Michael Dugher, chief executive of UK Music, and Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust (MVT), have written to the chancellor of the exchequer urging him to change discriminatory business rates guidance.
Their appeal follows the Treasury’s announcement in December 2018 that music venues were exempt from applying for discounts on business rates that are available to bars and pubs.
They argue that the Treasury’s guidance fails to recognise the similarities between music venues and bars and pubs, which could be catastrophic for these businesses.
The pair went on to point out that 35 percent of grassroots music venues had shut down over the past decade.
In their letter to Philip Hammond Dugher and Davyd gave an example of the discrimination in practice, saying: ‘We remain wholly unconvinced by a system, for example, which enables Arsenal Football Club’s Emirates Stadium to receive a 7 percent cut in business rates whereas the nearby Lexington music venue gets hit with an increase of 118 percent.’
It also includes an annex further illustrating the country-wide problem, with Bristol’s The Fleece suffering a massive 304 percent increase and Norwich Arts Centre a 40 percent hike to their respective rates.
The letter made a case for the significance of grassroots venues as ‘centres for cultural activity’ and as essential hubs to nurture talent and grow fanbases.
Dugher and Davyd concluded their request with a strark warning if the guidance wasn’t changed, saying: ‘If HM Treasury do not revisit this policy, your message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain similar tax advantages to other similar licensed premises, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.’