Digital Discourse: Sammy Andrews looks at key AI products for music

Another month, another slew of AI updates and products hitting the market. GPT-4o is startling the world with new developments like AI conversations, Apple has launched a host of new AI tools, whilst the AI music generator start-up Suno has ...

Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd’s monthly deep dive into live music’s biggest issues... The General Election 2024 presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure the future of the UK’s grassroots music venues and the new government must seize the chance to make positive and long-lasting change.  The issues and solutions facing the grassroots music ecosystem have been well documented, and 10 years of work by Music Venue Trust has focused on understanding the sector, acquiring the data needed to establish a clear picture of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by venues, artists and promoters, as well as developing deliverable policy solutions that address the needs of the GMV ecosystem.  This decade-long project culminated in May with the publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report that laid out the policy environment needed to protect and improve the vital network of UK GMVs. During this election campaign, MVT worked alongside artists, fans and promoters to call on all political representatives, from all parties, to seize the moment and drive forward the change these venues so desperately need.  Echoing the CMS Committee’s call for action, these are the five policies the new government must deliver: 1) A £1 contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold to support GMVs, artists and promoters. 2) The “agent of change principle” in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to be put on a statutory footing at the earliest opportunity. 3) The creation of a specific business rates premises definition for GMVs and the removal of properties fitting that definition from the requirement to pay business rates. 4) A reduction in VAT on cultural ticketing in GMVs to 0% and a VAT on ticketing across the whole live music industry to the European average. 5) A fan-led review to examine the long-term challenges to the live music sector.  In the words of the CMS Committee: “Grassroots live music venues, the local, limited capacity venues integral to the pipeline of creative and professional talent and key fixtures of our communities, are now facing a crisis of soaring costs and closures. These venues are stopping live music or closing entirely at a rate of two per week. Artists, and the people who rely on them for business, are facing a cost-of-touring crisis and finding opportunities squeezed. Promoters are less able to put on shows or make them financially viable. Festivals, electronic music venues and even academies and arenas are not insulated from the impacts.” In 2023, 72 GMVs significantly reduced or ended their live music offer and, in the last 12 months, 38.5% of UK GMVs reported making a loss. The sector operated on a 0.5% profit margin while running live music events which generated over £134 million in ticket revenue against a total expenditure of £248m – a staggering £114m loss.  There isn’t anyone working in the grassroots sector who isn’t dealing with the economic reality of that shortfall in finances day in, day out: staff are being laid off; venues are being forced to take short-term programming decisions to survive the next rent invoice; shows can’t be booked because no one can take the risk; and tours are being cancelled or shortened because there simply isn’t the money to pay the artists to be out on tour.  The long-term impact of a failure to support the sector will be felt for decades to come – the artist that cannot play their first show now cannot be expected to headline Glastonbury in 10 years’ time. But even before we consider that problem, we have to confront the fact that whole swathes of the country are finding that their nearest opportunity to experience live music isn’t just more than walking distance, it’s not even in the same county. We are failing to offer people the opportunity to feel that music is part of their lives, part of their identity. We aren’t just missing the opportunity that artists need to create our next big act, we also risk losing the next generation of music consumers. This crisis will hit everyone reading this column eventually, and we must, collectively, tackle it now.  There is a sensible, deliverable and affordable solution to these problems, based on two simple principles. The first is that the new government should remove the barriers and obstacles to successful and sustainable live music in our communities by ensuring that its policies promote cultural activity in our towns and cities, rather than limit it through poor and inadequate policy and badly designed taxation. The second is that everyone working in the music business – all of us – need to play our part and accept our responsibility to venues, artists and promoters in the grassroots sector who are at the forefront of ensuring our industry has a bright future.  This is a moment of profound opportunity, and the government should work with the music industry to ensure we do not let it slip away.  

'Vote for music!': London venue podcast host Jeremy Newton on the grassroots sector's manifesto

With the arrival of the UK general election (July 4), If These Walls Could Talk podcast host Jeremy Newton argues that support for grassroots venues is a key issue for communities. The Music Venue Trust’s Manifesto For Music includes proposals for a  £1 grassroots investment contribution from every arena and stadium ticket sold; a fan-led review to fully examine the long-term challenges to the live music ecosystem; and the agent of change principle in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to be put on a statutory footing at the earliest opportunity. As he interviews Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd for a new episode of the podcast, the head of agency business at DLMDD explains why voters should investigate the trade body’s election microsite and see which candidates are backing the MVT Manifesto For Music… The last few weeks have been awash with headlines about new policies and pledges from each of the main political parties. Many of us may be fired up about going out to vote today – but others may not. Political apathy is easy in a world where it can often feel we’re making enormous efforts for not much gain. Just the other week, new figures emerged showing 40% of young people don’t intend to vote in the general election.  But if for nothing else – go out and vote for music. You really do have the opportunity to make a difference to the things that matter to you, in your community and in your country, and, if you’re reading this, chances are music is one of those things.  Let me take you back in time for a moment. The year is 2003, and the sheen of New Labour, along with its eponymous strapline 'Things Can Only Get Better', is dissipating quickly in and amongst a concerning new narrative of Weapons Of Mass Destruction, The Iraq War and Bush and Blair's ill-fated coalition of the willing. Seduced and somewhat intoxicated by a heady cocktail of A-level history, Das Kapital, Che Guevara t-shirts and teenage idealism, I – along with an estimated 1.5 million other people – took to the streets of London to march against the impending attack on Iraq. One thought was clear: if democracy is a political system that allows the citizens to participate in political decision-making, or to elect representatives to government bodies, then surely what better manifestation of democracy is there than 1.5 million people actively participating to change policy and effect its will on governance. Job done... Surely. Absolutely not... as we all know, weeks later missiles were launched on Baghdad. And so political apathy set in, and over the next 20 years, I have watched from afar, often in a state of bemusement, indifference and helplessness as recessions, Brexit, Trump, pandemics, austerity, Farage and the rest of it have dominated the day-to-day, making it tempting to completely disengage and steer clear of the polling booth. The pervasive thought being that my vote or voice would not make the slightest difference to the outcome on a macro political scale. What has become apparent to me though, is that my personal sense of citizenship has always been rooted in a sense of community and finding a ‘tribe’ of like-minded people. And music is the place I have found that. Having had a deep love for music from an early age, and having been involved in many aspects of London’s thriving musical eco-system for longer than I care to remember, this community and circle of friends has always been rooted in a musical setting of some description. Record shops, musical scenes, club nights, community centres, radio stations, festivals and, pertinently for this election, grassroots music venues. Alongside my DLMDD colleague and dear friend Greg Moore, last year I set up a podcast called If These Walls Could Talk, which celebrates and showcases London’s iconic live music venues. In less than a year, we have been fortunate enough to record episodes at venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Roundhouse (pictured), The George Tavern and The Water Rats with a host of other legendary spaces in the pipeline. As we have embarked on this journey, there have been some recurring themes that have been applicable to all the venues we have spoken to, rooted in the enormous cultural, societal and even economic value of London’s grassroots live music scene.  In our most recent episode, we were joined by Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of Music Venue Trust, which acts to protect, secure and improve UK grassroots music venues.  The Music Venue Trust has a microsite, Vote For Music, which encourages music lovers to write to their local candidates asking them to commit to supporting grassroots music, and then see who has responded with that commitment. And speaking to Mark for If These Walls Could Talk has persuaded me to go out and cast my vote – for music, if for nothing else. Grassroots music is key for creating the meritocratic, diverse, thriving music industry we all want to see in the future. Music is a glue: a unifier, something that overcomes division and can be an enormous force for good. Think of the power of Glastonbury to lift the nation’s mood and bind people together. Even Taylor Swift’s Eras tour has dominated headlines and boosted the economy, with the star donating to food banks in every city she has visited. Music really matters to young people – it’s where so many of us find our tribe and a sense of identity and creative expression. If you are under 35 and unsure whether to vote this year - listen to Mark speak to us on If These Walls Could Talk, use Vote For Music to find out which candidates deserve your vote, and go out and vote today.  The future of music is just one thing you can influence by doing so. Jeremy Newton is head of agency business at sonic branding agency DLMDD, and host of If These Walls Could Talk, which explores the legend behind London’s most iconic music venues. Subscribe to If These Walls Could Talk here via Apple Podcasts or other podcast platforms.  ROUNDHOUSE PHOTO: Luke Dyson  

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