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Grassroots music venues at risk of ‘permanent closure’ after drop in attendance

Grassroots music venues are at risk of ‘permanent closure’ according to the Music Venue Trust (Music Venue Trust/PA)
Grassroots music venues are at risk of ‘permanent closure’ according to the Music Venue Trust (Music Venue Trust/PA)

Grassroots music venues are at risk of “permanent closure” after a 23% drop in attendance in the last week, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) has said.

A survey conducted by the group suggests there were more than 140,000 no-shows from ticket holders, resulting in a 27% decline in gross income.

The MVT said there had also been a fall in advance ticket sales and spend-per-head since the Government announced a move to Plan B coronavirus measures last Wednesday, in response to rising cases and the Omicron variant.

Regional cabinet meeting – Bristol
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (Steve Parsons/PA)

According to the survey, the sector faces losses of nearly £2 million with 86% of small music venues reporting a “negative impact” in the last week.

Some 61% also reported having to cancel at least one event in the week of December 6-13.

The biggest causes of cancellations were a performer or member of the touring party testing positive for Covid-19 (35.6%), private hire bookings being cancelled by the organiser (31.3%) and poor sales performance (23.6%).

The MVT is calling on Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to create a “ring-fenced stabilisation fund” to help small venues.

The results were compiled from a survey of the Music Venues Alliance – a 918-strong network of UK grassroots music venues, of which 284 responded.

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of the MVT, said: “This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season.

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure.

Coronavirus – Mon Jun 1, 2020
MVT founder and chief executive Mark Davyd (MVT/PA)

“A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs.”

Chief executive of the MVT Mark Davyd said: “It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020, when confusing Government messaging created a ‘stealth lockdown’ – venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the Government acts quickly to prevent it.

“We have been here before. This time the Government already has all the tools in place that it needs to manage this impact and prevent permanent closures in the grassroots music venue sector.

“The Culture Recovery Fund can be swiftly adapted to mitigate this economic impact, the money is already there and waiting, we just need the Secretary of State to act quickly.

“The Government previously used Business Rate suspension and VAT cuts to support and sustain the sector.

“We don’t need to spend time considering the situation; the Government already knows what can be done and can choose very quickly to do it.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We have acted early to help control the virus’s spread – while avoiding damaging economic and social restrictions by allowing businesses to remain open.

“To continue to protect the NHS, as well as jobs and livelihoods across the country, our priority is to ensure everyone who is eligible gets their booster jabs as quickly as possible.

“Our £400bn Covid-19 support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic.”

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