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Government’s business rate plans could have big impact on grassroots venues

By | Published on Monday 6 March 2017


Organisers of the previously reported Live Music Census, which is due to take place on Thursday, have warned that another event this week – Wednesday’s budget speech by Chancellor Of The Exchequer Philip Hammond – could have a big impact on the country’s grassroots venues.

Hammond will announce the details of plans to overhaul commercial property rates this week and academic Matt Brennan of the University Of Edinburgh – who is leading the Live Music Census project – says that small-scale music venues could be particularly vulnerable to the proposed changes.

Brennan said this morning: “Venues around the country have been telling us that they already operate on thin margins, so proposed increases in rateable values of up to 55% in some cases will have a significant impact”.

Cross-sector trade group UK Music has also expressed concern about Hammond’s business rate changes. Its CEO Jo Dipple has written to the Chancellor declaring: “I am writing to you in advance of the spring budget. This follows concerns expressed at a recent meeting of the UK Live Music Group in relation to the imminent business rates revaluation and the potential negative impact on the live music sector of these changes”.

She adds: “We ask that you use the opportunity of your budget to put measures in place to mitigate the worst excesses of the valuation in order to avoid a detrimental impact on culture and creativity in our communities.

Dubbed as being “like a ‘Springwatch’ for live music”, the Live Music Census will see a network of volunteers in cities around the UK note aspects of any gig they attend on Thursday, including the musical genre, the venue, door charge and audience demographic. Venue owners, gig promoters and musicians are also being surveyed.

Brennan adds that he hopes the research project will provide policy makers with more information about the business side of the country’s grassroots venues, and therefore make them more aware of the impact their polices might have on these live music operations.

He says: “The census will be very important in identifying challenges that the industry faces, such as rising rates and other issues. It will give us a detailed picture of what exactly it means to be venue owner, a musician, and a live music lover in 2017. Our hope is that the census will be a vital tool in strengthening a much-loved part of the UK’s culture”.

Dipple agrees, saying: “UK Music is delighted to partner with this ground-breaking UK Live Music Census research. The findings for each of the six cities will inform academics, entrepreneurs and music fans alike. It will also help organisations like UK Music to understand better the pressures on music businesses and venues so we can lobby for the most effective policies in each area. The more we are able to identify threats, the more effective our lobbying for policy change in that area will be”.