Grassroots venues suffered their “most challenging year” in 2023, report finds

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Grassroots music venues faced their “most challenging year” in 2023, according to new findings from the Music Venues Trust (MVT).

As part of the organisation’s annual report, 960 grassroot music venues were surveyed — with 125 saying that they were forced to stop running live music events, with 51.4% of those having to close down entirely.

Venues attributed much of their financial difficulty on issues such as soaring energy bills, business rates, supply costs, rent as well as reduced footfall and increased operational costs.

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Other reasons include he impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, neighbour disputes, premises licences on top of many venues being sold for redevelopment and repurposing.

Many of these venues have faced rising utility bills and an average influx of 37.5% in rent with MVT claiming that out of the 835 remaining grassroot venues, just 0.5% typically make a profit.

The scene is said to be “significantly underfunded compared to other areas of culture”, despite contributing over £500m to the economy and employing around 30,000 people.

The MVT expresses in its report that the UK saw “extraordinary number of closures” of grassroot venues which impacts the ability of artists to go tour as well as for venues to “sustain the level of live music provision in their communities”.

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Inside the report, the MVT have followed the case studies venues that closed this year such as Bath-based Moles which closed after 45 years, Edinburgh’s Harmonium and Liverpool’s Melodic Distraction.

The report adds: “MVT worked with government, the media, and wider stakeholders across the music sector on a wide range of issues facing GMVs, while providing essential core advice and support services to venues.

“We offered planning, licensing, noise, acoustics, and legal advice to GMVs across the UK, directly responding to a broad range of key issues facing the sector.”

It is estimated that 35% of grassroots venues in the UK have closed over the past 20 years.

Read the full report from the Music Venue Trust here.

Check out Mixmag’s full list of help and resources around the cost of living crisis here.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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