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MPs call for arena ticket levy and tax relief to stem tide of grassroots music venue closures

11 May 2024

A new levy on arena and stadium tickets and a cut in VAT are urgently needed to support grassroots music venues across the country as they struggle to cope with a crisis of closures and soaring costs, MPs say today.

The recommendations are in a report from the cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which highlights how small local venues integral to the pipeline of professional creative and technical music talent are stopping performances or closing entirely at a rate of two per week.

The Committee also heard about how artists are facing a “cost of touring crisis”, while promoters are struggling to get shows off their spreadsheets and into venues.

On top of immediate financial help through a levy-funded support fund and a targeted temporary VAT cut to help stem the tide of closures, the report says a comprehensive fan-led review of live and electronic music should be set up this summer to examine the long-term challenges to the wider live music ecosystem.

The Committee inquiry, launched at the Music Venue Trust’s Venues Day in October 2023, heard from across the sector1 of the scale of the crisis facing venues and the impact this is having on artists and all those that rely on them for business.

The MVT described 2023 as the most challenging year for the sector since the trust was founded in 2014, while Creative UK said the grassroots music sector took a ‘battering’.

In total the number of GMVs declined from 960 to 835 last year, a net decrease of 13%, representing a loss of as many as 30,000 shows and 4,000 jobs.

The report says that given the urgency of the crisis, a voluntary levy on arena and stadium concert tickets would be the most feasible way to have an immediate impact, creating a support fund for venues, artists and promoters administered by a trust led by a sector umbrella body. The Committee also calls for the industry to ensure the levy cost is not passed on to music fans. If there is no agreement by September or if it fails to collect enough income to support the sector, the Government should step in an introduce a statutory levy, the report adds.

On VAT relief, the Committee calls for a temporary cut based on venue capacity, with the Government undertaking analysis to assess the impact to inform future decisions.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said:

“We are grateful to the many dedicated local venues who gave up their time to take part in our inquiry. They delivered the message loud and clear that grassroots music venues are in crisis. The ongoing wave of closures is not just a disaster for music, performers and supporters in local communities up and down the country, but also puts at risk the entire live music ecosystem. If the grassroots, where musicians, technicians, tour managers and promoters hone their craft, are allowed to wither and die, the UK’s position as a music powerhouse faces a bleak future.

To stem the overwhelming ongoing tide of closures, we urgently need a levy on arena and stadium concert tickets to fund financial support for the sector, alongside a VAT cut to help get more shows into venues.

While the current focus is on the many grassroots music venues falling silent, those working in the live music sector across the board are also under extraordinary strain. It is time that the Government brought together everyone with a stake in the industry’s success, including music fans, to address the long-term challenges and ensure live music can thrive into the future.”

Among the report’s other recommendations are for the Government and Arts Council to make it easier for the live music sector to apply for public funding and for stakeholders across the industry to continue to support the Featured Artists' Coalition’s campaign to end punitive fees on artists' merchandise.

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Image: Unsplash/Joshua Humpfer