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Music Venue Trust annual report says grassroots venues are “operating on razor thin margins” and often “struggling to survive”

By | Published on Tuesday 31 January 2023

Music Venue Trust

The UK’s Music Venue Trust has published its annual report which includes the results of a survey of the 960 members of the Music Venue Alliance. That survey outlines the scale and significance of the UK grassroots venue network, but also summarises the big challenges those venues have had to contend with since the live sector resumed operations following the COVID-19 caused shutdowns.

The surveyed venues together employ over 30,000 people, and staged 177,000 events in 2022, with 565,000 individual performances attracting audience visits of almost 22 million. Which is significant, but still a 16.7% decline on 2019 levels, in part because of cutbacks venues have had to instigate to stay in business.

MVT reports that “this decrease saw the number of events staged per week in individual venues fall from 4.2 in 2019 to just 3.5 in 2022, with only 1.97 of those identified as ticketed live music shows”.

“The average grassroots music venue capacity was 308”, it adds, “of which 40% was utilised per event, which translates to an average of 124 audience members per event. This is 11% down from 2019 when the average capacity was 51%”.

Total income from the events staged was over £500 million, but the venues report an average profit margin of just 0.2%, as the costs associated with staging shows and running venues have surged.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd adds: “Obviously we are pleased to highlight the fact that grassroots music venues contribute over half a billion pounds to the UK economy and to emphasise their enormous impact on the cultural life of our country; but it is also necessary to reiterate the precarious financial position that much of the sector still finds themselves in – the current economics no longer stack up”.

With that in mind, MVT is again calling for more support for grassroots venues from both government and the wider music industry. In terms of government, the group – like the wider live sector – again calls for a cut in the VAT applied to tickets, as well as a thorough review of “excessive and anti-competitive” business rates.

Noting the role grassroots venues play in allowing early-career artists to develop and find an audience, Davyd continues: “It doesn’t make any sense for the government to continue to tax what is clearly research and development. We don’t penalise any other industry like this and we need to stop putting barriers in the way of risk taking and investment in new British talent”.

“The spiralling cost of energy bills, rents, excessive and anti-competitive business rates, and other overheads, combined with the effects that the cost of living crisis is having on the disposable income of our audiences, means that venues are operating on razor thin margins and in many cases struggling to survive”, he adds

You can download the MVT annual report here.