UK Music warns Budget tax rise could put live sector at risk

UK Music warns Budget tax rise could put live sector at risk

UK Music CEO Jo Dipple has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond to raise concerns over the potential negative impact the imminent business rates revaluation could have on the live music sector.

It is feared that a major overhaul of commercial property rates - crucial details of which will be revealed in Wednesday's Budget - could amount to a huge rise in costs and force many venues to close.

On behalf of UK Music, Dipple is calling for Hammond to "put measures in place to mitigate the worst excesses of the valuation in order to avoid a detrimental impact on culture and creativity in our communities".

“A disproportionate hike in business rates could pose a serious threat to qualifying music SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and grassroots venues," said Dipple. "The more we are able to identify threats, the more effective our lobbying for policy change in that area will be."

Alongside Musicians' Union and Music Venue Trust, UK Music is an industry partner for Britain's first live music census, which starts at midday on March 9.  

The University Of Edinburgh's Dr Matt Brennan, who is leading the project, warned that venues operating at grassroots level are particularly vulnerable from increased rates. “Venues around the country have been telling us that they already operate on thin margins, so proposed increases in rateable values of up to 55% in some cases will have a significant impact," said Dr Brennan.

“The UK Live Music Census will be very important in identifying challenges that the industry faces, such as rising rates and other issues. It will give us a detailed picture of what exactly it means to be venue owner, a musician, and a live music lover in 2017. Our hope is that the census will be a vital tool in strengthening a much-loved part of the UK’s culture.”

The census – a world first – is being led by the universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow, and will quantify for the first time the nationwide challenges the industry is facing and inform policy. For 24 hours from noon on Thursday, volunteers will track performances in cities across the country. There will be coordinated censuses in Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Leeds, Southampton and Brighton. Volunteers will attend live music events including Olly Murs at First Direct Arena in Leeds, Nicola Benedetti at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, R&B in Oxford, and jazz in Newcastle. 

“UK Music is delighted to partner this ground-breaking UK Live Music Census research," added Dipple. "The findings for each of the six cities will inform academics, entrepreneurs and music fans alike.  It will help organisations like UK Music to understand better the pressures on music businesses and venues so we can lobby for the most effective policies in each area." 

A nationwide online survey for musicians, venues, promoters and audiences will also go live on March 9 and will be open until May 8. Music fans, musicians, venues and promoters across all genres and at all levels are asked to fill in the survey at the official website.  

Other issues the census aims to capture include the diversity of musical genres, audience demographics, ticket prices, live music’s economic and cultural value, and attitudes towards secondary ticketing - the reselling of tickets. 

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Two years ago, the project team ran a pilot live music census in Edinburgh. Its findings were used to inform the city council’s decision to change its policies about noise levels to the benefit of performers.

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