Shuttered but not silent: Venues play a role in US election
Music venues across the US have been shuttered for many months due to a lack of government support but while the stages have remained silent during the pandemic, operators have not.
In the run-up to the 3 November presidential election, the live sector has played a significant part in the campaigns.
Ahead of Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s final debate at Belmont University last week, a number of venues in Nashville teamed up with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to display political concert-style posters for the visit.
According to Vanity Fair, Exit/In, the End, the 5 Spot, Rudy’s Jazz Room, and Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge were among the venues that erected posters which read ‘Trump Lied 220K+ Died,’ in reference to the impact of coronavirus on citizens and the economy, and called the president the ‘super-spreader in chief’.
Chris Cobb, the owner and operator of historic rock club Exit/In, told Vanity Fair: “For the last eight months I’ve spent more time in politics than I did in music because of the failure of the government. It’s not something I want to continue doing.”
Adrienne Watson, the director of the DNC’s war room who led the project, said: “The music scene has always been passionate and resolute in the face of crisis—not just as artists, but as public servants,” she said in an email. “Live performance events and venues have been one of the industries hardest hit by Trump’s failure to control the virus.”
Elsewhere, Michigan venue the Blind Pig and its owner Joe Malcoun were caught in the political crossfire after appearing in a TV ad for the Biden campaign.
The ad includes photos and footage of concerts at the Blind Pig, which has hosted shows from Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, John Lennon and more, as well as empty barstools to show that the venue cannot operate during the pandemic.
“For the last eight months I’ve spent more time in politics than I did in music because of the failure of the government”
In the video, Malcoun says, “This is the reality of Trump’s Covid response. We don’t know how much longer we can survive not having any revenue.”
According to The New York Times, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said that the ad – which made its debut on 18 October during an NFL game – was removed because Malcoun and his family were “doxxed, harassed, and threatened after the Trump campaign has sought to smear [the venue owner]”.
According to The Times, the backlash is apparently due to the origins of Joe Malcoun’s wealth.
Elsewhere, a number of US venues have been doubling as polling stations including Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
Concert giant Live Nation also joined the cause, transforming over 100 of its venues into stations including the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta.
Grassroots music venues have largely been sidelined during the presidential campaign with president Donald Trump announcing he was postponing negotiations on a new stimulus package which would’ve thrown the live sector a much-needed lifeline.
The ‘Heroes Act’ stimulus package includes the Save Our Stages Act, a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) but Trump says he won’t return to the negotiating table until after 3 November’s presidential election.
Following the news, former WME-chief Marc Geiger has announced a $75 million ‘war chest’ to bail out US venues that are struggling during the pandemic and help them to reopen.
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Save Our Stages Act passes through House of Reps
The House of Representatives has passed the Save Our Stages Act, a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) as part of the wider, revised $2.2 trillion Heroes Act coronavirus stimulus package.
The Save Our Stages campaign was initially launched by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a newly formed alliance of US grassroots music venues, which wrote to members of the US Congress in April to ask for immediate assistance for a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Subsequently, senators Amy Klobuchar (a Democrat) and John Cornyn (a Republican) authored the Save Our Stages act in July, which proposes grants of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12m (whichever is less), as well as supplemental grants of up to half the original grant if the entity is still experiencing 80%+ revenue loss as of Dec. 1, 2020.
“We’re cautiously optimistic our elected officials understand that if they assist now, we can be part of the economic renewal”
The grants could be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, interest payments, insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), existing loans, payments to 1099 employees, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Senator Klobuchar said: “We hope our elected officials come together on Covid-19 assistance in the coming days, not weeks or even months. Our small, independent businesses, which normally contribute billions of dollars to local economies, are on the precipice of mass collapse if this critical funding doesn’t come through.
“We’re cautiously optimistic our elected officials understand that if they assist us now, we can be part of the economic renewal of small towns and big cities, since for every $1 spent on a concert ticket at a small venue, $12 of economic activity is generated for area businesses like restaurants, retail shops, and hotels. This investment will pay off for communities and workers in all 50 states and Washington DC.”
The act was authored after NIVA published a survey revealing that 90% of its members said that if the shutdowns lasted six months or more with no federal help, they would never reopen.
Currently, NIVA has nearly 2,000 charter members in all 50 states, including 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue in Minneapolis, Chicago Independent Venue League, World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee, Red River Cultural District in Austin, and Exit/In in Nashville.
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IQ Focus: The Top 10 sessions so far
Since launching IQ Focus, a weekly series of livestreamed panels that debuted in May, we’ve been inviting heavyweights from the international live music business to discuss issues ranging from the trials and tribulations of a pandemic to the systemic racism brought to light by Blackout Tuesday, and everything in between.
But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. The Innovation Session, for example, heard panellists discuss the flurry of innovation, fledgeling business models, and new ideas that have come out of the coronavirus crisis. Staying Safe & Sane During Covid presented expert opinions on how to protect the mental health and wellbeing of music professionals and artists. What all these sessions have had in common is a sense of optimism, opportunity and determination, as our industry forges ahead into the unknown.
This week we’re taking some time off from IQ Focus, but in the meantime, please enjoy our top ten sessions from the past couple of months and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications about future IQ Focus sessions.
Hosted by ILMC head Greg Parmley, a panel comprising Europe’s festival elite discuss the collapse of this year’s festival season, as well as predictions for the next. Jim King (AEG Presents), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), Rachael Greenfield (Bloodstock Open Air), Anders Wahren (Roskilde Festival) and Mathieu Jaton (Montreux Jazz Festival) update us on how they’re coping in unprecedented circumstances; what lessons have been learned, which challenges have been faced and crucially, what the road to recovery looks like.
The Covid-19 crisis has presented significant challenges for both multinational agencies and boutique outfits. From juggling investors to dealing with a hiatus from touring, agencies are being forced to reflect on how their companies are structured and seek new opportunities and creative solutions. ILMC head and session chair Greg Parmley asks an all-star panel, what comes next? Guest speakers include Angus Baskerville, (13 Artists) Jules de Lattre (United Talent Agency), Maria May (Creative Artists Agency) and Tom Schroeder (Paradigm Talent Agency).
For IQ‘s third focus session, John Langford, COO of AEG Europe, invites leading venue professionals to discuss strategies for weathering the storm, what the key learnings have been so far, and what emerging from life under lockdown might look like. Guest speakers include Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall / National Arena Association – UK), Olivier Toth (Rockhal / European Arena Association – Luxembourg), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions – Germany), Tom Lynch (ASM Global – UK), Lotta Nibell (GOT Event – Sweden).
While the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 continues to resonate throughout live music, the halt in normal business is seeing a flurry of innovation, fledgeling business models, and new ideas. From an explosion in livestreaming to virtual performances and meet & greets, 3D venues, gaming and tipping, what green shoots are rising from this current situation? Mike Malak, senior agent at Paradigm Talent Agency chairs our fourth IQ Focus session and invites a line-up of free-thinkers and ground-breakers.
Across the touring world, independent promoters face similar challenges when looking ahead to business post-Covid-19. While this current period presents many unique challenges for this creative and entrepreneurial sector, it’s one of many pressures they face. So what’s the state of play in Europe, South America and India? And what alternative show formats, and business models are independent promoters adopting to stay ahead? CAA’s Emma Banks hosts the session to ask, as the industry emerges from its current crisis, where the opportunities might lie?
We’re midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, and it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021? With a number of Government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return? IQ editor Gordon Masson hosts this discussion with guest speakers including Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool Festival – ES), John Giddings (Isle of Wight Festival / Solo Agency – UK), Stefan Lehmkuhl (Goodlive – DE), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania Festival – RO).
One of the hardest-hit areas of the business, grassroots music venues may well also be the first to emerge from the current crisis over the coming weeks and months. Across Europe, the fate of these vital stages on which talent is born and grown, is mixed, with some facing closure. How are our small venues being protected by the organisations and industry around them, and what still needs to be done? And once their doors are open again, how different will gig going be?
Blackout Tuesday brought the industry to a standstill and thrust the topic of diversity in the music business back into view. So just what challenges do black promoters, agents and managers face, and what’s needed to counter systemic racism both within the business, in performance spaces and touring markets? Our next IQ Focus session will ask how changes can be made, and the current momentum can be maintained over the months and years ahead.
With the bulk of artists dependent on live music revenue and audience connection, the Covid-19 crisis has decimated livelihoods. But what does it mean for their managers – the individuals thrown into salvaging campaigns, rescheduling tours, interpreting contractual changes and navigating the most uncertain of futures? How are their own businesses faring? And what do they see as the challenges – and hopefully opportunities – ahead for the live sector, in what we are all optimistically calling the “new normal”.
Staying Safe & Sane During Covid considered how to best protect the mental health and wellbeing of music professionals and artists alike who are juggling disruption to working conditions, employment & financial concerns, a difficult global outlook and more. Chaired by Stacey Pragnell at ATC Live, the conversation featured Lollapalooza Berlin promoter Stefan Lehmkuhl (Goodlive), MITC founder Tamsin Embleton, tour manager Andy Franks (Music Support) and the CEO of mental health and wellbeing festival Getahead, Jenni Cochrane.
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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.
MVT campaign raises almost £25k in three days
The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has raised over £22,500 so far as part of its #saveourvenues campaign, which launched on Monday (27 April), in aid of 556 UK grassroots music venues in danger of permanent closure.
Following on from the launch of MVT’s grassroots music venues crisis fund last month, #saveourvenues encourages fans and artists to select a venues to support from an interactive map, which includes links to fundraising campaigns.
Artists can also receive the tools and guidance to perform a gig from their homes in support of a particular venue.
Venues listed as ‘at risk’ include the 200-capacity Green Store Door in Brighton, the 900-capacity Leadmill in Sheffield and the 200-capacity Lexington in London.
Each venue has its own crowdfunding page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise in order to stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis. Once that target is reached, any excess donations will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots community.
The wider fund has currently raised £22,837 of a £100,000 target, just three days into the campaign. MVT’s GMV crisis fund, which has so far raised over £182,000 thanks to significant donations from Amazon Music, SJM, artists and music fans, will be renamed the #saveourvenues fund, forming part of the same initiative.
Those wishing to support the campaign can also do so through the use of the #saveourvenues hashtag and social media templates.
“The #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive”
Singer-songwriter Frank Turner, whose recent series of performances ‘Independent Venue Love’ for local venues Nambucca in London (300-cap.), the Joiners in Southampton (200-cap.) the Railway Inn in Winchester (150-cap.) and the Forum in Tunbridge Wells (250-cap.), raised thousands of pounds, provided a “major” inspiration for the campaign.
“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now,” says Turner. “The success of [my livestreamed] shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”
“We are confident that we can help create real momentum that will see artists and venues working together to raise much needed funds,” comments MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “We are also calling on the wider music industry to support us too. We have received some magnificent support so far from music companies, but we need a lot more to step up and help save this essential part of the music eco-system.”
Those wishing to donate in excess of £1000 should contact Davyd directly here.
Photo: Henry W. Laurisch/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)
NIVA calls for urgent govt assistance for US indies
The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), an alliance of US grassroots venues formed earlier this month, has written to members of the US Congress to ask for immediate assistance to a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter – addressed to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer – asks for urgent “legislative and regulatory” aid for the association’s more than 800 members, including adjustments to the existing paycheck protection program [sic] loan scheme, as well as tax credits for refunded tickets, mortgage/rent payment holidays and the deferral of existing debt.
NIVA, which joins existing small-venue associations such as Music Venues Alliance in the UK, Petzi in Switzerland and KeepOn Live in Italy, is also asking for concrete guidelines on mass gatherings in advance of reopening, and support with complying with any new health guidelines.
“Our passionate and fiercely independent operators are not ones to ask for hand-outs,” explains NIVA board president Dayna Frank, who owns the 1,550-capacity First Avenue in Minneapolis.
“For the first time in history there is legitimate fear for our collective existence”
“But because of our unprecedented, tenuous position, for the first time in history there is legitimate fear for our collective existence.”
Established on 17 April, NIVA’s stated mission is to fight for venues’ survival amid the ongoing nationwide shutdown.
“Independent venues and promoters have a unique set of circumstances that require specialised assistance, so we’ve banded together and secured a powerhouse lobbying firm,” says Gary Witt, CEO of Pabst Theater Group and founding member of NIVA. “Akin Gump has been tapped to represent us, and that telegraphs to Capitol Hill that our needs are serious. Most of us have gone from our best year ever to a dead stop in revenues, but our expenses and overhead are still real, and many will not make it without help.
“Our employees, the artists, and the fans need us to act. But we are also an important income generator for those around us, bringing revenue to area restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail shops.”
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.”
The 100% Club: London venue gets full biz rates relief
Iconic London music venue the 100 Club has become the first venue in the country to receive full business rates relief, under a new scheme to protect grassroots venues, put forward by Westminster City Council.
The 100% relief from business rates – the tax levied on non-residential property in the UK – will save the 100 Club over £70,000 a year, according to charity the Music Venue Trust, after the measures come into place on 1 April 2020.
The move helps to secure the future of the venue, which has hosted the likes of the Rolling Stones, Oasis, the Sex Pistols and Louis Armstrong since opening in 1942.
The 100 Club has been on the brink of closure at least three times in the past decade, saved by efforts from Westminster Council, Paul McCartney, Converse, Fred Perry and MVT.
Under the plans, music venues in Westminster are eligible for full relief if they are primarily a grassroots music venue and appear on the Greater London Authority’s register as such; the organisation running the venue is not for profit; and the venue is the borough of Westminster, preferably in the area of Soho.
“This is a game-changing approach from a local authority in supporting grassroots music venues”
The news comes as the UK live music industry celebrates the government’s decision to cut business rates in half for all eligible small- and mid-sized grassroots venues, announced earlier this week. Venues had previously remained exempt from the rates relief granted to other small retailers, such as bars and restaurants.
“I’m thrilled the 100 Club has been granted this new business rates relief. It means we can continue to support the careers of the hundreds of artists who take to our stage each year,” comments venue owner Jeff Horton.
“This is a game-changing approach from a local authority in supporting grassroots music venues. I hope that other local authorities will adopt a similar forward thinking approach to support the music industry.”
“Grassroots music venues play a key role in London’s thriving nightlife,” says London’s night czar Amy Lamé. “That is why we’ve worked closely with The 100 Club and Westminster City Council to secure its future.”
The night czar, who was appointed in 2016 to protect London’s nightlife, adds that the news serves “as a great example of what can be done to support venues in our city.”
UK industry reacts to venues business rates cut
Venue operators and others from across the UK live industry have expressed their support for a 50% cut in business rates for small- and mid-sized grassroots music venues, in a “much-needed” boost for the country’s live venues.
After several years of campaigning by charity the Music Venue Trust (MVT), umbrella organisation UK Music and others, the government has slashed business rates – the tax levied on non-residential property in the UK – by half for music venues, saving grassroots music venues an average of £7,500 a year.
The decision releases over £1.7 million back into the grassroots live music sector, benefitting 230 venues across England and Wales. The news follows the establishment of a £1.5m Arts Council England fund dedicated to the grassroots sector last year.
The announcement comes as Independent Venue Week kicks off in the UK. Over 800 live shows will take place throughout the week at the UK’s best independent venues, including performances by Nadine Shah at the Cluny (300-cap.) in Newcastle, Frank Turner at the Exeter Tavern (220-cap. and Anna Calvi at the Windmill Brixton (150-cap.) in London.
“This is incredibly welcome news,” Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music, tells IQ. “We have campaigned hard to get the recognition that music venues should qualify for rates relief.
“There is no uniform issue behind venue closures and other challenges remain in terms of planning and licensing, but this will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline,” says Kiehl, who notes the rates relief is a “profound and positive step” for the UK talent pipeline.
“We thank the government for being so forthcoming.”
“This will make a real difference and will give more stability for venues, especially those living on the breadline”
A 2017 hike in business rates has had a harmful effect on UK grassroots venues over the past few years, with venues being exempted from the tax relief granted to other small retailers. Over a third (35%) of UK venues have closed down in the past decade, including DHP Family’s the Borderline, which had hosted acts including Debbie Harry, Blur, Muse and Amy Winehouse over more than 30 years in business.
Venue operators have also reacted positively to the news. Richard Buck, CEO of TEG MJR comments: “We very much welcome the change in business rates. It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry.”
The former MJR Group, which was acquired by Sydney-based TEG in August, looks after venues including the Tramshed (1,000-cap.) in Cardiff, the Mill (1,000-cap.) in Birmingham and the Warehouse (750-cap.) in Leeds.
Julie Tipping from Nottingham-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family says MVT has done “a fantastic job getting a significant discount rate relief for some grassroots venues”. However, they “are not yet sure what impact this will have for DHP’s venues”, which include London venues the Garage (600-cap.), Oslo (375-cap.) and the Grace (150-cap.), as well as award-winning boat venue Thekla (400-cap.) in Bristol.
“It’s a much-needed, positive step which will benefit the grassroots venues that are the foundations of our industry”
“It’s great news for grassroots venues in this country that are eligible,” adds Tipping, “the question will be how many that is and what will happen to any that don’t get this benefit in the long term.
“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age, so we need government to come up with a fairer taxation system.”
Bert Van Horck, CEO of independent UK promoter and venue operator VMS Live says: “We’re delighted that the government is supporting this important cultural sector with a reduction in business rates that will help up and coming talent.”
VMS Live, which operates mid-sized UK venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), is dedicated to “operating the venues at the start of artists’ creative journey”, adds Van Horck.
“Business rates are one of our largest annual overheads,” says Rebecca Walker, assistant general manager of the Leadmill (900-cap.) in Sheffield.
“Everyone seems to agree that taxing bricks and mortar is outdated in an increasing digital age”
“Thanks to the incredible work of all of the MVT team, this significant reduction will really help us to invest in not only music and the arts, but the staff and infrastructure needed to continue putting on great shows for the people of Sheffield.”
Toni Coe-Brooker, of venue manager of the Green Store Door in Brighton (200-cap.), says the team is “relieved” by the news.
“The rate relief we will receive as a grassroots music venue will make a significant impact on our ability to continue doing what we do, supporting our local community and incubating new talent.”
Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of MVT, says the news is “another foundation stone” in the building of a “vibrant, sustainable, world class grassroots music venue sector”.
Davyd admits there is “still a lot to be done on this issue”, with collaboration needed with governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure “a level playing field” for venues’ access to business rates and public subsidies across the UK.
“It’s now time for recording, streaming and publishing interests to play their part,” adds Davyd. “Billions of pounds in revenue are being generated in the music industry from the music that is tested, developed, finds its audience and emerges from these vital spaces. PRS for Music, PPL, Universal, Warners, Sony, Spotify, Apple and Google now need to come to the table and tell us what they are going to do to make sure that continues to happen.”
This article will be updated with reactions as we receive them.
German politicians tackle venue closures
Members of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, are calling for clubs and live music venues to be classified as cultural institutions, in a bid to avoid more grassroots venue closures.
The Die Linke (The Left) party and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens), who hold 69 and 67 seats in the federal parliament respectively, have submitted reports to the Bundestag urging more protection for the country’s smaller venues.
“Clubs shape the culture and quality of life in cities,” reads the opening of the Left’s report, submitted in October. “They are spaces of cultural diversity and deserve special protection.”
The main demand from both groups is for clubs and live music venues to be recognised as ‘cultural institutions’, rather than ‘places of entertainment’ in the national building code. Such a classification would legally equate venues to concert halls, opera houses, theatres and cinemas, instead of to brothels, sex cinemas and betting shops, as is the case currently.
“In the building code, cultural institutions enjoy more opportunities to integrate into inner cities than entertainment venues,” explain the Left.
“In the building code, cultural institutions enjoy more opportunities to integrate into inner cities than entertainment venues”
The Greens offer the example of famous Berlin club Berghain (1,600-cap.) which won a court battle in 2016 to pay the 7% tax rate levied on cultural venues, rather than the 19% paid by places of entertainment.
The judgement swung in Berghain’s favour, “due to the artistic, concert-like and special creative nature of its programme”, states the Greens’ proposal, submitted earlier this month.
Each party stresses that club- and live music- culture is undervalued and undersupported by the government, with the Green party indicating that, although the club scene generates around €216 million per year in Berlin alone, the sector has “so far received little public funding”.
According to German promoters’ association BDKV, a large number of music venues have been forced to close in the past two years, as noise complaints from local residents drive non-renewals of rental agreements. Venues to have shut their doors include Rosis in Berlin, Dusseldorf’s Damenundherren, Scandale in Cottbus, Essen’s Essener Studio, Kleiner Donner in Hamburg and Munich’s MMA.
“More than ever before, we need these spaces, which act as musical venues for artists and at the same time as social meeting places”
To tackle closures, the parliamentary groups suggest the introduction of the ‘agent of change’ principle, like that in place in the UK and Australia which makes housing developers building new homes near venues responsible for addressing noise issues.
“We sincerely hope that, in retrospect, these two proposals will be the beginning of a bipartisan initiative at the federal level that will work for the benefit of existing and future music venues in Germany,” comments Axel Ballreich, chairman of LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission).
“More than ever before, we need these spaces, which act as musical venues for artists and at the same time as social meeting places.”
Speaking to IQ in 2017, a LiveKomm spokesperson explained that lack of government support, threat of noise complaints and high taxation were paving the way for a “venue crisis”.