European mobility service platform FREENOW has pledged to donate £1 (USD $1.20) for every ride to support grassroots live music venues.
Under the Ride for Music campaign, FREENOW’s goal is to raise a guaranteed minimum of £200,000 (USD $243,000) to bolster venues hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis. This initiative targets venues that may not have access to other forms of financial aid.
Teaming up with Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents hundreds of grassroots music venues in the UK , FREENOW riders can now ‘opt in’ during their trips. By doing so, £1 of their ride cost will be sent directly to the charity at no extra expense to the rider.
Grassroots venues throughout the UK have been grappling with financial challenges, with 16% of these spaces having to close their doors last year, according to MVT.
Nearly a month ago, the MVT penned a letter to the UK government, saying the UK small music venue industry is experiencing a “full-blown crisis” with many forced to close over the last year. They have asked Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to extend the 75% business rates relief introduced in April 2023, which is scheduled to end in March 2024.
“One hundred and twenty-five venues have shut their doors for live music in the last 12 months, 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK,” the MVT said in the September letter to the government.
The closures led to the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, as well as £9 million ($11m) of income for musicians, and £59 million ($72m) in lost direct economic activity.
The new initiative involving FREENOW has garnered support from celebrities and musicians, including writer and presenter Amy Lamé and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
“Like so many musicians, I started out playing in grassroots music venues. They are such a vital part of the music ecosystem. Without them, I definitely would not have had the chance to hone my craft and become the artist I am today,” Sheeran, who recently secured copyright victory over Thinking Out Loud, said.
“Like so many musicians, I started out playing in grassroots music venues. They are such a vital part of the music ecosystem. Without them, I definitely would not have had the chance to hone my craft and become the artist I am today.”
“I applaud the Ride for Music campaign and hope it raises loads of money for Music Venue Trust, who work tirelessly to both protect and promote these wonderful spaces,” the singer said.
All funds raised through the ‘Ride for Music’ initiative will be channeled into MVT’s ongoing Pipeline Investment Fund, which has already raised £250,000 and assisted 62 venues. This marks the second year of collaboration between FREENOW and Music Venue Trust in this endeavor. In 2022, the initiative provided financial backing for the gigs of 120 independent artists across 60 venues in the UK.
MVT noted that all generated funding is distributed to the cause without any admin charge. Additionally, the FREENOW and MVT partnership has also supported the music business with The Mercury Prize and Brockwell Live.
In 2020, MVT issued an urgent warning to the British Government that an immediate cash injection of £50 million ($61m) is needed to prevent mass closures from July to September of that year.
“Music has such a positive impact on people’s lives and on their mental wellbeing, so supporting live music and preserving venues is key to making city life more vibrant for all.”
Michelle de Maat, FREENOW UK
As a result of lobbying, the UK government announced a £1.57 billion ($1.9b) support package for the arts and culture sector in July of the same year, including a package covering funding for music venues.
Most recently, research commissioned by FREENOW found that live gigs are the top priority for adults to spend their money on (63%). And two-thirds of respondents expressed a preference for intimate shows in smaller venues, as opposed to larger venues featuring well-known performers (24%).
The study also revealed that 43% of respondents are open to forgoing social gatherings at pubs with one in ten even opting to decline wedding invitations in favor of attending a live gig.
The survey found that 80% of respondents agree that the music scene is important to city life. Despite this, 68% said the cost of living crisis has hindered their ability to attend live events this year. It was also revealed that a substantial 88% of individuals credit live music experiences with positively impacting their mental health.
“Music has such a positive impact on people’s lives and on their mental wellbeing, so supporting live music and preserving venues is key to making city life more vibrant for all,” said Michelle de Maat, Head of Marketing at FREENOW UK.
“The Ride for Music initiative from FREENOW gives every music fan in the UK an incredible opportunity to play a role in directly supporting grassroots music venues. It’s exactly the type of joined up, creative thinking that we need to tackle the crisis facing our grassroots sector.”
Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust
“By contributing to the resilience of these vital spaces during such challenging times, we aim to ensure that the stages remain lit, and artists have a place to showcase their talent. Ultimately, this supports our users, drivers and all those who rely on these exceptional venues and a thriving nightlife throughout the country.”
Mark Davyd, Founder and CEO of Music Venue Trust, called on music lovers to support the initiative, saying: “The Ride for Music initiative from FREENOW gives every music fan in the UK an incredible opportunity to play a role in directly supporting grassroots music venues. It’s exactly the type of joined up, creative thinking that we need to tackle the crisis facing our grassroots sector.”
“People can make a genuine difference to Music Venue Trust’s ability to prevent venue closures, support artists, crew and staff. FREENOW have made it simple for you to be part of the solution, and help the whole music and night time economy.”
London’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé said: “London’s grassroots music venues have a special place in my heart. There’s nothing I enjoy more than going to a gig and discovering exciting new acts bursting onto the scene. These venues are essential to London’s place as a leader in the music industry and where global acts like Adele and Stormzy started their journeys. But, like many venues, they’re facing some incredibly tough challenges. That’s why I’m thrilled FREENOW is working with Music Venue Trust to raise money that will support these vital spaces in our music industry.”
Music Venue Trust Patron and radio presenter Steve Lamacq added: “This sort of investment from FREENOW is a terrific boost to the Grassroots economy. Schemes like Ride For Music are invaluable in helping to protect and promote our wonderful network of live venues in the UK.”
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