Music Venue Trust has launched its 2023 annual report.
While highlighting the important contribution that its members make to the UK economy, it also underlines the challenges, such as rising rent demands and high energy costs.
With 125 grassroots venues shutting last year, the report contrasts the struggle faced by small venues and those companies at the top end of the live music sector. According to the MVT, 38% of small venues reported a loss in 2023 despite an increased demand for tickets.
A survey of the remaining 835 members of the Music Venue Alliance (MVA), 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 23.5m. However, despite generating over £500m in revenues, grassroots music venues made just £2.5m in combined profit for the period, a profit margin of 0.5%.
This report also details how, without a combination of grants and donations totalling £3.1m from MVT’s own Pipeline Investment Fund, Arts Council England and other bodies, the whole sector would have operated at a loss during this period. In total, the amount that grassroots venues are subsidising live music R&D rose from £79m in 2022 to £115m in 2023 (£133m of income in ticket sales versus £248m in expenditure), an increase of 45%.
With energy costs remaining high and rent increases averaging 37%, 164 member venues – particularly smaller venues or those in rural locations – accessed the MVT Emergency Response Service. For the first time since the organisation’s launch a decade ago, the primary cause of venue closure was a lack of financial viability.
The full report is available here.
We can no longer accept complacency from those in a position to help prevent the annihilation of our sector
Beverley Whitrick, COO of Music Venue Trust, said: “2023 was the worst year for venue closures since Music Venue Trust launched ten 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.”
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, said: “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.”
Subscribers can read Mark Davyd’s latest Music Week column.