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UK lost 16% of grassroots music venues over the last year: 'It's a full-blown crisis'

Music Venue Trust, the charity representing grassroots music venues, has called on the chancellor to extend tax relief to stop more closures.

musicians playing on stage at grassroots music venue Hot Box in Chelmsford

Hot Box, Chelmsford - one of the grassroots venues at risk. Images: hotboxlive.co.uk

Grassroots music venues in the UK are “in the middle of a full-blown crisis”, according to Music Venue Trust (MVT), the charity that represents and protects the sector.

In the last 12 months, 125 venues have shut their doors for live music, representing 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK.

Analysis by MVT shows these closures represent the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9 million of income for musicians and £59m in lost direct economic activity.

In an open letter published today, MVT calls on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to extend rates relief granted to grassroots venues during the Covid pandemic when he announces his autumn statement, expected on 22 November.

During the pandemic, then-chancellor Rishi Sunak exempted small music venues from business rates in recognition of the important role these spaces play in their communities and for the music industry. The 100% tax relief was reduced to 75% in the post-pandemic economic climate.

In their letter, MVT argues this rate must be maintained or more venues will close.

“If you remove the rates relief, you will plunge the entire grassroots sector into the red,” the letter reads. “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.”

MVT argues that the current 75% rates relief protects grassroots music venues from “an excessive and poorly reasoned taxation”, and state that removing it would increase costs to the sector by £15m.

In 2022, the entire grassroots music venue sector returned a profit margin of just 0.2%, amounting to £1m in cash terms on a total turnover of £500m.

Last month, The Big Issue launched Venue Watch, our campaign to support and champion grassroots music venues across the UK. The Big Issue believes in equality and opportunity in the arts, so we are fighting to save these crucial cultural institutions.

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