CMS Committee report backs campaign for levy on arena & stadium tickets to support grassroots venues

CMS Committee report backs campaign for levy on arena & stadium tickets to support grassroots venues

MPs have backed the Music Venue Trust’s campaign on both a levy on arena and stadium tickets and a cut in VAT to support grassroots music venues.

The recommendations are in a report from the cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which highlights the role of local venues in terms of the pipeline of professional creative and technical music talent. Grassroots music venues (GMVs) are stopping performances or closing entirely at a rate of two per week.

The Committee also heard about how artists are facing a “cost of touring crisis”, while promoters are struggling to get shows into venues. You can read our report of the hearing in March with the Music Venue Trust and others here.

On top of immediate financial help through a levy-backed support fund and a targeted temporary VAT cut to help stem the tide of closures, the report says a comprehensive fan-led review of live and electronic music should be set up this summer to examine the long-term challenges to the wider live music ecosystem.

The Committee inquiry, launched at the Music Venue Trust’s Venues Day in October 2023, heard from across the sector of the scale of the crisis facing venues and the impact this is having on artists.

The MVT described 2023 as the most challenging year for the sector since the trust was founded in 2014. In total the number of GMVs declined from 960 to 835 last year, a net decrease of 13%, representing a loss of as many as 30,000 shows and 4,000 jobs.

The Music Venue Trust has launched the Own Our Venues scheme to protect GMVs, and has just confirmed its second acquisition, The Ferret in Preston.

The report says that given the urgency of the crisis, a voluntary levy on arena and stadium concert tickets would be the most feasible way to have an immediate impact. The support fund for venues, artists and promoters would be administered by a trust led by a sector umbrella body. The report recommends that this could be the LIVE Trust (part of the sector’s umbrella trade body) or Music Venues Trust,

However, in the evidence sessions there was reluctance from the arenas sector to see the introduction of a levy that would impact profits. A different model is where artists take a lead in the £1 a ticket donation to the administrator for such as scheme,

To stem the overwhelming ongoing tide of closures, we urgently need a levy on arena and stadium concert tickets to fund financial support for the sector

Dame Caroline Dinenage

The Committee also called for the industry to ensure the levy cost is not passed on to music fans. If there is no agreement by September or if it fails to collect enough income to support the sector, the government should step in and introduce a statutory levy, the report added.

On VAT relief, the Committee called for a temporary cut based on venue capacity, with the government undertaking analysis to assess the impact to inform future decisions.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “We are grateful to the many dedicated local venues who gave up their time to take part in our inquiry. They delivered the message loud and clear that grassroots music venues are in crisis. The ongoing wave of closures is not just a disaster for music, performers and supporters in local communities up and down the country, but also puts at risk the entire live music ecosystem. If the grassroots, where musicians, technicians, tour managers and promoters hone their craft, are allowed to wither and die, the UK’s position as a music powerhouse faces a bleak future.

“To stem the overwhelming ongoing tide of closures, we urgently need a levy on arena and stadium concert tickets to fund financial support for the sector, alongside a VAT cut to help get more shows into venues.

“While the current focus is on the many grassroots music venues falling silent, those working in the live music sector across the board are also under extraordinary strain. It is time that the government brought together everyone with a stake in the industry’s success, including music fans, to address the long-term challenges and ensure live music can thrive into the future.”

Among the report’s other recommendations are for the government and Arts Council to make it easier for the live music sector to apply for public funding. 

Mark Davyd, CEO & founder, Music Venue Trust, said: “Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee's Report into the challenges facing grassroots music venues. We want to thank the Committee MPs and the CMS team for their excellent work in understanding and considering these challenges, and the clear recommendations they have created to address them. 

“These recommendations provide a clear pathway forward to a positive future for the UK's grassroots music venues, a set of actions that are deliverable, affordable, and will genuinely have a positive impact on live music in communities right across the country. We look forward to working with the music industry and with the government to deliver on these recommendations as swiftly as possible.

“We would like to thank all the thousands of music fans that have supported our work across the last 10 years. It has taken much longer than any of us would have liked to get the positive change we all wanted to see, but we could not have achieved this fantastic outcome without your continued support for your local live music venue. “

These recommendations provide a clear pathway forward to a positive future for the UK's grassroots music venues

Mark Davyd

Jon Collins, CEO, LIVE, said: “LIVE welcomes this considered, knowledgeable and wide-ranging report. It’s clear that the Committee has recognised the many challenges faced by venues, promoters, events and artists at the grassroots level, and the steps required to address them. 

“LIVE set out to the Committee the actions we believe that the government needs to take to help unleash the economic potential of the sector, such as a reduction in the damaging and uncompetitive rate of VAT on tickets, as well as the actions that sit with us as an industry, notably the creation of a charitable arm, the LIVE Trust. 

“We are pleased that the Committee’s report addresses both of these matters positively and has entrusted our sector to implement the industry-led solution of a voluntary levy on arena and stadium tickets, gathering and distributing funding that will benefit the whole grassroots music ecosystem. We look forward to working with government on the review of VAT and regularly updating on our progress on the LIVE Trust.”

MPs have also urged stakeholders across the industry to continue to support the Featured Artists' Coalition’s campaign to end punitive fees on artists' merchandise.

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition & Annabella Coldrick, chief executive, Music Managers Forum, said: "As the organisations representing artists and managers, we wholeheartedly endorse all the Committee's recommendations.  

"Most important is their recognition of the 'cost of touring crisis', and that the benefits of a ticket levy must flow down to artists, managers, and independent promoters – as well as to grassroots music venues. The entire ecosystem needs support. While we still believe this mechanism should be mandatory, the clock is now ticking to get a process in place before September 2024. 

"We are also delighted to see the Committee endorse the 100% Venues campaign, and hope this will trigger action from the UK's largest live music venues to overhaul outdated practices on merchandise commissions. The sale of T-shirts, vinyl and other physical products represent a crucial income stream for artists. It is only fair that they should retain the bulk of that revenue." 

UK Music Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl said: “Grassroots music venues are a crucial part of the music industry’s ecosystem and have been faced with a series of unprecedented threats for a number of years. We welcome the House of Commons CMS Committee taking the opportunity to consider the challenges these venues and the artists that tour in them face. We hope that many of the Committee’s recommendations, which echo UK Music’s A Manifesto for Music and campaigns such as the FAC’s 100% Venues, lead to positive interventions from government, as well as building on previous steps it has taken to protect this fragile part of the music sector.”

Click here to read our interview with Oh yeah Music Centre CEO Charlotte Dryden – winners of the publicly-voted Music Week Award for Grassroots Venue: Spirit Of The Scene.

PHOTO: The Blinders performing at The Ferret, which has just been protected under the Music Venue Trust Own Our Venues scheme (credit: Michael Porter)


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