Music Venue Trust launch annual report

The Music Venues Trust annual report highlights the important contribution that its members make to the UK economy while delivering sobering news about the challenges facing many in the sector.

Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents almost 1000 UK grassroots music venues (GMVs) has launched its 2022 Annual Report, which highlights the important contribution that its members make to the UK economy while delivering sobering news about the challenges facing many in the sector.

A survey of the 960 members of the Music Venue Alliance (MVA), who employ over 30,000 people throughout the sector, found that they staged 177,000 events in 2022, with 565,000 individual performances attracting audience visits of almost 22 million. This, however, is a decline of 16.7% from 2019 as venues were forced to make significant cutbacks to continue operating solvently.

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 report also identified that in 2022, the average grassroots music venue capacity was 308, 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%.

The total income from those events was over £500m but venues reported an average profit margin of just 0.2% resulting in them subsidising live music performances by around £79m last year.

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust said, “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.”

In the light of these findings MVT is calling on the government and the wider music industry to support the sector, which it says is “now past the tipping point.”

As part of this call to action it has highlighted the VAT applied to venue ticket sales as on ongoing barrier to profitability which is “crushing the economic viability of this sector and reducing the ability of the grassroots to create new British talent.” Currently set at one of the highest rates in the world MVT is demanding it be reduced to the average European level of 5% or preferably removed entirely.

Mark Davyd added, “We need urgent action from the government on all these factors as well as a full review of VAT on ticket sales. In short, we need a coherent long term economic plan that recognises the importance of what our members do and gives them a chance to keep nurturing up and coming artists and contributing to their local communities.”

MVT has also called for a thorough review of what it refers to as “excessive and anti-competitive” business rates, which are the result of a “completely broken” assessment system as a fundamental factor in the ongoing pressure on venues.

Mark Davyd commented: “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 & 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.”

Additionally, MVT have outlined plans to ensure all new arenas opening in the UK contribute to the security of the wider music eco-system by investing a percentage of every ticket they sell into the grassroots music eco-system. To illustrate this, they have issued a direct request to the City of Manchester, The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, Manchester City Council and all Manchester MPs to ensure that the new 23,500 cap. Co-op Live Arena, which is due to open in Manchester later this year, pledges a commitment to this initiative.

Mark Davyd said, “We cannot go on building more and more arenas with no plan of how to fill the stages they create in five, ten or twenty years’ time and without these new facilities playing their part in helping protect the grassroots eco-system. The threat is real: we need more from the music industry and we need it now, otherwise what is currently a crisis will soon become a terminal decline for venues, their staff, artists and audiences.”

For the full Music Venue Trust Annual Report 2022 please click here