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‘Enough is enough’ on venue closures – MVT

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) says that “enough is enough” after revealing that 2023 was the worst year for UK venue closures since its launch a decade ago.

The organisation, which represents hundreds of grassroots music venues (GMVs), reveals that 125 GMVs (16%) closed last year – a rate of two per week – with 38% of venues reporting a loss in 2023, according to its newly published annual report.

The remaining 835 members of the Music Venue Alliance (MVA) staged over 187,000 events last year, with 1.7m individual artist performances attracting audience visits of over 23.5m. However, despite generating over £500m in revenues, GMVs made just £2.5m or 0.5% profit for the period.

“2023 was the worst year for venue closures since Music Venue Trust launched ten years ago,” says Beverley Whitrick, COO of Music Venue Trust. “We are still losing on average two venues a week and those that have survived are now consumed by threats to their continued existence that they have no chance of overcoming without immediate help. Without external support our entire sector would be bankrupt.

“We have been warning of these consequences for the last six years yet still the top end of the live music sector posts record profits while, with a few notable exceptions, turning a blind eye to those who discover, nurture and develop the artists that generate that revenue for them.”

“Enough is enough, this report speaks for itself and we will not allow this to continue”

The report, which can be accessed here, also details how the whole sector would have operated at a loss during the period without grants and donations totalling £3.1m from sources including MVT’s own Pipeline Investment Fund, as well as Arts Council England and other bodies.

In total, the amount that GMVs are subsidising live music rose from £79m in 2022 to £115m in 2023 – a 45% increase over the previous 12 months.

With high energy prices and rent increases averaging 37%, 164 member venues accessed the MVT Emergency Response Service which, for the first time since the organisation’s launch a decade ago, found that the primary cause of venue closure was a lack of financial viability.

“Enough is enough, this report speaks for itself and we will not allow this to continue,” adds MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “We must either find a way to act collectively to get these venues and the artists who rely on them the financial support they need to survive or we will seek legislation to compel it.”

The report notes a “distinct contrast” between the profit margins of venues based on their geographical locations, with those in bigger towns being more profitable. Venues in areas with populations under 200,000 reporting an average loss of -2.55%, compared to a 1.7% profit margin in more populated areas.

“We can no longer accept complacency from those in a position to help prevent the annihilation of our sector”

Additionally, venues with a total turnover of less than £500,000 were more likely to have a negative profit margin (averaging -0.5%) compared to those with turnovers exceeding £500,000 (averaging 3%),

Davyd repeats the MVT’s call for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for UK live music events above 5,000 capacity.

“The idea that we, as an industry, cannot voluntarily create a levy to support our grassroots sector, unilaterally and without government intervention is absurd but we cannot escape the fact that we are simply not acting fast enough,” adds Davyd. “For that reason, Music Venue Trust is asking all of the main political parties for manifesto commitments ahead of the forthcoming General Election that state that there must be a contribution from the most successful parts of our industry into the grassroots research and development carried out on their behalf.

“It’s time to stop the excuses – we can no longer accept complacency from those in a position to help prevent the annihilation of our sector.”


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Music Venue Trust names new co-chairs

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) has made a number of changes to its board of trustees.

Ingrooves’ Bonita McKinney and Heliocentric Entertainment’s Phyllis Belezos have been named co-chairs, succeeding Sarah Thirtle in the role.

Both are trustees of the charitable organisation and played an important role in its work throughout the pandemic, including when assessing the financial support that MVT was able to give to individual venues via its successful #SaveOurVenues campaign.

“I have been a proud member of the MVT board and am excited to become co-chair,” says Belezos. “Music Venue Trust and the team’s work has helped venues survive not only during these last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, but by supporting them in every way.

“My goal is to continue the building process so that venues not just survive but thrive. I also want to help instigate new ideas and structure to a part of the live industry that is fundamental to the artists and everyone involved in our beloved grassroots music venue community.”

McKinney adds: “I’ve seen the team work tirelessly over the pandemic and I want to help them and the music venues we represent as much as possible. I’m excited to lead the board into the next chapter for MVT as we face the post-pandemic music landscape and get back to our core goals and mission.”

“We welcome interest from anyone with relevant skills who is keen to volunteer their time and passion for grassroots music venues”

Scott Taylforth, Ticketmaster’s finance manager, UK client settlements, has also joined the MVT board as treasurer.

“Live music has played a major part in influencing my life for as long as I can remember,” he says. “Grassroots music venues are where it all begins, they’re the breeding ground of an industry that is worth a staggering £5.8 billion to the UK economy. Without them, many opportunities would be lost for future generations and the creative industries as we know them would cease to exist.

“I am absolutely honoured to be working with the MVT and look forward to working with the team and drawing on my music industry finance experience to help grow this amazing organisation.”

Meanwhile, Bengi Unsal, ex-head of contemporary music at Southbank Centre, is stepping down from the MVT board after four years but will serve as an MVT industry patron, as well as becoming director of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

“We are excited to welcome Phyllis, Bonita and Scott into these roles,” says MVT strategic director Beverley Whitrick. “Their experience, expertise and insight will be invaluable to our team as we navigate the next phase of MVT and put in place the strategies needed to continue protecting the grassroots music venue community.

“We would also like to thank Bengi and all of our continuing trustees for their incredible contribution to Music Venue Trust. The charity will continue to develop its board and we welcome expressions of interest from anyone with relevant skills who is keen to volunteer their time and passion for grassroots music venues.”


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Euro execs map out live’s road to recovery

A trio of European live music figures have given their thoughts on rising ticket prices, customer demand and the grassroots circuit as they gear up for the 2022 season.

Speaking in the latest issue of IQ, CTS Eventim COO Alexander Ruoff, Superbloom MD Fruzsina Szep and Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of the UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT), mapped out the forthcoming year for the live business.

Ruoff discussed the long-term ramifications of Covid for the touring business, warning that Covid risk mitigation and rising supply chain costs were likely to have knock-on effects for consumers.

“If costs remain persistently high due to increased requirements for access and hygiene measures, and for suppliers, this will also have an impact on ticket prices in the longer term,” he said, adding that the crisis could lead to further consolidation within the marketplace.

Munich-based CTS posted “encouraging” financial results for Q3 2021, powered by strong ticket sales by major international artists including Ed Sheeran, Genesis and Coldplay, as well as German rock act Udo Lindenberg.

However, Ruoff stopped short of forecasting a swift return to 2019 levels of business.

“We had thought that this would be the case in 2021, but the virus has taught us that it is unpredictable,” he cautioned. “We are confident for the summer. How the rest of the year will develop is not predictable from today’s perspective.”

“We have to gain back the trust of our fans and the sponsors”

Fruzsina, whose previous roles include festival director for Lollapalooza Berlin and programme director of Sziget Festival in Budapest, spoke of the immediate challenges facing the festival industry.

“We have to gain back the trust of our fans and the sponsors,” she said. “We have to come back in full capacity, and the main restrictions have to disappear in the longer term in order to promote again in a normal and trustful way. The audience is much more careful [about] where they go, what they buy, when, and for which event.”

Goodlive’s Superbloom is set for Olympic Park in Munich from 3-4 September, with artists such as Stromae, David Guetta, Anne-Marie and Glass Animals.

“I feel confident in the festival summer 2022, and I know that many of my dear brothers and sisters in the festival family feel the same,” added Fruzsina.

Whitrick, meanwhile, talked through the MVT’s developing relationships with associations across the world. The organisation unveiled Venues Day International – the first global event aimed exclusively at grassroots music venue operators and owners – last year in partnership with Live DMA (Europe), Music Policy Forum (North America), Canadian Live Music Association, Live Music Office Australia and NIVA (US).

“We hope to hold an online International Venues Day in 2022 to develop the network further, with the eventual aspiration of holding an in-person international version of our established national networking event,” she said.

“Our sector is made up of dedicated, resilient people who will do everything they can to persevere. Things are tough, but over 900 venues are still here, and we will continue to work collectively to support each other and tackle long and short-term challenges. If we can fix some of the things that make the finances so precarious – business rates, VAT on tickets, ownership of the buildings – then our venues can get on with presenting amazing shows, connecting audiences with new artists, and providing vital spaces for the development of new music.”


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UK grassroots sector facing fresh Covid crisis

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has warned the UK’s grassroots circuit is on the brink of collapse in the wake of fresh government restrictions.

The organisation reports that small venues have been hit by a catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head since last Wednesday’s announcement of Plan B measures to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, placing the entire sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures.

As a result, the MVT is calling on culture secretary Nadine Dorries to create a ring-fenced stabilisation fund to protect the sector, stressing that significant funding from the £1.7 billion Culture Recovery Fund remains unspent and unallocated.

“This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season,” says MVT strategic director Beverley Whitrick.

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs.”

It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020

The MVT says losses over the last week were close to £2 million, with 86% of venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event. The biggest causes of cancellations were a performer/member of the touring party testing positive for Covid (35.6%), private hire bookings cancelled by the organiser (31.3%) and poor sales performance (23.6%).

MVT CEO Mark Davyd likens the predicament to the early days of the pandemic.

“It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020, when confusing government messaging created a ‘stealth lockdown’ – venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it,” he says.

“We have been here before. This time the government already has all the tools in place that it needs to manage this impact and prevent permanent closures in the grassroots music venue sector. The Culture Recovery Fund can be swiftly adapted to mitigate this economic impact, the money is already there and waiting, we just need the secretary of state to act quickly.

“The government previously used business rate suspension and VAT cuts to support and sustain the sector. We don’t need to spend time considering the situation; the government already knows what can be done and can choose very quickly to do it.”

MPs yesterday voted to back the government’s “Plan B” measures to tackle Omicron by introducing vaccine certificates or negative lateral flow tests to enter venues. The move was criticised by Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill.

“We are disappointed that MPs have voted into law covid passports for nightclubs,” he says. “The NTIA have consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night time economy businesses and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively.

“It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus.”

IQ has compiled the latest live music restrictions affecting key international touring markets in Europe here, and the rest of the world here.


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UK govt dedicates £2.25m to grassroots venues

The UK government has announced that the first tranche of funding from its £1.57 billion cultural recovery package will be used to save around 150 grassroots music venues from insolvency.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden made the announcement over the weekend, saying that £2.25 million from the overall package has been earmarked to support venues at imminent risk of collapse.

The money is expected to benefit up to 150 venues across the country and will be received by organisations within the next few weeks.

Arts Council England will administer the financial support, providing grants of up to £80,000 to help cover essential on-going costs including rent, utilities, maintenance contracts and other bills incurred between 4 August and 30 September 2020.

Eligible venues include those that present live grassroots music events in any music genre, including multi-arts venues that host other events alongside a main music programme and those that play “a significant role” in developing talent.

The fund is being launched at the request of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which recently urged the government to do more to support the live industry. Members of the UK live music industry had also previously raised concerns over the lack of information surrounding the distribution of funds from the rescue package, which was first unveiled at the beginning of July.

“Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm”

Further information on eligibility criteria and funding distribution is expected this week.

“Without our grassroots music venues, we wouldn’t have the Beatles, Adele or Elton John. Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm,” comments Dowden.

“The first £2.25m of our unprecedented cultural rescue package is targeted at their survival. We’re working to deliver the rest of the £1.57bn emergency package as quickly as possible, so that we can protect and preserve our precious culture, arts and heritage for future generations.”

Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT) says the organisation “warmly welcomes” the funding for grassroot venues facing “urgent, short-term challenges”.

“Without this help, the sector would be facing a wave of permanent closures,” says Whitrick. “Throughout this crisis we have worked closely with DCMS and are delighted that the urgent need for this intervention has been recognised and responded to.”

MVT has also been working with the government in Scotland, where £2.2m was recently dedicated to supporting grassroots venues.

The news come as venues across the UK struggle in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, with many having to cut staff, or being forced to close their doors forever. Manchester venues Gorilla and Deaf Institute were recently saved from the brink of closure after being bought by venue operator Tokyo Industries.

Applications for the UK funding are open until 3 August. More information about the fund and how to apply is available here.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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The Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2019

IQ: Panellists, what do you anticipate being next year’s greatest challenges, both for you and for the wider industry?

Emma Bownes, vice-president of programming, AEG Europe: I think most of the industry is concerned about the impact of Brexit on the music industry – will it lead to restrictions on travel for British acts?

The government have to make sure that musicians, particularly smaller ones, can continue to tour the EU easily without the need for visas – and similarly for European artists – while they develop as artists and build their fan-bases and careers.

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director, Music Venue Trust: So much attention is being focused on Brexit that it makes it even more difficult to advance with the changes needed to protect the grassroots of the music industry. Not surprisingly, enormous and necessary energy is being spent trying to safeguard international touring and ensuring that the UK continues to be a leader in music.

Trying to reconcile what is needed at home with these global concerns poses the greatest challenge for 2019.

Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director, FKP Scorpio: A challenge faced by both the touring and festival sectors is the rising costs in all areas, such as personnel, production, administrative expenses and, especially, artist fees. Of course, ticket prices cannot – and should not – be scaled limitlessly, so we need to find ways to optimise and allocate these expenses.

Okan Tombulca, managing director, eps: I think our biggest challenge will be the same as for the rest of the industry: labour. Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff – security, stagehands, event co-ordinators – as well as equipment.

“Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff”

Kim Bloem, vice-head promoter, Mojo Concerts: The biggest issue over the last two years is the lack of personnel and materials for the number of events taking place from May to September. The number of shows, festivals and special events is rapidly increasing in this period, and therefore building crew, technicians, riggers, security personnel, etc., get exhausted because they’re working crazy hours.

We need to make sure live music remains a safe working place for everybody, but getting the number of people needed is very challenging.

Okan Tombulca: I think 2019 will be the biggest year in 20 years in terms of the number of events going on.

Jules de Lattre, senior agent, United Talent Agency: The issue of ticket pricing, both on the primary and secondary markets. Although significant progress was made in 2018, how to combat illicit secondary-ticketing practices will continue to be an issue we deal with on a daily basis.

As the secondary market becomes more regulated but not fully eradicated, will a more widely used and accepted model of dynamic pricing on the primary market emerge?

IQ: How about the biggest opportunities?

Jules de Lattre: As music consumption on ISPs explodes, there will be increasing opportunities for fans to fully connect with artists in the live space.

Mark Yovich, president, Ticketmaster InternationalThere are more opportunities than ever before to empower artists to connect with their fans and harness their live experience. Whether that’s through digital tickets or facial recognition, we are continuing to innovate in a wide range of products that are changing the landscape of the live business.

“Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience”

Emma Bownes: This year saw a great deal of progress made in terms of restricting the ability of professional ticket resellers to acquire and resell large amounts of tickets with a huge mark-up. The British government introduced new legislation to ban resellers from using bots to purchase tickets in bulk, secondary ticketing sites Get Me In! and Seatwave are closing down, and the O2 and the SSE Arena, Wembley, both introduced a digital ticketing system featuring a dynamically changing barcode system that ensures tickets cannot be copied or shared on secondary sites.

Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience.

IQ: Can you identify any key market trends you expect to see emerging next year?

Stephan Thanscheidt: Concentration of power. Next to the continuously evolving activities of FKP Scorpio in Germany and abroad, as well as the strategic partnership with AEG, the live sector of [FKP majority owner] CTS Eventim is growing further due to purchases in Italy and Spain. The same can, of course, be observed at Live Nation and other international companies.

Beverley Whitrick: More grassroots music venues will close unless people who claim to be supportive actually start demonstrating that support through their actions.

Stephan Thanscheidt: Another observation is the formation of investors and investment groups who don’t have a background as a promoter buying up festivals all over Europe.

“Apart from music and comedy, we see the market for speaking events growing”

Mark Yovich: One word: mobile. We’ve been saying it for years, but 2018 saw a huge spike in the percentage of mobile traffic and, more importantly, mobile ticket sales. We think mobile-first with everything we do, from how fans discover events through to digital methods of entry.

Beverley Whitrick: Local activism and campaigns to support music will grow. Both artists and audiences are getting more vocal about the value of live music to communities, local economies, and health and wellbeing.

Emma Bownes: Alongside the music programming you’d expect to see at both venues, we’re seeing a lot of shows coming through the O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley, that are aimed at more of a family audience: Hugh Jackman, Cirque du Soleil, NBA, Harlem Globetrotters, Strictly Come Dancing, WWE…

We’re also hosting Superstars of Gymnastics at the O2 – a major new showcase of the sport, featuring Simone Biles and Max Whitlock.

Kim Bloem: My colleague Gideon Karting promoted a show with K-pop band BTS this year, which was huge, so that is definitely something that we expect to see emerging in the market in the next few years.

Also, apart from music and comedy – the latter of which is a genre that sees massive audience interest – we see the market for speaking events growing. This year, Barack Obama did a couple of events, and I hope we can have his wife Michelle come to the Netherlands at some point. We can hopefully embrace this kind of role model and learn from them how we can all contribute to a better world.

“I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry”

IQ: What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

Mark Yovich: The Sunday night at Reading Festival for Foo Fighters. Their London Stadium gig was amazing and I can’t wait to see them again.

Emma Bownes: Sheffield Wednesday turning things around and making it to the play-offs.

Jules de Lattre: We have a very exciting summer of major international festivals planned for Christine and the Queens in 2019. Considering how strong and unique her live show is, I expect the summer will have a significant impact on this campaign. I’m excited for festivalgoers to see and experience this incredible show.

Mark Yovich: Muse and Fleetwood Mac are some other great stadium shows I’m looking forward to, as well as Billie Eilish at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in early 2019.

Beverley Whitrick: Continuing to meet amazing people whose passion for music makes the work we do worthwhile.

IQ: Finally, what, if anything, could the industry do better together in 2019?

Okan Tombulca: In Germany, we have a twice-yearly meeting of all festival promoters and service companies, to share information about health and safety and develop one set of rules for the whole country. I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry, to share knowledge, help each other and work better together.

“Anyone in the business should do whatever they can to provide support to those in need”

Kim Bloem: Be a bit nicer to each other, work more closely together, and try to reduce the amount of paperwork and covering our own asses all the time. If we work hard and well, we should be able to trust each other’s judgment.

Jules de Lattre: Conversations about mental health are becoming more commonplace and I hope will continue to do so. Anyone in the business should look around them and do whatever they can to provide reliable health and wellness support to those in need.

Gender diversity and equality in the music industry as a whole – from the presence of female-fronted acts at festivals to gender pay gaps and fairer access to leadership roles in the music industry – will also remain a major talking point in the year to come.

Mark Yovich: Accessibility is a huge issue in our industry and we’re working closely with Attitude is Everything on their Ticketing Without Barriers campaign to make sure more is being done.

There seems to be some great momentum, and now is the time for us all to come together to find solutions to ensure equal access to live entertainment.

Stephan Thanscheidt: We need to stand united against political and societal injustice.

Music is being used by groups who are against democratic values and human rights – so why shouldn’t we do the same for freedom and peace?


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