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Second scheme to purchase music venues launches

A second scheme to purchase music venues in order to secure their long-term futures has launched – this time, in the UK.

Music Venue Trust (MVT), the UK charity that represents hundreds of grassroots music venues, today (23 May) announced an ambitious initiative to buy the freehold of grassroots music venue (GMV) properties.

A similar enterprise was launched in the US in 2020 by former WME music execs Marc Geiger and John Fogelman. Under the banner SaveLive, the pair amassed a multi-million-dollar war chest to “bailout” struggling US music venues.

MVT, on the other hand, has launched a Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS) named Music Venue Properties (MVP) in order to buy venues in the UK.

Unlike a charity, a CCBS can raise money through community shares purchased by, say, music fans and ethical investors. Anyone who buys a share will help raise funds to allow MVP to buy freeholds, whilst also receiving a 3% APR return on their investment.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust says, “This is the most ambitious initiative Music Venue Trust has ever undertaken. The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership. Too many have been at the mercy of some commercial landlords whose motivations revolve primarily around profit. We have lost over a third of our venues in the last 20 years and with over 90% having only 18 months left on their tenancies we are at the cliff edge and could see the decimation of our sector if we don’t do something radical about it.

“The Music Venue Properties scheme will allow ethical investors and music fans to invest in the future of live music while receiving a healthy return on their money. Our #SaveOurVenues campaign launched during the pandemic raised over £4.1m with more than 80,000 people contributing. We already have the crowd – we just need to ask them to invest from 23 May and are confident they will.”

“The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership”

MVP has identified nine venues for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept; six venues in England; one in Scotland; two in Wales.

With an initial target of £3.5 million to purchase these venues, the first of these Community Share Offers will launch later this month on (23 May). MVP hopes to purchase these venues before the end of 2022.

Further venue freeholds will be identified and secured as and when they become available, and MVP will continue to raise funds through selling community shares and borrowing against the freeholds purchased. All rental income subsequently received from the purchase of venues will be reinvested towards the expansion of the portfolio.

MVP says that on completion of purchase, it will offer the majority of current operators an immediate rent reduction and help contribute to building repairs and insurance, while also “guaranteeing long term security and market resistant rents”.

According to MVT, the issue of ownership underpins almost every other challenge that GMVs have faced during the last twenty years including gentrification, noise complaints, under-investment, poor economic models, and an inability to plan for the future.

Over 35% of GMVs have closed in the last 20 years and 93% of them are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy. Since the start of the Covid crisis, the sector has acquired over £90m of new debt, yet 67% of Culture Recovery Fund grant aid was paid directly to landlords.

Elsewhere, Geiger and Fogelman’s SaveLive recently announced its first round of venue partners, as well as a $135m round of investment.


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MVT’s Revive Live showcase heads to ILMC

The Music Venue Trust’s Revive Live initiative, which played a significant role in restarting the UK’s grassroots sector, is coming to ILMC 34.

The scheme, which spotlights the best emerging talent as well as bringing household names to small venues, was launched in July 2021 with support from the UK National Lottery, which contributed £1 million to directly underwrite the touring and production costs of hundreds of live performances.

ILMC returns in-person to London’s Royal Garden Hotel from April 26-29. Revive Live will make its ILMC debut with a showcase at Notting Hill Arts Club – a 10-minute walk from the Royal Garden Hotel – from 7pm to 9pm on Wednesday 27 April (doors at 18:30), enabling delegates to make it back for MVT’s Pop Quiz, which begins at 9.30pm. The Revive Live line-up features Heartworms (7.10pm), LibraLibra (7.50pm) and LIFE (8.30pm).

In addition, ILMC will also present its annual Access All Areas programme, which allows access to registered delegates to catch some of London’s hottest shows using just their conference pass. The series of shows are available courtesy of Kilimanjaro Live, AEG Presents, MVT, Paradigm & Pitch & Smith.

Access All Areas kicks off on Tuesday 26 April with shows by George O’Hanlon (Camden Assembly, 7pm), Holy Fuck (Village Underground, 9pm), Salem (Camden Underworld, 9pm) and Luca Wilding (Omeara, 9pm).

It continues on Wednesday 27 April with Chuck Ragan (Islington Assembly Hall), Baby Queen (Electric Ballroom), Highasakite (Academy Islington), My Dad Wrote a Porno (London Palladium), Tamera (Colours Hoxton), Midlight (Signature Brew Haggerston), The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project (606 Club), José González (Roundhouse) and Diskopunk (Queen of Hoxton).

Elsewhere, Thursday 28 April will feature Xentrix (The Underworld), Wilko Johnson (Islington Assembly Hall), Stone Broken + Mason Hill + The Fallen State (Electric Ballroom), What The France X Kili presents: Terrenoire + November Ultra + Eugenie (Courtyard Theatre), Honne (O2 Academy Brixton), My Dad Wrote a Porno (London Palladium), Noah Slee (Colours Hoxton,), Morganway (The Half Moon Putney), Neil Angilley (606 Club), Kitty Fitz + Vogues + Pink Shabab (Cavendish Arms), Piri & Tommy (XOYO) and Bad Boy Chiller Crew (O2 Forum Kentish Town).

The series will then culminate on Friday 29 April with Desertfest (Electric Ballroom), Melodaze (Folklore), Pomme (Omeara), My Dad Wrote a Porno (London Palladium), Pynch (Colours Hoxton), Mariachi Las Adelitas UK (Rich Mix), Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders (The Half Moon Putney), Samara (606 Club), Jessica’s Brother + Tummyache + Symbol Soup (Cavendish Arms), Mae Muller (O2 Forum Kentish Town) and Naked Lunch with Simone Marie Butler (DJ) + Japanese Television (DJ) + Lonelady (DJ) from 10pm.

Full information about this year’s gathering of the international live music is online at, including details of how to register.


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Canada’s indie venues bolstered by $100k aid

Independent live music venues in Canada will have the chance to apply for a share of a CA$100,000 (US$83,000) relief fund, launched by Jägermeister Canada.

According to the Canadian Live Music Association’s (CLMA) Covid-19 Venue Closures List, 89 Canadian music venues have permanently closed during the pandemic and a further 15 venues are in imminent danger of shuttering.

Thanks to the newly announced fund, 100 struggling Canadian live music venues will receive grants of $1,000 to help them soften the financial blow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eligible recipients for the relief will be selected through a lottery system, which Jägermeister will run in partnership with the CLMA.

Grant applications opened yesterday (25 May) and the deadline for submissions is Wednesday 2 June 2021 at 11:59 pm EST. Successful applicants will be notified via the CLMA at the end of June.

Venues must satisfy at least three of the eligibility requirements stated below, though exceptions may be made for venues in “rural or remote areas”:

Canada’s live music venues are also set to benefit from the recently announced 2021 budget, which includes C$50 million (US$40m) to help the sector weather the pandemic during 2021 and 2022.


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Unsung Hero: Clara Cullen, Music Venue Trust

Raised in an environment where classical music was predominant, Cullen says her introduction to working in music came via Banquet Records in Kingston upon Thames.

“It became my haven and gateway into contemporary music, DIY ethics and independent culture. Through Banquet I discovered their live in-store gigs and records. I remember being genuinely blown away that acts like Bombay Bicycle Club, Ed Sheeran or You Me At Six would come and play.”

She started a music blog and made a deal with her parents: “As long as I kept my school grades up, they were happy for me to go to the in-store gigs at Banquet after school and interview the bands. From that point on I was obsessed, going to stores and spending hours in the record shop.”

Her interests grew, and persistence saw her land internships at Rock Sound and NME. “I remember sending the NME team an email every two weeks until they eventually relented and said I could come in for a two-week internship and I got to be at NME when the amazing Eve Barlow and Laura Snapes were journalists there.”

“Through this, I began to meet people in the music industry; continued going to gigs at grassroots music venues; and getting advice about different roles within the industry. This helped me realise how varied the roles in the music industry actually are. It makes me happy that ten years on there are still people in the industry that I met then who continue to act as mentors to me today.”

“As a music charity that does a lot of government-facing work, MVT really managed to coalesce all my interests into one”

Converting her interest into a paid career was challenging, she admits. “Despite living near London, where most of the music industry opportunities are, and having a supportive, if somewhat bemused, family, I was applying for paid internships with very little success.

“With no longer-term prospects, I decided to put a career in music on pause and go to university. Far from being a step back, this actually turned out to be the best thing for me as I discovered a love for politics and policy, which are topics I have been able to build on at MVT.”

A self-confessed “academic nerd,” Cullen’s main interests are politics and current affairs, hence her decision to study history and politics at Exeter University, before embarking on a masters in international relations at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“Once my course ended, I was at a crossroads between going down a more traditional career path into a job in politics, or following my gut and trying to break into the live music industry. It was at this point I was introduced to MVT. As a music charity that does a lot of government-facing work, it really managed to coalesce all my interests into one.”

Cullen states that one of her biggest champions has been the musician Frank Turner, who she first met as a teenager through an interview at Banquet Records. “Frank has very strong DIY ethics — you can find his email on his website, which he replies to directly. When I was leaving the LSE, I emailed him about not really knowing whether to keep trying to pursue a job in music or go down a more traditional career path.

“It makes me really happy knowing we have helped create a network of maverick and innovative people working in venues”

“Without prompting, Frank introduced me to the Music Venue Trust team. Given my interest in music and policy, he suggested I connect with them and help out at their Venues Day 2017 event. I did this and a few weeks later, a paid role came up as an administrator at MVT, which I applied for. In November 2017, after years of trying, I could finally turn around to 16-year-old me and say I had a job in the music industry.”

Justifiably proud of the work MVT does, Cullen says, “It makes me feel really happy knowing that we have helped create a network of maverick and innovative people working in venues. This is even more apparent during the Covid-19 crisis, with venues working together to share knowledge, best practices and support. In many ways, the crisis has acted to solidify the work MVT has been doing, and shows why having a representative body who can communicate with the government is so vital.

“In a time of crisis, our team has actually expanded, and this has allowed MVT to really rise to meet the challenge of Covid-19. For example, MTV’s Save Our Venues campaign started off as a small idea in one of our team meetings and has now helped to galvanise live music fans to rally around their local venues raising over £1 million in donations.

“Likewise, MVT’s lobbying of the government has, in my opinion, been the most effective of any organisation in the music industry. Getting the opportunity to work with the government, devolved administrations, and the London mayor’s team to ensure that support reaches grassroots music venues, and seeing tangible results in the creation of different emergency funding for grassroots music venues, feels both like a personal win for myself and also for the organisation. I think it shows that the boundaries of what people perceive to be ‘possible’ are never static and can move if you’re relentless in pushing them.”

In her role as venue support manager, Cullen runs MTV’s Crisis Service, which gives practical assistance and crisis funding to venues facing immediate threats of closure. “There have been cases I have dealt with this year where a venue operator also lives in their venue. The biggest challenge is to prevent the closure of the venue as it would also mean the loss of someones home. For many this isn’t just about where they work and what they do, it runs to the very fabric of their life.”

“Seeing tangible results in the creation of emergency funding for grassroots music venues feels like a personal win”

At the beginning of the Covid crisis, MVT predicted that up to 94% of all grassroots music venues in the UK were facing permanent closure within six months. As a result, it launched the Save Our Venues campaign and created a central MVT crisis fund, to which the public can donate. In London alone that fund has amassed £759,000 (€829,800) in direct donations.

“We also have the Passport Back to Our Roots events taking place,” she continues. “The concept is that big acts return to grassroots music venues where they first played when coming up in the industry. The public can enter a prize draw to win a spot at these gigs and they will take place sometime in the future when non-socially distanced gigs are allowed, with a portion of the money raised donated to MVT’s Crisis Service.

“We’re also working on plans to try and revitalise the live industry to get shows up and running again in the grassroots music venue sector. This will require funding support and buy-in from promoters, agents and artists. We hope to have more news on this soon.”

Citing some of the bigger lessons she has learned, so far, through the pandemic experience, Cullen says, “The key takeaway for me has been the need for direct lines of communication with local councils, regional administrations and central government, alongside a strong social media campaign.

“You need things to work in tandem if you want to influence policy at a local, regional and national level: direct conversations with policymakers, backed by indisputable economic analysis, a menu of practical options for them to consider, and a strong public narrative that can push your case, is the winning combination.”

Outside the everyday grind of trying to protect the grassroots sector of the business, Cullen has a passion for old-school film photography. “You can only take 36 shots per roll of 32mm film, so without being able to see the shots before they are developed makes every shot count. I find that this helps me to slow down and re-evaluate everyday scenarios. I am also very big into my Eastern European history and am currently reading Anne Applebaum’s brilliant Twilight of Democracy.”

Ever on point, Cullen concludes that more support is needed for MVT’s Save Our Venues initiative. “Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty, what we do know for certain is that live music fans have been incredible in their support of venues and have helped prevent the complete collapse of the grassroots circuit. We also need the larger parts of the live music industry to continue to work collaboratively with the grassroots sector to help get shows up and running. If we can do all of those things, then I believe our venues will be able to make it through this.”


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UK live industry welcomes first CRF results

Some of the UK’s most iconic music venues, renowned independent festivals, and key music organisations are among the first-round recipients of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, designed to support arts organisations survive the pandemic.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today revealed the 1,385 arts organisations that will benefit from a share of £257 million. In this first round of funding, organisations that applied for grants under one million were announced.

Applicants in the live industry set to receive some of the largest grants include: DHP Family, which operates a number of music venues across the UK including Nottingham’s Rock City, Bristol’s Thekla and London’s Oslo, which was awarded £908,000; Bush Hall in West London, granted £679,000; and SSD Music, the promoter behind Newcastle’s Virgin Money Unity Arena, which receives £700,000.

Some of the UK’s most iconic venues also received funding, including the 100 Club (350) in London, which was granted £491,000, and The Cavern Club (250) in Liverpool, which gained £525,000.

Among the festivals to receive grants are Y-Not Festival (£240,000); Deer Shed Festival (£238,500); Cropredy Festival (£200,000); End of the Road Festival (£250,000); Love Supreme Festival (£118,524) and Slam Dunk (£175,981).

“71% of AIF members who applied for a CRF grant in round one have been offered funding and it’s nothing short of a lifeline”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says: “The government is here for culture and we have worked around the clock to get this record investment out to the frontline. It will allow our wonderful theatres, museums, music venues and cultural organisations to survive this crisis and start putting on performances again – protecting jobs and creating new work for freelancers. This is just the start – with hundreds of millions pounds more on the way for cultural organisations of all sizes that still need our help.”

Music Venue Trust, which has been working closely with DCMS and Arts Council England, which dispersed the fund, says today’s news is a “huge step forward in the efforts to reopen every venue safely”.

“Saving our grassroots venue sector requires a massive jigsaw puzzle of efforts, from the smallest local fundraiser by a community desperate to keep its cherished local venue, to the enormous scope of the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, one of the largest such funds in the world,” says Mark Dayvd, CEO at MVT.

“This intervention today helps enormously, giving MVT, our sector, and our communities an achievable opportunity to complete the English section of the jigsaw. We keenly await results from funding applications in Wales, and of round two of this fund. Our work with the governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to seek further support for venues there.

“This grant allows us to look to the future, continuing to create artistic opportunities and work for our community”

MVT has pledged to work with the venues that were ineligible or unsuccessful for funding to meet its goal of reopening every venue safely – “an aim that, with this support from the government, we are confident is now achievable”.

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO, Paul Reed, says: “We warmly welcome this intervention from government and the results of the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund. 71% of AIF members who applied for a CRF grant in round one have been offered funding and it’s nothing short of a lifeline for those who have been successful. We thank DCMS and Arts Council England for this support, which amounts to almost £4.5m into the independent festival sector across our membership.

“This will have a hugely positive impact on the survival of these businesses. We are pleased that we were able to work positively with DCMS officials to ensure that festival organisers were eligible for the fund and they should be praised for their diligence in supporting the sector. We’re also aware that not all independent festivals had good news today and not all received funding. We’ll continue to support, represent and fight for our membership throughout this crisis.”

Association of Independent Music (AIM) CEO, Paul Pacifico, says: “It’s fantastic to see the first tranche of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund announced. While there is still a long way to go, this is a great start and we are grateful to see £257 million distributed to such a broad range of applicants, who are being supported across so many art forms and music genres, and in so many different parts of the country.

“50% of our funding will go directly to the self-employed musicians and technicians who have not been able to earn since March”

“We will continue to engage with our colleagues at DCMS and the Arts Council England to help wherever we can to optimise each round of funding as it becomes available, making sure it is invested broadly but also strategically so that our sector can bounce back as rapidly and holistically as possible.”

Nathan Clark, owner of Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, granted £220, 429, says: “We are delighted at the news and the huge immediate impact it will have. The support the Culture Recovery Fund will give, directly provides long term survival, security and resilience for the Brudenell. We recognise the opportunity and responsibility the package gives, which allows us to look to the future, continuing to create artistic opportunities, work for our community and to further expand our offering.”

Jon Keats, director at The Cavern Club, awarded £525,000, says: “We are delighted to have received positive news at a time of great uncertainty for our industry as a whole. This funding will help protect ninety jobs and to potentially recoup around 20% of our total losses over the period March 2020 – 21. Importantly, 50% of our funding will go directly to the self-employed musicians and technicians who have not been able to earn since March. We will bring substantial live music back into our venue as soon as we are allowed to and we are already looking to stream our musicians performances in the meantime.”

Other beneficiaries include Ministry Of Sound (£975,468); Islington Assembly Hall (£235,564); Clapham Grand (£300,000); Crosstown Concerts (£212,950); Manchester’s Gorilla (£255,500) and Deaf Institute (£148,000); Eat Your Own Ears (£99,066); Portsmouth Guildhall (£215,000) and Sound City (£75,000).

Camden’s Electric Ballroom (£206,974); Hebden Bridge Trades Club (£61,723); Exeter Cavern (£50,000), Leeds-based Futuresound Events (£219,368); Hackney Empire (£585,064); Hootananny Brixton (£250,000); Independent Label Market (£50,784); Inner City Music (£211,200); The George Tavern (£222,030) and Brighton Dome (£493,000) have also received grants.

Further grants are due to be announced soon, including those for larger organisations between £1 and £3 million.


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Live DMA estimates €1.2bn loss for member venues

Live DMA, a European live music network comprising 16 member countries, has released a new report which estimates a €1.2 billion loss in audience income for the 2,600 music venues it represents.

The new report, which gives an overview on the impact of Covid-19 has had on its member venues, estimates that 664,000 artist performances will not take place in the venues, because 284,000 music events are cancelled or postponed this year.

This is only 30% (a 70% decline) of the number of music events and artist performances that took place last year.

Therefore, a 76% decline in audience visits is expected –53 million less compared to last year. This leads to the €1.2bn loss in audience income for the venues.

The loss in audience income consists of an estimated: €496m less income from ticket sales; €521m less income from food & beverages sales; €172m less other income.

Audience income makes up 84% of the €1.8 bn+ income the venues were expected to generate in 2020

According to Live DMA, audience income makes up 84% of the €1.8bn+ income the venues were expected to generate in 2020.

Among Live DMA’s worst affected venues are the 48% that have a private commercial structure. These venues and clubs lost almost 100% of their total income, which consists almost solely of income generated by their audiences (ticket sales, beverage, food, etc.).

According to the report, without this income source, the 1,250 venues and clubs cannot fulfil their financial obligations and are relying solely on their own reserves, cutbacks and financial support from governments to survive.

The full report can be viewed here.

Live DMA’s members include the Music Venue Trust (UK); Live Komm (Germany); Svensk Live (Sweden), and Dansk Live (Denmark).


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UK grassroots music venues saved by emergency grants

Iconic London venues The Troubadour and The Clapham Grand are among the 135 at-risk grassroots music venues across England that have been saved by the £3.36 million Emergency Grassroot Music Venues Fund.

The fund, which was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and forms part of the UK government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, was topped up by an addition £1.1m from the original £2.25m pot to help as many venues as possible.

The Arts Council England has now awarded the grants of up to £80,000 to help some of the country’s most vulnerable venues cover on-going running costs incurred during closure, including rent and utilities.

Emergency grants of the maximum amount have been awarded to venues including The Troubador (cap. 136), where Adele and Ed Sheeran performed in the early days of their career, and The Clapham Grand (cap. 1,250), where the UK recently held its first socially distanced show since the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, says: “This government is here for culture and these grants today show we are determined to help our exceptional music industry weather the Covid storm and come back stronger.

“This fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future”

“Grassroots music venues are where the magic starts and these emergency grants from our £1.57 billion fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future.

“I encourage music fans to help too by supporting music and cultural events as they start to get going again.  We need a collective effort to help the things we love through Covid.”

Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust, says: “We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the short term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long term sustainability.”

“Both DCMS and Arts Council England have worked very quickly to fully understand the imminent risk of permanent closure faced by a significant number of grassroots music venues across the country, and the funding they’ve brought forward creates a real breathing space for under pressure venues.”

Elswhere in the country, the recently saved Manchester venues, Deaf Institute and Gorilla have been granted £15,000 and £31,000 respectively. The full list of recipients can be viewed here.

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