Ed Sheeran has backed the Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) ‘Own Our Venues’ campaign, which highlights the need for ownership in the UK’s grassroots music venues.
The initiative was first announced in May, following the news that legendary venues North London’s Nambucca and Sheffield’s Leadmill were closing their doors or under threat, respectively.
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The ‘Own Our Venues’ campaign is built on the Community Share model, which has previously formed a successful way of protecting local pubs, post offices and sports grounds. The MVT has identified nine venues to be involved in a pilot project, with further venue freeholds to be secured as and when they become available.
Once venues have been purchased, an immediate rent reduction will be offered, while help will also be given towards building repairs and insurance. The aim is currently to complete the purchase of the nine initial music venues by the end of 2022.
Now, Ed Sheeran has pledged his support to the initiative, saying: “’Own Our Venues’ is an initiative I’m really passionate about getting behind. 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.”
Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of MVT added: “We are blown away by the support already for ‘Own Our Venues’. This is a campaign that is really resonating with music fans who understand exactly how important it is to keep access to live music in our communities, our towns and cities right across the UK. With the ‘Own Our Venues’ project gathering steam, we are incredibly pleased to get Ed’s support for this initiative – he knows this sector incredibly well and understands how important it is.”
Matt Otridge, MVT’s Ownership Coordinator, said that the response to the initiative has been “incredible” across the music industry, and that the deadline for investors to get involved had been extended to December 31, 2022. “We can’t wait to announce some very substantial investments from key stakeholders shortly,” he said.
Sheeran is not the only person to pledge their support to the campaign. Since June, hundreds of individuals and companies have also backed the scheme, through either direct investment or via the dedicated Crowdfunder campaign.
Explaining the idea behind the campaign when it first launched, Otridge told NME: “It’s essentially a not-for-profit, charitable organisation that allows us to raise funds via community shares, which then allows anybody who invests money to be a part of that society. So it’s very equitable – one investment equals one vote at AGMs – it’s completely community focused, and it’s a good mechanism to promote longevity and community aspirations.”
He added that while it was being called a “pilot project”, the hope is that the initiative will 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 because it’s a not-for-profit organisation, as well as a landlord that shares their ambitions in seeing more money going back into the circuit”.
Grassroots venues are facing a number of threats right now, not least over £90million of new debt acquired since the start of the COVID crisis, and the impact of rising costs related to the energy crisis. The latter could force more venues to close than the pandemic, Davyd told NME in August.
“It feels weird to say it, but unlike during COVID when you could go, ‘OK, we need to raise some money now because in a year’s time the venues will be open’, we can’t do that now because they’ll have to pay another electricity bill next year and the year after that, obviously,” he said. “I can’t see any end to this unless venues put their prices up.”