UK Music-led cross-party group calls on chancellor to end grassroots venue discrimination

Live music - music venue - Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

A cross-party group of 59 MPs and peers that form the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond urging him to use his Spring Statement on Wednesday 13 March to ensure music venues benefit from the new business rates retail discount scheme.

The group includes Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson, former Conservative Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, Baroness Bonham-Carter (Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the House of Lords), and MPs from all parties including members of the influential DCMS Select Committee.

UK Music acts as secretariat to the APPG, which connects politicians who share an interest in promoting the music industry.

Since the 2017 business rate revaluation grassroots music venues have suffered a 31 percent increase, and the Music Venue Trust figures revealed that 35 percent of those venues have closed in the past decade.

The retail discount scheme, which was announced in the 2018 autumn budget, discriminates against grassroots venues by distinguishing them from pubs and clubs, arguing they’re ‘not similar in nature.’

The fallout of this discrimination means that a venue like The Macbeth in east London has experienced a 806 percent rate hike of £20,496.

In their letter the APPG inform the Chancellor: ‘Small grassroots music venues gave our biggest musical exports, including Ed Sheeran, Adele, Sam Smith and The 1975, their start. Our ability as an industry to develop future talent is put at risk if they have nowhere to nurture their talent.

‘The modest change to the guidance that we are asking for would cost just over £1 million over two years, benefiting 124 venues in the process, and would provide much needed help to grassroots music venues that operate at very low margins.

‘By protecting music venues we protect our rich musical heritage as a nation, and plan for a future where UK music will only grow in popularity and remain the envy of the world.’

APPG on Music’s involvement follows UK Music chief executive officer Michael Dugher and Labour Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan’s initial meeting with Philip Hammond about the issue in February.

Michael Dugher, chief executive officer, UK Music says: ‘It’s nonsensical to classify grassroots music venues as being ‘not similar’ to pubs and clubs. The revaluation of business rates officially discriminates against these venues and we hope the Chancellor will listen to cross-party MPs and rethink this flawed policy.

‘Grassroots venues are an essential part of our brilliant and diverse music industry that contributes £4.5bn a year to the economy. Piling the pressure on them with huge rent hikes just means more will face the threat of closure – something that could cause incalculable damaged to the music industry’s talent pipeline.’

‘The Government talked a lot about the need for an industrial strategy. Here’s a chance to put words into action.’

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