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Major UK artists to play grassroots music venues

Major UK artists will “return to their roots” as part of a crowdfunding campaign to help grassroots music venues, which have been struggling to stay open during the Covid-19 crisis.

The crowdfunding campaign, Passport: Back To Our Roots, will open on 17 August when fans can donate a minimum of £5 to help support their favourite venues.

Everyone who donates will be entered into a prize draw to win entry for a show for themselves and a friend.

Among the concerts announced so far are Elbow performing at Night & Day Cafe in Manchester, Everything Everything at Bedford Esquires, Public Service Broadcasting at Amersham Arms in London, and The Slow Readers Club at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.

Organisers say the series of one-off intimate gigs will take place when live shows can safely return without social distancing measures, most likely between March and September next year.

The initiative was launched by registered charity and independent grassroots venue Band on the Wall, the Music Venue Trust and Stephen Budd Music (creator of War Child’s Passport: Back to the Bars & Passport: To BRITs Week series).

Sally Cook, co-founder of Passport: Back to Our Roots and director of operations at Band on the Wall says: “This project has been a long time in the making and it’s incredibly exciting to see artists supporting the grassroots venues that form the foundation of the UK’s live music industry, acknowledging their importance and celebrating the unrivalled experience of watching your favourite bands up close and personal, surrounded by friends and united in appreciation for live music in all its loud and sweaty glory.”

“These shows will be awe-inspiring for fans and also a joy for the artists who are helping keep live grassroots venues alive”

Stephen Budd, founder and CEO of Stephen Budd Entertainment says: “I’m delighted to help put this amazing series of shows together. I’m doing this on a not-for-profit basis as I did for the successful War Child shows I helped put together, using the same mechanism we created which has proved so workable and simple for artists and it won’t impact negatively on their own show plans.

“There is nothing like seeing your favourite artist in a venue that is closest to the artist’s hearts. These shows will be awe-inspiring for those fans who are lucky enough to win the prize draw and also a joy for the artists who participate knowing they are helping keep live grassroots venues alive.”

Of all money raised, 80% will go to the Music Venue Trust (MVT), who in turn will distribute half of the amount to the host venue and the other half to their Crisis Fund, which will benefit all UK venues in need of financial support.

The remaining 20% will go to Inner City Music, the charitable organisation that operates Band on the Wall in Manchester, which is responsible for the administration of the project and will cover its overheads.

Aside from its involvement with Passport: Back To Our Roots campaign, MVT also recently partnered with Fightback Brewing Company in support of the #saveourvenues initiative. 

Fightback Lager, which is stocked in over 60 grassroots music venue bars across the UK, now makes a 5p donation to MVT from every pint sold.

 


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

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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.

 


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£1.5m funding breakthrough for grassroots music venues

Music Venue Trust (MVT), the UK charity that protects and improves grassroots music venues, has announced a new £1.5 million Arts Council England fund dedicated to grassroots live music, alongside several other industry-led initiatives.

The Supporting Grassroots Live Music funding strand was announced at an event co-hosted today (10 May) by Arts Council England and Ticketmaster at the Great Escape in Brighton. The ring-fenced fund is part of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants, and lines up alongside other input from Live Nation, Ticketmaster and the O2 Arena to further fund the charity’s Pipeline Investment Fund, which tackles the root causes leading to music venue closures.

“Grassroots music venues are essential both for our world-renowned music industry and communities across the country, and there needs to be a collective effort from both the public sector and music industry to support them,” says Arts Council England chief executive, Darren Henley.

“With this fund we’re ensuring that grassroots venues and promoters working in genres such as rock, pop and hip-hop have the support they need to create the best possible environment for artists and audiences.”

“Grassroots music venues are essential both for our world-renowned music industry and communities across the country”

MVT and Arts Council England will work together to assist venues in accessing the funding, ensuring that tangible improvements are made to the sound, lighting and facilities for both artists and audiences.

“This is obviously a huge day for grassroots music venues. The real support they need and have been crying out for has arrived,” says MVT chief executive Mark Davyd. “We want to ensure that venues across the UK are able to access the support they need to become real centres of excellence.

“Britain’s artists and audiences deserve a world class, industry leading, grassroots touring circuit. Delivering that circuit is the responsibility of everyone in the music industry, cultural sector, and government. We believe everyone has a stake in getting this right,” adds Davyd.

“When our grassroots music venues thrive, the whole industry benefits.”

Alongside the major funding announcement, MVT today announced other breakthrough steps in funding from the live music industry that directly supports grassroots music venues.

Representatives within the industry have been meeting with the trust since January to identify mechanisms for reinvestment in the grassroots veneus.

Live Nation will assign its contribution to the Apprenticeship Levy funds to MVT in order to support apprentices in grassroots music venues, while AEG will introduce guest list donations at major events and venues that will fund the scheme.

In addition, Ticketmaster will offer ticket buyers the option to donate to MVT while purchasing music tickets across its UK platform. Direct donations from major companies will also help to support the MVT Emergency Response service, which helps venues with noise complaints, licensing and planning issues.

Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons states that the donation option will give  “unparalleled visibility to MVT and the significant work they do to keep grassroots venues alive and well for us all.”

“When our grassroots music venues thrive, the whole industry benefits”

“All of today’s announcements are a huge step forward for grassroots venues – venues that are the beating heart of the music industry, without them British talent doesn’t have a place to grow into the next Lewis Capaldi or Mabel,” comments Parsons.

“Today is a good day for British music,” says Live Nation executive president of touring, international, Phil Bowdery. “Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s support and funding, taken together with the new Arts Council England fund, is a massive boost to those venues and the musicians who play in them.”

For AEG Europe’s vice president of programming, Emma Bownes, today’s announcement is “an important step in protecting small music venues and supporting the emerging talent that use these spaces to hone their craft.”

Discussions with the Pipeline Investment Fund stakeholders, governments and funding bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue across the next few months to deliver more options for the music industry to support grassroots music venues through the Pipeline Investment Fund programme.

 


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Fightback Lager seeking to partner with more venues

Fightback Lager – of which every pint sold goes towards protecting the UK’s grassroots venues – has announced it is looking to secure more venue and other industry partners.

Fightback Lager launched at December’s Fightback Manchester festival with a mission to support, protect and improve UK grassroots music venues. Music Venue Trust receives a donation from every pint sold of the lager, which is brewed in Manchester’s ShinDigger brewery.

The beer is now looking for more partner venues.

Fightback Lager is an official pouring partner of next month’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC), taking place from 5 to 8 March. Fightback Lager is also served in five venues participating in Fightback Bristol, a two-week festival celebrating Bristol’s vital grassroots music venues taking place until 18 February.

Fightback Bristol will see more than 100 events take place at over 14 local grassroots music venues, promoting Bristol’s emerging and existing musical talent and encouraging audiences to visit the city’s grassroots venues.

“These venues are the backbone of the live music scene in Bristol, providing spaces where artists can take their first steps, develop and grow,” says Gary Prosser, director of Fightback Brewing Company.

“Fightback Bristol provides an opportunity to showcase the fantastic range of artists and venues that Bristol enjoys, celebrating the history of our music scene and supporting its future.”

Venues can register their interest in Fightback Lager here.

 


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Delight as Agent of Change adopted in London

To the delight of grassroots music venue campaigners in the city, London has adopted the Agent of Change principle.

Mayor Sadiq Khan added the directive to the new London Plan – a vital strategic document which sets out a vision for the development of the city. It means property developers have to take into account pre-existing businesses, such as music venues, when applying for planning permission. For example, the developer of new flats has to take responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a existing venue.

“It’s going to give grassroots venues greater confidence”

The move is the culmination of three years of hard campaigning by the Music Venue Trust (MVT) and music industry umbrella organisation UK Music. MVT strategic director Beverley Whitrick said: “We’re really pleased. It’s going to give grassroots venues greater confidence because it shows they’re being taken a bit more seriously and that there’s a wish to alleviate some of the pressures they face.

“This sends a signal to other administrations around the UK that this can be done.”

But the campaign doesn’t stop there. The MVT has vowed to continue its fight until the Agent of Change principle is adopted into UK law.

On 10 January 2018, MP John Spellar is expected to introduce a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons calling on the government to make this a nationwide policy. His bill is backed across party lines, by former culture minister Ed Vaizey and the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on music, David Warburton.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley has indicated the government would be willing to support Spellar’s bill, telling him in a recent parliamentary session that her office is already “working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to look at the proposition that has been put forward.”

In Wales, the government has pledged to introduce Agent of Change into future Planning Policy, while in Scotland, Lewis Macdonald MSP has been fighting to bring it into Scottish Planning Law.

“Developers aren’t the only pressure facing grassroots venues,” adds Whitrick. “Business rates, cultural funding and the differences in licensing are some of the other areas we’ll continue to campaign on.”

The Agent of Change principle was adopted in the Australian state of Victoria in 2014, following a campaign by music industry body Music Victoria.

 


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