment Fund (PIF) from Music Venue Trust. PIF allows small-scale grant applications of up to £5,000 from UK-based Grassroots Music Venues to support improvements to venue viability and resilience, infrastructure projects and investment. 

The fund prioritises support for organisations who may be excluded from other available funding. All PIF generated funding is distributed without any admin charge – 100% of generated funding goes into the sector and not into MVT. PIF has so far helped support 62 live music venues, distributing just over £250,000 to venues across the United Kingdom.

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