‘Two years ago, things were bad for grassroots music venues. Now, we are at the cliff edge.’

Mark Davyd

The following MBW blog – an open letter, in fact – comes from Mark Davyd (pictured), the CEO of UK registered charity, the Music Venue Trust. MVT seeks to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues. MVT’s patrons include Sir Paul McCartney, Elbow and Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice.

Dear music industry,

Let’s be honest, the last few weeks have seen a flood of appeals to rescue different areas of the music business.

In these unprecedented times the very foundations of our industry are under grave threat so of course urgent action is needed.  Whether it is the wider supply chain, the future of both salaried and freelance workers , record stores or the live sector there can be no doubt that unless we all do something to stabilize the situation we will have a very different landscape to return to if and when things return to normal.

The Music Venue Trust is an organisation representing 670 UK music venues and as such we are uniquely placed to comment on the issues currently affecting the live music scene at a grassroots level.

The decision by the UK government to enforce social distancing through a ‘lockdown’ policy while fully understandable has been catastrophic for the live music sector, and hardest hit have been those grassroots venues already operating on thin margins.

“The situation is dire, and it is now incumbent on the wider music industry to do something about it. “

Since these restrictions really started to bite three week ago, we have surveyed, audited and analysed the situation and our findings are grim.  Just 17%, equating to 114 grassroots music venues out of the 670 we represent, are currently secure for the next eight weeks.

The other 556 venues are at imminent risk of being permanently closed down.

The situation is dire, and it is now incumbent on the wider music industry to do something about it.

Many music careers start in grassroots music venues. Without them the opportunities for the industry and music fans alike to discover and engage with new talent would shrink exponentially. Developing artists nurture their fanbases here, they learn their craft in places that are often important cultural hubs for a local scene.

Put bluntly, without these venues the opportunities for artists and audiences to connect in a meaningful way at a local level will simply disappear in a lot of cases.

And mark my words if they go they will never come back.

The landlords of many of these properties will quickly take the opportunity to apply for a change in building usage, turning venues into more profitable gastropubs, restaurants and, in a lot of cases, residential housing.

Two years ago things were bad, now we are at the cliff edge. In 2018 we launched an Emergency Response Service to help venues in trouble. Dealing with individual threats of closure we have been very successful. Last year we took on 96 cases where a venue was under threat and won every single one.

This year we now know we have to take on 556 cases in the next 3 months.

With that in mind we have no choice but to massively upscale that service, bring in more legal, planning and financial experts and make financial interventions in the most serious of cases where there is no other solution.

“We need companies and high net worth individuals to step up now.”

We recently launched a £1 million appeal aimed at the music industry to raise the money to deliver that service and the response has been encouraging but so far it is not enough.

We need companies and high net worth individuals to step up now.

Major and independent record companies, music publishers, promoters, agents, artist managers and all of the other sectors within our industry: we all need these venues to survive. Without them a hugely important part of our business will be consigned to history.

There is no sugar coating it, if you don’t help now there will be no going back.

We have a goal. Not 556 closures. Not 555. Not 300, or 200, or 100. None.

Please help us. Visit www.musicvenuetrust.com to find out more about what we do and how you can help.


Mark Davyd

CEO – The Music Venue TrustMusic Business Worldwide

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