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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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MVT seeking grassroots “venue champions”

Music Venue Trust (MVT) is seeking the assistance of UK music fans to supply facts about their local venues. These “venue champions” will help conduct MVT’s annual survey of grassroots music venues.

The MVT venue champions will be responsible for supplying the trust with relevant information about each of the 490+ venues making up the Music Venues Alliance (MVA). One person will be appointed per venue, with volunteers encouraged to apply to become the champion of their favourite, local venue.

“We are calling on some of you that support your local venue to step forward and offer your time to help in a very tangible way,” says an MVT callout.

“We are looking for a network of volunteers to communicate with the management, staff and audiences in their favourite venue during one week in April/May 2019 to help us complete the MVT Annual Survey.”

“We are calling on some of you that support your local venue to step forward and offer your time to help in a very tangible way”

The volunteers will be responsible for completing venue audits and talking to performers and attendees at events during the survey week, from 29 April to 5 May. Venue champions will have access to all events during the week, as well as behind the scenes access outside event hours.

The trust, which represents all venues in the MVA, will use the information collected to build evidence to support the Pipeline Investment Fund, MVT’s major investment initiative with music industry partners.

Pipeline provides funding for infrastructure, sound and lights in grassroots venues. The fund also aims to place venues into protected ownership, create training and apprenticeship schemes and offer centralised legal, planning and licensing advice.

Those interested in becoming the venue champion for their local venue can apply via an online application form. Applicants must be over 18 and available to conduct the research during the week specified to qualify for the role.


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UK industry rallies around MVT’s pipeline fund

All major UK music industry associations have signed a statement of intent pledging to tackle the crisis facing Britain’s grassroots music venues.

Signatories including UK Live Music, the Concert Promoters Association, the National Arena Association, the Entertainment Agents’ Association, the Musicians’ Union and the Music Managers Forum have announced their support for a Pipeline Investment Fund (PIF) to tackle the root causes leading to music venue closures.

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of Music Venue Trust (MVT) – which introduced the PIF concept at Venues Day in October – explains: “We asked the UK music industry to sign up to the concept that we need to take collective financial action on the challenges facing grassroots venues.

“We are delighted with the response from the industry and the willingness to find positive, constructive solutions so that we can properly protect the grassroots music venues pipeline from which, ultimately, everyone benefits.”

The aims of the Pipeline Investment Fund include funding infrastructure, sound and lighting in grassroots venues; placing venues into protected ownership by acquiring freeholds; creating training and apprenticeship schemes; and offering centralised legal, planning and licensing advice.

Following the signing of the statement of intent, the signatories will begin working together in early 2019 to identify funding solutions.

“With 35% of the UK’s grassroots venues having closed over the last ten years, it’s time for the industry to act,” says Greg Parmley, chair of UK Live Music and managing director of the ILMC. “We need structured and planned investment to secure these vital spaces against development, rent rises, poor infrastructure and failing facilities.”

Other signatories include the Music Industries Association, Production Services Association, Featured Artists Coalition, Association of Independent Festivals and Association of Festival Organisers.

Andrew Parsons, MD of Ticketmaster UK, comments: “Grassroots music venues are an essential part of the live music scene. We have been working with Music Venue Trust for over four years to ensure that these iconic buildings can continue to showcase the next generation of talent.

“We welcome the Pipeline Investment Fund initiative to look at ways that our industry can secure the legacy of these venues for many years to come.”

“AEG is committed to working with our partners in the live music industry to find a solution to the critical challenges faced by Grassroots Music Venues,” adds John Langford of AEG Europe. “The Pipeline Investment Fund is an opportunity to deliver real, practical and urgent action right across the music industry.”


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Oxford’s the Cellar launches Cellar Forever crowdfunder

The Cellar, the last family run grassroots music venue in Oxford, UK, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £80,000, in a “last-ditch” bid to stay open.

The formerly 150-capacity venue, which opened in 1998, is renowned as an incubator of emerging talent, with Foals, Young Knives, Stornoway and Glass Animals all having cut their teeth at the Cellar. It has also hosted shows by artists including Mumford & Sons, Friendly Fires, Noah and the Whale, Youth Movies, Deerhoof, Fuck Buttons, Jeffrey Lewis, Afrika Bambaataa and Dawn Penn, as well as numerous club nights and comedy shows by Reginald D. Hunter, Richard Herring and more.

The Cellar escaped closure in late 2017 after 14,000 people signed a petition to stop redevelopment plans by the venue’s landlord. However, stringent new fire regulations, which cut capacity from 150 to 60 people, once again threatens its future.

The venue’s plight was raised earlier this week at a meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, with British rapper ShoaDow telling MPs of the importance of the venue when building his career.

To once again increase capacity, and attract promoters and artists who have had to go elsewhere for larger shows, the Cellar needs to raise £80,000 to build a new fire exit. The emergency crowdfunding campaign, dubbed Cellar Forever, is asking local businesses, artists and supporters of independent music to make a donation in order to secure its long-term future.

Venue manager Tim Hopkins explains: “It was people power that saved the Cellar in 2017, and that showed me how much the community care about this place and how important it is to keep it alive.

“We hope that with the right support we can ride through this difficult moment”

“We’ve always been so proud of the opportunities we can provide to local and national musicians to hone their craft, as well as seeing budding promoters and technical crew come up through the ranks and providing a warm, friendly space for people to come together and let off some steam.

“Running a small venue these days is definitely challenging to make it work, and, sadly, with the extent of the renovations we’ve been asked to make, we simply don’t have the money to pay for them. Which is why we’re calling on people power again with this crowdfunding campaign.

“As well as our own passion to keep going, we owe it to all our amazing supporters to give this one last try. The best thing is, if we are a successful then it’ll make big improvements to what we already offer, widening the audience area, giving customers much better visibility and increasing our capacity to 200. We’re truly excited to get stuck in.

“We hope that with the right support we can ride through this difficult moment, and rebuild the Cellar for future generations to enjoy.”

To make a domination to the Cellar Forever campaign, which has so far raised nearly £20,000 of the £80,000 goal, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/cellar-forever.

Music Venue Trust last month urged the music business to unite behind its new pipeline investment fund – which would, by providing a reliable source of funding for venues in need, make the need for crowdfunding campaigns like the Cellar’s a thing of the past.


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“We have to restart this conversation”: MVT calls for pipeline investment fund

Music Venue Trust has urged key grassroots venues stakeholders, as well as the UK music industry more widely, to unite behind a statement of intent to create a ‘pipeline investment fund’ to tackle the root causes leading to music venue closures.

The statement – reproduced below – is being sent to all major music industry stakeholders, and is “designed to move the conversation significantly forward on how best to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues for the benefit of grassroots artists”, according to the charity, which unveiled the pipeline fund proposal at yesterday’s sold-out Venues Day 2018 event in London.

“Music Venue Trust strongly believes that our own music industry understands that these venues are vital to the future of the health of the whole industry,” said Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd. “Last week in parliament we heard directly from artist representatives who know this, and today at Venues Day we’ve heard repeatedly from artists demanding action to support the venues that are vital to their development.

“We’ve heard a lot from key stakeholders, from government through Arts Council, live music industry partners and major record labels, about how these venues need support. We’ve heard a lot about what can’t be done, and what the obstacles are – let’s move past that. These discussions, some with positive results, haven’t resulted in the decisive direct action that is needed.

“We’ve heard a lot about what can’t be done, and what the obstacles are – let’s move past that”

“We have to restart this conversation from the basics, and move quickly to practical action everyone can support”.

It was widely reported last week that Davyd and others were calling for a ‘ticket tax’ to help venues in need, although he clarifies his comments in parliament were referring to France (which imposes a 3% tax on tickets) and that a levy on tickets isn’t the right solution for Britain.

Advocating for the pipeline investment fund, Davyd notes that in a music economy worth £4.4bn and growing, Britain’s small venues have been closed down for the sake of just £2,000 in legal fees, £10,000 of programming money or £20,000 of infrastructure investment. “Less than 0.1% of the UK music economy invested into the grassroots would permanently end these problems” he comments.

Beverley Whitrick, MVT’s strategic director, adds: “We can’t let this continue. Across Europe we have seen direct action taken, by government, the music industry and the cultural sector. We are reaching out to our own music industry, government and the cultural sector and asking them to join us and take the lead on this.

“We are asking you to sign up if you believe you should be part of the solution we need”

“Let’s stop talking about all the obstacles and start from the basics: We are asking you to sign up if you believe you should be part of the solution we need.”

Read the statement of intent in full below:

We, the undersigned, are committed to the concept of the creation of a pipeline investment fund within the UK music industry. We agree that such a mechanism is vital to the sustainability of our grassroots touring network, which we consider is essential to the future health of the UK music industry.

Funds generated by the pipeline investment fund should be used to support activity in the grassroots sector of the music industry to include (but not limited to):

1) Investment into modern, sustainable sound and lighting for grassroots music venues to permanently reduce venue costs and increase profitability.

2) Investment into the physical infrastructure of Grassroots Music Venues, to address issues of access, capacity, health and safety, and artist facilities. 

3) Acquisition of the freehold of grassroots music venues so that they can be placed into protected ownership and permanently leased back to local communities.

4) Support for new and emerging artist touring costs through a grant application process.

5) Creation of a training and apprenticeship programme for support roles within grassroots music venues.

6) Support for central legal, licensing and planning advice related to music venues, and for campaigns to ensure that future legislation recognises the economic, cultural and social value of those venues.

The fund would be administered by the established UK registered charity Music Venue Trust. The charity will establish advisory boards from within the UK music industry to guide and oversee its investments in each of the chosen areas. The charity will provide a full, annual, public report on all income and expenditure related to the pipeline investment fund.

We acknowledge that the creation of the pipeline investment fund requires consensus across the live music industry, from arenas, stadiums, concert halls, promoters, agents, managers and artists. In the event this consensus is reached, we are committed to delivering our agreement to this programme.


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