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Good News: £2.3 million raised to save grassroots music venues

BY Miriam Sallon

31st Mar 2023 Good News

Good News: £2.3 million raised to save grassroots music venues

A music charity has raised £2.3 million to buy struggling music venues in the UK 

Music lovers rejoice! In a bid to save the live music industry in the UK, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) has been raising money to buy nine properties of grassroots music venues across the country and protect their future. 

Doors closing 


One music venue is closing every week in 2023. MVT wants to put a stop to this

In the last 20 years, 35% of grassroots music venues have had to close, and already in 2023, one music venue is having to shut down every week. While a whopping £3.6 million was injected into the grassroots music industry during lockdown as part of the Cultural Recovery Fund, 67% of that was paid directly to landlords. 

"Unfair rent rises can make previously viable venues suddenly unsustainable, while venues in property hotspots find themselves turfed out to make way for a conversion to flats"

With rents rising, and landlords getting bigger and better offers from developers, music venues are in an incredibly vulnerable position. MVT reports that around 93% currently only have 18 months left on their tenancies.  

“The people who own the buildings in which music is played and enjoyed are committed more to profitability than supporting the sector,” says Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of MVT. “Unfair rent rises can make previously viable venues suddenly unsustainable, while venues in property hotspots find themselves turfed out to make way for a conversion to flats. Short leases hamper those venues which want to raise funds to improve facilities and make the possibility of government support less likely.” 

A community of music lovers 


Anyone can buy a share in a grassroots music venue with MVT's new campaign

MVT has a solution: Put the properties in the hands of the people who truly love them. Their campaign, “Own Our Venues” seeks to buy up venue properties, offering shares to musicians and music lovers who want to see these venues thrive. 

Davyd believes this is the most important contribution they can make to the industry. “The best people to own our venues are the people who love them, need them and use them.” 

The charity intends to use this money to buy up nine properties in areas of high deprivation, including The Snug in Atherton, The Hairy Dog in Derby, Glasgow’s The Glad Café, and the Bunkhouse in Swansea. 

A proven model 


The community share model has already been applied successfully to 150 pubs around the UK

This is not the first time a model like this has been used to save properties loved by the community. Over the past twenty years, community-owned pubs have risen dramatically from around four to over 150, with community members banding together to raise the funds themselves.  

"The pub is now the thriving hub of the village it once was, without fear of closure looming"

The Green Dragon pub in Exelby, North Yorkshire, for example, was set to close in 2018 when the landlord received a generous offer from a developer. But, as pub company secretary John Walker notes, “'It is the only amenity in the village and we didn't want to see it turned into a housing estate or the like.” Shares were offered at £500 each, and in no time, they had raised £250,000. The pub is now the thriving hub of the village it once was, without fear of closure looming. 

Music to our ears 


Before he became world-famous, Ed Sheeran regularly played at The Ferret, one of the nine venues set to benefit from the "Own Our Venues" campaign

The “Own Our Venues” campaign now has over 800 patrons, including Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons, and Ed Sheeran. Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music and Amazon Music have also made generous contributions, and the Arts Council has promised a grant of £500,000, which is not included in the £2.3 million crowdfunded total. 

“These venues are the jumping-off point for artists who go on to have long and successful careers,” says Jason Iley, chair and CEO of Sony Music UK. “Local music venues need more stability to thrive – for the good of artists, fans and local communities.” 

"With the UK music industry worth over £5.8 billion, these venues are vital to the development of new and upcoming musicians, and music lovers alike"

This is just the beginning, according to MVT ownership coordinator Matt Otridge, “We’re calling this bit the pilot project, and we’re hoping that eventually it will grow and grow into a point where we have hundreds of venues that are owned by Music Venue Properties and hundreds of venues that would benefit from having a landlord that literally can’t be motivated by profits.” 

The MVT hopes to remind people how important grassroots music venues are to the community. With the UK music industry worth over £5.8 billion, these venues are vital to the development of new and upcoming musicians, and music lovers alike. 

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