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Music Venue Trust nears £2.5million target to take public ownership of grassroots venues

NME | Music News | March 5, 2023

The Own Our Venues initiative launched by the Music Venue Trust last year is closing in on its £2.5million fundraising target.

READ MORE: Call for venues to own their buildings after Leadmill threat & Nambucca closure 

The project, which was launched in May 2022, aims to secure the long-term futures of grassroots venues by purchasing the venues’ freeholds to bring them under community ownership. It has previously been likened to “The National Trust, but for venues’”and is based on the Community Share model that has been used to protect the future of pubs, post offices and sports grounds.

Now, the MVT has said it has raised £1.8million of the necessary money and has set a deadline of March 30 to secure the remaining investment needed to start purchasing venues. The charity plans to get purchasing underway in April. Nine venues have been earmarked for inclusion in the first phase of the project, with further venue freeholds set to be identified for purchase as and when they become available.

When venues are purchased, they will immediately be offered a rent reduction and help with building repairs and insurance.

Mark Davyd, CEO and Founder of MVT said: “We know that changing the ownership model of grassroots music venues is the single most important change we can make to this sector. The best people to Own Our Venues are the people who love them, need them and use them. We want to see everyone who has a stake in the future of these venues become a direct financial stakeholder in that future; local communities, artists, audiences, the music industry. The success of these venues is vital to the future of live music for all of us. This isn’t a time to sit on the side lines hoping someone else will do this for us, it’s down to us to make it happen.”

Frank Turner plays at the launch of the Music Venue Trust’s annual report at The Houses Of Parliament. Credit: Georgia Penny

Ed Sheeran previously voiced his support for the scheme, which he had invested money into. “Small, independent venues are so, so important to the music community, and I’ve played some of my favourite gigs of my career in these rooms. We’ve got to do all we can to protect these beautiful venues that we’ve all come to love for years to come,” he said.

Since June, hundreds of individuals and companies have also backed the scheme, through either direct investment or via the dedicated Crowdfunder campaign.

Grassroots music venues have continued to face numerous challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic, with venue owners telling NME that the cost of living crisis, Brexit, cancelled shows and music fans’ last minute decisions on showing up have created “a perfect storm” for the sector.

Davyd has also called on the eight new arenas proposed to be built and opened in the UK to invest in keeping grassroots music venues afloat. In a sobering speech in the House of Commons last month, he said that “not a single one of those arenas should open unless it has a policy where every ticket sold is investing back into grassroots music venues and grassroots artists”. Otherwise, he said, “you’re building a carbuncle, a white elephant in the middle of our major cities that will not be filled in 10 years time because there won’t be the artists to fill it”.

He also said: “This sector is really seriously in trouble. With £500million of turnover, that’s £499million in costs and a a 0.2 per cent profit margin. It’s not sustainable. There are 177,000 events happening, but it’s down 16.7 per cent. We used to do an average of 4.2 events per week at these venues, and we’re now down to 3.5.”

The MVT also warned in their 2022 annual report that grassroots gig spaces in the UK are “going over a cliff”.


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Written by NME | Music News


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