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Outdoor entertainment tax threatens Glasgow festivals

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of Scottish promoter DF Concerts, has warned Glasgow City Council that he may move flagship Glasgow event Trnsmt festival (50,000-cap.) out of the city, if a new tax on outdoor entertainment comes into force.

Council leaders voted to introduce a new concert ticket tax to raise money for the council’s budget and balance the toll taken by big events on the city’s parks. The levy would result in an additional charge of £2.50 to each ticket.

The council says that the tax would raise £650,000 a year from events such as Trnsmt, which debuted in 2017 and takes place on the weekend formerly occupied by T in the Park, Glasgow Summer Sessions (35,000-cap.) and Kelvingrove Summer Nights (2,500-cap.), with £150,000 dedicated to the upkeep of the city’s green spaces.

Ellis of DF Concerts calls the levy “well-meaning, but ill-conceived and short-sighted”.

Ellis says he now has “some difficult decisions to make” concerning the outdoor events that he runs in the city. The DF Concerts boss states that his events generated an economic impact of more than £10 million last year.

“Quite simply we are now accelerating towards the cliff edge in terms of outdoor events in this city,” Ellis told the Evening Times.

“Quite simply we are now accelerating towards the cliff edge in terms of outdoor events in this city”

“It is of concern to me that promoters and other event organisers will now be encouraged to start events in other cities knowing that our ability to attract strong artistic talent to Glasgow is compromised by hundreds of thousands of pounds per event,” states Ellis. “I now have to decide whether to lead or follow in that respect.”

As long as they put this tax in place, Glasgow’s going to suffer and it will be to the benefit of other cities,” adds Ellis, mentioning that cities such as Stirling and Dundee “are very keen for us to make use of their assets and the rental prices they’re offering us are far less than Glasgow.”

A spokesperson from the Glasgow City Council comments: “The public has told us how much they value our green spaces and how they would like to see a more direct connection between the events we host and income being invested back into our parks.

“The environmental levy is about striking an appropriate balance between supporting our green spaces and using parks to host large events,” adds the spokesperson.

According to the Trnsmt promoter, event organisers already pay “substantial environmental maintenance sums” for the use of greenfield spaces.

Trnsmt returns to Glasgow Green this year from 12 to 14 July. The three-day festival will see performances from Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen, George Ezra, Snow Patrol and Jess Glynne.


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Legal action fails to halt Coldplay India debut

Coldplay’s debut show in India tomorrow will go ahead as planned following the failure of a legal challenge in the High Court of Bombay.

Anti-corruption activists Anjali Damania and Hemant Gavande challenged a decision by the Maharashtra state government waiving entertainment duty on the concert, arguing the British band’s performance at the not-for-profit Global Citizen festival does not count as an educational or charitable activity, as required by the Bombay Entertainments Duty Act 1923.

However, judges Manjula Chellur and MS Sonak found in favour of Global Citizen and acting advocate-general Rohit Deo, who said the festival “is going to be an eight-hour programme, and the concert by Coldplay is just part of it. The festival is to create awareness of three subjects: gender equality, education and clean water,” reports the PTI news agency.

“It is going to be an eight-hour programme, creating awareness of three subjects: gender equality, education and clean water”

Deo said out of the 80,000 tickets, 65,000 will be given free to those who have demonstrated their commitment to positive societal change – as with previous Global Citizen events, tickets can be won by promoting the charity’s work (by, for example, signing petitions and contacting governments to advocate for it) – and “of the remaining, 11,000 will be sold by the organisers [Delhi-based the Global Education & Leadership Foundation (tGELF)] to meet expenditure and 4,000 have been kept for dignitaries.”

The festival takes place at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai (Bombay) tomorrow. Also on the bill are Jay-Z, Demi Levato and a host of local acts.


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Chicago venues sued for “crippling” amusement tax

Cook County, an Illinois county centred on the city of Chicago, has been compared to a ‘moustache-twirling ’80s movie villain’ for its attempts to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes from a number of small Chicago music venues.

Any establishment hosting “live theatrical, live musical or other live cultural performances” is currently exempted from Cook County’s 3% amusement tax. However, the Chicago Tribune reports two venues – the Evil Olive (400-cap.) and Beauty Bar (750-cap.), both of which host live music and DJs – are now being ordered to pay around US$200,000 each in back taxes because, argues the county, the exemption is only applicable to “any of the disciplines which are commonly regarded as part of the fine arts, such as live theatre, music, opera, drama, comedy, ballet, modern or traditional dance and book or poetry readings.”

“Rap music, country music and rock and roll do not fall under the purview of ‘fine art’,” says Anita Richardson of Cook County’s Department of Administrative Hearings.

Bruce Finkelman, who owns the Beauty Bar, says being forced to pay the tax “would put us out of business”. “That’s a crippling amount of money,” he tells the Tribune.

“It would put us out of business. That’s a crippling amount of money”

Both venues are now fighting the county in court.

Writing for the Chicago Reader’s blog, The Bleader, Reader social media editor Ryan Smith says by ‘fine arts’  the county “seems to imply arts events where white people of a certain age and income level politely clap while holding programmes, where socialites go to rub elbows clad in expensive Italian fabric and tinkle gold-rimmed glasses at cocktail receptions”.

Smith compares Cook County councillors to “cartoonish, moustache-twirling villains from a snobs-versus-slobs ’80s movie”. He writes: “They’re the functional equivalent of John Lithgow’s self-righteous pentecostal preacher character from the 1984 film Footloose, outlawing dancing and rock ‘n’ roll out of fear of the spiritual corruption of the youth. They’re the fun-hating suits and stiffs who want to turn beloved clubhouses into parking lots; the fascist principal who tells the iconoclasts to cut their hair and get jobs; the priggish cultural elitist sneering at the music that ‘kids these days’ love while huffily insisting something like Beethoven is ‘real art’.”

Lawyer Matthew Ryan, representing Beauty Bar, says he will bring a DJ to the courtroom for the next hearing in October to prove that DJs produce music “the same as any instrumentalist”.


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