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Australian government pledges $8.6m to Revive Live

The Australian government has earmarked A$8.6 million (€5.3m) for the Revive Live programme to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the domestic live music sector.

The commitment in the 2024/25 federal budget will provide essential support to live music venues and festivals showcasing Australian acts, and has been welcomed by the country’s music industry.

“This urgent funding comes at a crucial time,” says Dean Ormston, CEO of Australian collection society APRA AMCOS. “Australia has lost more than a quarter of its live music venues and stages across the nation since the pandemic.

“The $8.6 million investment in Revive Live is timely. We know there are many reasons for the continuing closure of iconic venues and festivals across the country: these include substantial increased costs associated with supply chains, soaring public liability insurance premiums, as well as changes in consumer behaviour with cost-of-living pressures.

“Live music venues, especially smaller establishments, find themselves squeezed between rising operational expenses and diminishing profit margins. As a result, many venues are forced to either pass on the increased costs to patrons through higher ticket prices or cut back on live music events altogether. Or worse, they shut their doors and turn off the lights.”

The cash injection comes on the heels of a Senate inquiry into Australia’s national cultural policy, which called for greater assistance for the country’s crisis-hit festival sector.

“This investment will ensure our festivals… can continue to employ thousands of creative workers and showcase Australian artists on our festival stages”

NSW’s Return to Rio became the latest event to call off its 2024 edition earlier this month, citing a 529% rise in police and medical costs, following in the footsteps of the likes of Splendour in the Grass, Groovin the Moo and Falls. Other casualties have included Coastal Jam, Summerground, Vintage Vibes, Tent Pole: A Musical Jamboree and ValleyWays.

“The commitment to funding for festivals and live music will support a vital channel for discovery, ensuring our talented up and coming artists – as well as our established artists – get in front of new and larger audiences faster,” says Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) CEO Annabelle Herd. “ARIA will continue to work with all levels of government to maximise every opportunity for Australian music to reach its true potential.”

Leading Australian independent promoter Untitled Group also backed the move.

“This investment will ensure our festivals such as Pitch Music & Arts, Beyond the Valley, Wildlands and Ability Fest can continue to employ thousands of creative workers and showcase Australian artists on our festival stages,” says the company.

The government has also pledged $7.9m over four years to support people with disability to access and participate in the creative arts.

 


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Canada doubles annual budget for festivals

Canada’s performing arts festivals will benefit from CA$31 million (€21m) in federal funding across the next two years.

The aid, which will be distributed via the Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF), is nearly double the current annual supplementary funding for the programme, which has received $8 million per year since 2019.

This aid benefits nearly 1,600 organisations in every province and territory and contributes to sustaining 78,000 cultural jobs.

A portion of the new funding is already earmarked for festivals including Montreal circus festival La TOHU, Montreal dance and theatre event Festival TransAmériques, the Vancouver Fringe Festival, Quebec’s Sherbrooke Film Festival and Festival des traditions du monde.

“The CAPF increase will provide partial, yet essential, relief and is another step in the right direction”

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA), which has been advocating for an increase in the fund, welcomed the news. “We would like to thank the government for its recognition of the pressure our industry is under,” said CLMA president & CEO, Erin Benjamin. “The CAPF increase will provide partial, yet essential, relief and is another step in the right direction.

“We also hope the Canada Music Fund (CMF) increase, announced on 24 March, will directly address pressures the commercial side of the live music industry is facing, especially independent live music venues. Together, these increases represent a critical opportunity for Canada’s touring infrastructure, and will have immediate impact for artists, tourism and the future of live music across the country.”

CLMA is part of the #FutureOfLive coalition, a collective of 34 performing arts associations, that has been drawing attention to the difficult circumstances in the performing arts industry.

The budget also confirmed the government’s previous announcement of a $32 million annual increase to the Canada Music Fund, which CLMA had campaigned for alongside other music organisations like CIMA and SOCAN.

The Canada Music Fund supports the granting bodies FACTOR and Musicaction, which provide assistance for recording, marketing, touring and more.

 


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LIVE rues budget’s ‘missed opportunity’ on VAT cut

UK live music trade body LIVE has described Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s latest budget as “another missed opportunity” after calls for a reduced VAT rate on ticket sales went unheeded once again.

Hunt did announce, however, that orchestra tax relief (OTR) would become permanent at a rate of 45%.

The current temporary 50% rate of OTR was due to taper down from April 2025 and drop eventually to its original rate of 25%. A theatre tax relief rate of 40% (and 45% for touring productions) will also remain.

“LIVE welcomes the Chancellor’s announcement that the tax reliefs for orchestras and theatres will be made permanent,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “However, today’s Budget represents yet another missed opportunity to accelerate the growth of the live music sector and the wider economy while also providing urgently needed support for grassroots music through the reintroduction of a lower VAT rate.

“20% VAT on tickets in the UK is vastly out of step with our competitors in Europe and North America and has become a material factor limiting the number of gigs, tours and festivals our world class industry can put on.

“Fewer shows mean reduced economic activity in towns and cities across the country – an estimated £1m is spent in local businesses for every 10,000 people who attend a gig – and heaps further pressure onto grassroots music venues that are closing down at an alarming rate. We need urgent action to ensure the whole sector can prosper in the long term.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) chief John Rostron also laments a lack of support for the sector, despite a spate of recent cancellations.

“We’re disappointed that our calls for support for the UK music festival sector have not been met”

“We’re disappointed that our calls for support for the UK music festival sector have not been met,” says Rostron. “Festivals need a temporary reduction in VAT on ticket sales from 20% to 5% in order to recover from the impact of Covid and Brexit, which has created a credit crunch that is seeing successful festivals having to postpone or cancel this year months before their events are due to take place.

“Yet another festival fell yesterday – the 15th event to fall already in 2024. Theatre has made the case for tax relief, which is being extended indefinitely. We urge the Chancellor and the Treasury to now turn to festivals and offer a fraction of that support to ensure more events do not make 2024 their last.”

UK Music interim CEO Tom Kiehl also welcomes the move to make OTR permanent.

“I welcome that the Chancellor has listened to industry calls to put in place extensions to the orchestras tax relief on a permanent basis,” he says.

“The government should use this opportunity to clarify our further calls as to whether touring choirs and other singing groups are also eligible for this important relief.

“We welcome the indirect benefit to music of the introduction other creative sector tax reliefs and seek further government consideration for the introduction of a tax credit to encourage new UK music production.”

Introduced in 2016, OTR is aimed at supporting live orchestral performances. The headline rate was rate uplifted to 50% in 2021 in the wake of Covid and was extended in 2023 for a further two years until April 2025.

The Musicians’ Union and the Association of British Orchestras were among the groups that had called to make the relief permanent.

 


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MVT says venue closures ‘inevitable’ after budget

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) warns that 2023 will be the worst year for venue closures since the organisation was created after the government declined to intervene on energy costs for the sector.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced further support for theatres, museums, art galleries and orchestras in today’s Spring Budget, but the measures did not extend to grassroots music venues (GMVs).

“Already in 2023 one GMV is closing every week,” says MVT chief Mark Davyd. “The budget was an opportunity to ensure that this number of closures did not explode from the 1 April when GMV’s will be hit by excessive and unaffordable energy bills. The Chancellor has failed to respond to the evidence we submitted. There is no additional support for music venues and the inevitable result will be mass closures of venues.”

The MVT had recently presented details to DCMS and HM Treasury of the impact that failing to extend the enhanced business energy relief scheme from 1 April would have on the industry. It previously reported that some venues were seeing their energy bills increase by an average of 300% –in some cases as much as 740% – adding tens of thousands of pounds to their running costs.

“Regrettably, the failure to act on energy bills must inevitably mean that 2023 will be the worst year for closures since the creation of MVT in 2014”

“Regrettably, the failure to act on energy bills must inevitably mean that 2023 will be the worst year for closures since the creation of MVT in 2014,” adds Davyd. “In the absence of any action to this challenge by the government we will once again be reaching out to the energy supply companies to try to avert closures.

“It is plainly in no one’s interest to allow buildings that house GMVs to become abandoned as the cost of energy needed to open those spaces to the public and performers cannot be met by any venue operator.”

Davyd adds that the organisation remains keen to work with the government “to unlock the opportunity that the GMV sector presents”.

“We hope that in the near future a budget statement will be made that recognises and acknowledges the economic, cultural and community opportunity these venues present,” he says.

Elsewhere, the Musicians’ Union (MU) welcomed the announcement in the Budget that the rates of theatre and orchestra tax relief will be maintained at their current levels for a further two years from April.

The MU had lobbied for the higher rates of 45% and 50% respectively to be extended to help the sector to recover from the dual impacts of Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis.

“We are grateful that the government has listened to the MU and others in the creative sectors and extended the higher rate of tax relief for theatres and orchestras for another two years,” says MU general secretary Naomi Pohl.

 


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Budget prompts call for UK live music commission

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) is calling on the government to set up a live music commission after criticising the “missed opportunities” of today’s budget presented by chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

The organisation welcomes Hunt’s announcement, delivered as part of his Autumn Statement, that business rates relief will be extended from 50% to 75% from 1 April 2023 and urges the chancellor and PM to bring forward a full review of the issue for grassroots venues “at the earliest opportunity”.

However there was further frustration for the industry, as pleas to reduce VAT on ticketing were ignored once more.

“A live music commission can provide the government with the tools it needs to be able to recognise the incredible asset the UK has in its grassroots music venues”

“Multiple opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector are being consistently missed,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “Our grassroots music venue sector creates 29,000 jobs, delivering over 170,000 performances to more than 20 million people. It is a vital sector with real opportunities to deliver growth, but that is not recognised and acted upon in this Autumn Statement.

“In light of these missed opportunities, Music Venue Trust calls for the government to set up a live music commission. This body can be charged with considering the significant opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector, with the aim of informing future government policy so that these opportunities are not consistently missed.

“A live music commission can provide the government with the tools it needs to be able to recognise the incredible asset the UK has in its grassroots music venues and ensure that future policy protects, secures and improves them.”

“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink”

Jon Collins, CEO of trade body LIVE, acknowledges the government’s desire to bring stability to the UK economy, but says the budget offers “little help” to secure the future of the UK’s live industry.

“Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink, as much-loved venues close their doors, tours are cancelled and artists drop out of the industry,” he says.

“The pandemic hangover combined with the increased cost of living has led to 54% of people stating they are less disposed to attending live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector. Today, we renew our call for a reintroduction of a lower VAT rate on ticket sales to inject cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses, bring us in line with many other European countries, and secure the future of live music for all.”

“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which has more than 1,400 members, including nightclubs, bars, casinos, festivals, and supply chain businesses ,also criticises the budget for a perceived lack of clarity and suggests the measures outlined do not gone far enough.

“This government is guilty of neglecting thousands of businesses and millions of employees and freelancers across the night time economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity, and will without doubt see a huge swathe of SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and independent businesses disappear in the coming months,” says NTIA chief Michael Kill.

“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future, and will remember the fourth failed attempt to deliver a budget to safeguard businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis. There is no consideration for the human impact, this will have a devastating effect on not only business owners, but the individuals and families who have committed their lives and livelihoods to this sector.”

 


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UK live sector gives mixed reaction to 2021 budget

The UK’s live music industry has given a mixed response to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget, unveiled today (27 October) in the House of Commons.

The chancellor, who upgraded this year’s economic growth forecast from 4% to 6.5%, pledged an additional £850 million in culture sector funding, the majority of which is ring-fenced (including £2m earmarked for a new Beatles attraction on Liverpool Waterfront), alongside temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure properties for 2022-23, worth almost £1.7 billion.

The government is also freezing the business rates multiplier in 2022-23 – a tax cut worth £4.6bn over the next five years, and has increased the headline rate of orchestra tax relief.

However, calls to extend the VAT break on tickets sales beyond next March fell on deaf ears, and no improvements to the government’s £800m insurance scheme for live events were forthcoming. In addition, no cash was allocated to help the sector deal with Brexit’s impact on touring, while the absence of the word ‘music’ from the budget document left a sour taste.

“We’re glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today’s spending review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding,” says a spokesperson for trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news

“However, with the word ‘music’ completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from Covid and the long-term growth of the sector. We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news.”

It remains to be seen whether music will be eligible for the £52m of government funding set aside for museums and “cultural and sporting bodies” next year to support recovery from Covid-19, with an additional £49m allocated for 2024-25.

“We look forward to hearing more detail about some of the measures announced by the chancellor today, in particular the allocation of further Covid-19 recovery funding for the cultural sector,” says Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed. “On the surface, however, it doesn’t go far enough in supporting our truly world-leading festival industry.

“It is clear that the most effective way for the government to support the industry’s recovery into 2022 and beyond would be to extend the VAT reduction on tickets, look closely at a permanent cultural VAT rate, and completely remove festivals based on agricultural land from the business rates system. Unfortunately, none of this was forthcoming today.”

Referencing UK Music’s latest This Is Music report, which revealed the impact of Covid-19 wiped out 69,000 music industry jobs – one in three of the total workforce – the organisation’s CEO, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, says further action is needed to support the music sector’s post-pandemic recovery.

“It is crucial that we get government support to help us continue to rebuilding and hiring people who went so long without work due to the pandemic,” he says.

“Covid halved music’s economic contribution to the UK economy from almost £6 billion a year to £3.1 billion in 2020. If the government strikes the right note by delivering the support we need, our music industry will come back stronger and bigger than ever.”

The government has missed an opportunity

Setting out a three-point plan to boost the business, Njoku-Goodwin adds: “We are pleased to see the extension of the orchestras tax relief yet the government has missed an opportunity to not take forward further music tax incentives to help boost jobs and economic growth. Similarly, business rate relief for venues is very welcome yet we remain concerned about next April’s VAT hike for live events.  

“Ministers must put turbo-chargers under the efforts to clear away the barriers that are still making it so hard and expensive for musicians and crew to tour easily in the EU. As the domestic music market recovers, the government should also build on recent trade deals by giving more funding and support for music exports.

“As well as music’s huge economic and cultural importance, we also need to see the government fully recognise its huge value to our wellbeing by properly funding music education to help nurture our talent pipeline and provide the stars of the future.”

AIM CEO Paul Pacifico welcomes new measures for venues and hospitality, but stresses the importance of a tax relief scheme for music.

“It’s encouraging to see the government recognise the serious blow Covid dealt to the UK’s music industry in today’s budget, discounting business rates for music and other hospitality venues and for premises improvements and green tech use as well as increasing tax reliefs for orchestras,” he says.

“However, more must be done to support the globally significant independent music sector to ensure a viable future for diverse music, creators and entrepreneurs. One key proposal is a tax relief scheme for music, like those successfully implemented in other creative industries such as film and games. This cost-effective measure could provide our sector with the boost it needs, attracting inward investment and creating a ripple effect across the wider music ecosystem. We urge government to include music in such schemes at the next opportunity.”

There were also contrasting emotions from Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill.

“The improved forecasts for growth announced by the chancellor today are good news, and the reopening of the night time economy has been a key part of this better-than-expected bounce back,” says Kill. “We were disappointed that the chancellor chose not to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality – this is a missed opportunity, and it will prevent those forecasts from improving further still.”

 


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UK: 90,000 cultural jobs lost due to pandemic

Around 86,000 jobs in the UK’s cultural nighttime economy sector have been lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which commissioned the report, says it has found that the sector has been “ravaged” by the pandemic.

The report shows for the first time the value of the UK’s nighttime cultural economy, which was 1.6% of GDP – or £36.4 billion – in 2019. This contribution accounted for 425,000 jobs across the UK.

The NTIA says there are fears that many of the jobs lost to the pandemic in the nighttime economy sector will be lost for good, with businesses closing and persistently lower demand for services.

The association has warned that it is “the worst possible time to introduce vaccine passports, which will further damage a sector essential to the economic recovery”.

“We are calling for [the chancellor] to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality until 2024, including door sales”

“[This report is] timely because at this moment, governments in Scotland and Wales are pressing ahead with chaotic vaccine passport plans, and the UK government refuses to rule out their use in England,” says Michael Kill, CEO at NTIA.

“It is crucial the chancellor uses the upcoming Budget to support this beleaguered sector. We are calling for him to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality until 2024, include door sales in that reduced rate of VAT, because the present system punishes nightclubs that rely on door sales rather than selling tickets, and for him to ensure there are no increases in alcohol duties – our sector really cannot afford any additional burdens.”

The last Budget took place on 3 March 2021 and included an extra £300 million for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), ‘restart grants’ for hospitality/leisure businesses, the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough) and self-employed income support (SEISS) schemes, and business rate relief.

The budget also confirmed an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales for a further six months, with an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022.

 


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UK live industry cautiously welcomes 2021 budget

The UK’s live music industry has welcomed many of the provisions contained in the 2021 government budget, presented this afternoon by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, but expressed its disappointment at the continued lack of a European-style insurance scheme for festival organisers.

Among the measures unveiled by Sunak in the Commons today (3 March) are an extra £300 million for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), ‘restart grants’ for hospitality/leisure businesses, the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough) and self-employed income support (SEISS) schemes, and business rate relief.

The budget also confirmed an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales – a key campaign focus for pan-industry group LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) and the whole UK concert industry – for a further six months, with an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, says: “We warmly welcome the extension to the reduced VAT rate on tickets, which will really help festivals during the 2021 sales cycle. For many AIF members, this is the first period in which they are selling tickets since the outset of the pandemic. We do, however, reiterate the recommendation of the DCMS select committee for VAT on ticket sales to remain at a reduced rate for three years so that the UK festival sector can fully recover.

“The Culture Recovery Fund has been a lifeline for many of our members so it’s greatly encouraging to see a further £300m invested into this, though we would appreciate some further detail on this additional round and the time period it will cover.

“Independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer”

“We also welcome the extension to the government’s furlough scheme and continued support for the self-employed. However, independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer. As we have repeatedly stressed, the only way they can do this is with a government-backed insurance scheme that covers Covid-19-related cancellation. The chancellor today confirmed the extension of the government backed restart scheme for film and TV productions – a similar safety net needs to be put in place before the end of March to avoid mass cancellations throughout the UK’s festival market.”

Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, comments: “For the live music industry, today’s budget, and specifically the extension of furlough to September, is enormously welcome. The whole sector has been grateful for a 21 June ‘not before’ date for operating at full capacity, and the extension of the 5% VAT rate on tickets is something we had been hoping to see.

“Uncertainty remains, and the lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation is a huge concern – what the entire live sector wants is to be allowed to trade safely out of this situation and once more welcome people to come together for extraordinary shared experiences.”

“Music Venue Trust welcomes the extensions to furlough, SEISS and the VAT cut on ticket sales,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. These measures are supportive of the next steps in the campaign to reopen every venue safely. On business rates, we note that the Chancellor has provided a 100% cut for the initial three-month period in which venues will not be trading. This period does not resolve the long running debate on business rates, and we look forward to a full discussion of this outdated and anachronistic taxation in the business rates review in Autumn 2021.

“The chancellor announced additional funding to be distributed by Arts Council England [ACE], but the purpose of this funding is unclear; we hope to work with ACE and DCMS to ensure it is effectively distributed, and includes sensible and structured capital investment that enables our music venues to become more Covid-secure.”

“The needs of those in mixed employment, and those individuals operating as limited companies, were not met”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of Music Managers Forum, says: “The MMF welcomes the extension of eligibility for support to the self-employed. This is a really important measure that should have an impact on our community and their clients, many of whom faced real hardship during the pandemic, although unfortunately directors of limited companies are still excluded. We also welcome the £300m Cultural Recovery Fund for reopening, although it was disappointing not to hear any developments on government-backed insurance for live music events which is urgently needed to get us back up and running in July.

For a full longer-term music recovery, to a place where artists can perform to full capacity crowds and tour internationally, we will need this kind of targeted and continued support reaching into 2022.”

“We welcome the continuation of support for employers and self-employed workers, as well as the addition of those newly self employed sole traders; this is tempered by the disappointment that the needs of those in mixed employment and those individuals operating as limited companies were not met,” adds Dave Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association.

“Support for companies is also broadly welcomed, although doubt over whether business rate relief applies to our members that support hospitality and leisure remains. Any discounts given to venues should be clearly extended to those companies that work in those venues, recognising that live events are an ecosystem that needs complete support. Although the extension of the 5% VAT rate helps, it needs to be extended to assist our sector’s recovery.

“The extension to the Culture Recovery Fund is encouraging, we hope that the current and subsequent rounds will support event more of our member companies that support cultural activity.”

 


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Indian budget “completely ignores” live events

Industry association EEMA has sharply criticised the Indian government for making no provisions in its most recent budget for the live entertainment sector, which has been devastated by the series of lockdowns and ‘unlocks’ imposed on the country since last March.

The 2021–22 Union Budget, presented to the Indian parliament by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this week, “completely ignores” the events sector, as well as hospitality, tourism and other related industries, according to Siddhartha Chaturvedi, general secretary of the Events and Entertainment Management Association.

While cinemas are permitted to reopen at 100% capacity from 1 February under so-called ‘unlock 9.0’ guidelines (ie the ninth easing of lockdown), the live events sector has had “almost nil revenue” since the first lockdown came into effect” in March 2020, said the EEMA in a letter sent to Sitharaman (pictured) last month asking for relief for the industry.

The association had asked for wage subsidies, tax relief/refunds, free venue hire and interest-free loans, among other measures, to be included in the budget.

“We were really expecting some SOS measures for our industry in particular”

Chaturvedi says the industry has been left bitterly disappointed by the lack of support for what he describes an industry that is still “bleeding” money. “The budget has been extremely disappointing for us in events. The government has completely ignored this bleeding sector, and so is the case of the entire hospitality, tourism and aviation sectors, which are all related to each other,” he comments. “We were really looking forward to a helping hand from the government in these dire times.”

While the budget shows the government’s intent to “spend a lot to infuse economic activities”, EEMA was “really expecting some SOS measures for our industry in particular, and are extremely disappointed with this lack of empathy towards us.”

“The budget largely seems progressive for the economy,” adds Samit Garg, the association’s executive vice-president. “However, there is unfortunately nothing in there for our events and experiential industry. The only silver lining is the increased government expenditure, which may yield more business opportunities for us.”

EEMA represents more than 1,000 companies, including artist managers, talent agents, event organisers and event management companies.

 


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UK govt abolishes business rates for small venues

Businesses with a rateable value of below £51,000 will not pay any business rates – the tax levied on non-domestic property in the UK – for the next year, in what comes as a boost to the country’s grassroots music sector.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the rates abolishment today (11 March) as part of the government’s budget for 2020, which focuses on how to ease the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. The rates relief will run from April 2020 for twelve months.

Full business rates relief previously only applied to firms with a rateable value – the value used to determine payable business rates, based on size, location and other factors – of below £12,000.

“In our manifesto last year, the government promised to increase their business rates retail discount by 50%, but we can go further,” says the chancellor. “We are taking the exceptional step of abolishing business rates altogether.”

The tax cut, says Sunak, is worth over £1 billion and is set to save each business up to £25,000.

A review into the long-term future of business rates will be concluded by the autumn.

“We are taking the exceptional step of abolishing business rates altogether”

In 2017, a 4% hike in business rates saw the overheads paid by many small businesses across the UK skyrocket. Grassroots venues in particular have suffered, having remained exempt from the tax relief granted to other small retailers for years.

Venue operators across the UK celebrated a 50% cut in rates in January, calling it “a profound and positive step” for the sector.

That same month, iconic London music venue the 100 Club became the first venue in the country to receive full business rates relief, under a new scheme put forward by Westminster City Council.

The venue, which has played host to the Rolling Stones, Oasis and the Sex Pistols, has been on the brink of closure at least three times in the past decade, with a third of UK venues closing in the same time period.

Speaking at Futures Forum on Friday, Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett, who operates London venues Omeara and Lafayette, lamented the loss of many UK grassroots venues and stressed the importance of having venues of all sizes for artists to perform in.

Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust (MVT) comments: “Music Venue Trust very warmly welcomes additional measures announced by HM Government in the budget to tackle the developing crisis provoked by Covid-19. We are particularly pleased that alongside the additional cut to business rates, the challenges Covid-19 presents to the smallest grassroots music venues, many of whom are too small to be in the existing business rates system, will be addressed via the small business grant fund, providing grants of up to £3000 to manage the emerging negative impacts.

 “The coronavirus outbreak presents a new challenge for the live music industry and this welcome step will be a lifeline for some at this critical time”

“It remains the case that too many grassroots music venues in the UK have rateable valuations which are simply too high to benefit from either of these measures,” continues Davyd, “and those venues will need additional measures bringing forward to enable them to withstand this crisis.

“We also welcome the commitment to a review of business rates to be carried out this year, with the hope that this review will finally result in the creation of an accurate and relevant classification for grassroots music venues that will see an end to them being unfairly penalised in this outdated system.”

Acting UK Music CEO Tom Kiehl adds that the chancellor should “be hugely congratulated” for scrapping business rates.

“Music venues are the lifeblood of our industry,” continues Kiehl. “However, many are fighting for survival and need all the help they can get to remain open.

 “The coronavirus outbreak presents a new challenge for the live music industry and this welcome step will be a lifeline for some businesses at this critical time.

 “We ask the Government to constantly review financial support available to music businesses and employees in response to coronavirus and consider making further changes.”

 


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