The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents hundreds of grassroots music venues in the country, has published its annual report, which highlights the important contributions of such venues to the local economy as well as the financial struggles they are currently facing. The biggest challenge for buildings is the high cost of energy, which has forced 125 venues to shut their doors permanently in the past year.
“This report throws into sharp focus the contrast between those companies and artists at the top end of the live music sector currently enjoying record revenues and profits, and the remaining grassroots music venues, 38% of which reported a loss in 2023 despite an increased demand for tickets,” MVT writes.
A survey of the remaining 835 members of the Trust’s Music Venue Alliance, who employ over 28,000 people throughout the sector, found that they staged over 187,000 events in 2023, with 1.7 million individual artist performances attracting audience visits of over 23.5 million. “However, despite generating over £500 million [$635 million] in revenues, GMVs made just £2.5 million ($3.2 million) or 0.5% profit for the period,” MVT’s report states.
The bottom line would have shown a loss had it not been for the combination of grants and donations totaling £3.1 million ($3.9 million) from MVT’s own Pipeline Investment Fund, Arts Council England and other bodies, the report finds. Those surveyed reported a total income from live music of £134 million ($170 million) in 2023, as well as a total expenditure of £249 million ($316 million). In other words, the sector’s subsidy to live music was £115 million ($146 million), up from £79 million in 2022, an increase of £36 million or 45% over the previous 12 months. “When specifically considering the expenditure and income related solely to live music provision, the average GMV incurred a yearly loss of £137,501.99 [$174,663],” according to the report, which can be accessed in full via MVT’s website.
With energy costs remaining high and rent increases averaging 37%, 164 member venues,
particularly smaller ones, and those in rural locations, had to access MVT’s Emergency Response Service. For the first time since the MVT launched a decade ago, it found that the primary cause of venue closure was a lack of financial viability.
MVT COO Beverley Whitrick said, “2023 was the worst year for venue closures since Music Venue Trust launched 10 years ago. We are still losing on average two venues a week and those that have survived are now consumed by threats to their continued existence that they have no chance of overcoming without immediate help. Without external support, our entire sector would be bankrupt. We have been warning of these consequences for the last six years yet, still the top end of the live music sector posts record profits while, with a few notable exceptions, turning a blind eye to those who discover, nurture and develop the artists that generate that revenue for them.”
CEO Mark Davyd added, “Enough is enough. This report speaks for itself, and we will not allow this to continue. We must either find a way to act collectively to get these venues and the artists who rely on them the financial support they need to survive or we will seek legislation to compel it. The idea that we, as an industry, cannot voluntarily create a levy to support our grassroots sector, unilaterally and without government intervention, is absurd but we cannot escape the fact that we are simply not acting fast enough. For that reason, Music Venue Trust is asking all of the main political parties for manifesto commitments ahead of the forthcoming General Election that state that there must be a contribution from the most successful parts of our industry into the grassroots research and development carried out on their behalf. It’s time to stop the excuses – we can no longer accept complacency from those in a position to help prevent the annihilation of our sector.”