Ed Sheeran, Steve Lamacq and more back FreeNow's Ride For Music initiative for grassroots venues

Ed Sheeran, Steve Lamacq and more back FreeNow's Ride For Music initiative for grassroots venues

The music industry has been rallying behind the launch of FreeNow’s Ride For Music initiative, which pledges £1 for each taxi ride to the Music Venue Trust

Ed Sheeran, radio presenter and MVT patron Steve Lamacq, London night czar Amy Lamé, Ticketmaster and Academy Music Group have all pledged their support for the project, whilst FreeNow has guaranteed a minimum commitment of £200,000 to save struggling venues impacted by the cost of living crisis. 

All funds through Ride For Music will be going to the Pipeline Investment Fund from MVT, which is a grant-giving fund established by MVT with the support of venue members of the Music Venues Alliance. PIF allows small-scale grant applications (up to £5,000) from UK-based grassroots music venues to support three areas of work: 

1) Improving venue viability, resilience and performance, including diversifying workforces, succession planning, skills development and strengthening local community ties.

2) Small-scale capital applications and improvements to infrastructure, such as building improvements, sound, lighting, access and energy efficiency. 

3) Ownership investment, acquiring freeholds or to invest in community ownership funds run by venues themselves through appropriate charitable vehicles. 

FreeNow have also simultaneously commissioned a research project into the live music sector, which has found that eight in ten people believe the music scene is a very important factor for living in any city, and 84% of people enjoy discovering new music through live events. 

The research also showed that 43% of people will decline seeing their friends at the pub and one in ten would decline a wedding invitation in favour of attending a live gig, and 88% of people said that live music experience positively impacts their mental health.  

Meanwhile, two thirds of respondents said they preferred intimate shows, whilst 24% said they would choose to see a well-known performer in a large venue. 

Despite these positive statistics, Music Venue Trust's annual report revealed that 16% of grassroots music venues have closed in the last year across the UK. Whilst 68% of those surveyed in the UK said the cost of living had negatively impacted the number of gigs they had attended in 2023, 48% were not aware that grassroots music venues were closing.    

MVT’s Pipeline Investment Fund – which has so far helped support 62 venues, distributing just over £250,000 to venues across the UK – will prioritise support for organisations who may be excluded from other available funding. 

"Like so many musicians, I started out playing in grassroots music venues,” said Sheeran. “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." 

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.”

“This sort of investment from FreeNow is a terrific boost to the Grassroots economy,” added Lamacq. “Schemes like Ride For Music are invaluable in helping to protect and promote our wonderful network of live venues in the UK.”

Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of Music Venue Trust, said: "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.” 

Michelle De Maat, head of marketing at FreeNow UK, added: “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.”

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