MPs have been warned that a large majority of the UK’s music venues and theatres are facing permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Over 400 grassroots music venues in the UK are at imminent risk of closing for good as a consequence of the ongoing health crisis. Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd, who is behind the #SaveOurVenues campaign, told NME last month that “music industry companies need to step up and help with donations” to help save affected venues, while “real action from [the] government, specifically around rent relief, financial help and clearer guidance,” is also required.
Speaking to a virtual session of the House of Commons’ culture select committee of MPs yesterday (June 9), Horace Trubridge, the general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, and Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre, estimated that half of all music venues and 70% of theatres across the UK face permanent closure.
“We never ever imagined that something like this, so catastrophic, could come along that would kill live music for a period of time,” Trubridge told the committee, who are looking into the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the creative industries.
“A lot of music venues are in city centres in sort of prime real estate. If they can’t continue to make the money that keeps the doors open then I think their landlords will be thinking about doing something else with the properties. We could very easily lose half the music venues we have in the UK during this crisis if there isn’t more permanent support for them.”
Bird said that, of the 1100 theatre buildings in the UK (over 50% of which are charities or trusts), 70% of theatres or production companies will “run out of cash, go out of business by the end of this year” as a consequence of the coronavirus lockdown.
Both Bird and Trubridge called on the UK government to provide additional financial support for cultural venues, with Trubridge also highlighting the fact that nearly 40% of the Musicians’ Union’s members didn’t qualify for either of the government’s self-employment income support or furlough schemes.
“Members have had no income whatsoever since the middle of March,” he said. “We know many of our members, up to maybe more than 20%, think they won’t be able to stay in the profession if this goes on for too long.”
On the subject of implementing social distancing at venues after the lockdown, both Bird and Trubridge said that the prospect of enacting such a policy didn’t look economically viable for venues.
“That is not an economic business model most venues can operate on realistically going forward,” said Bird.
Earlier today (June 10), the Association of Independent Music announced that they are accepting further applications for access to their Covid-19 Crisis Fund, which is providing financial aid to freelancers and contractors in the music industry.