Music Venue Trust lay out demands for new Culture Secretary: “We need urgent government action”

Michelle Donelan took over from Nadine Dorries in the role yesterday (September 6)

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has laid out its demands for the government’s new Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan, covering the energy crisis and low subsidies.

Yesterday (September 6), Donelan was announced as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss unveiled her cabinet.

In response, the MVT has shared a lengthy post on social media, setting out the issues the sector is facing and what the government needs to do to help. After welcoming Donelan to the role, the organisation gave a detailed list of points, including the current energy crisis’ impact on grassroots music venues and the need to restructure high taxes and low subsidies, and extended an invitation to a Parliamentary event.

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“We need urgent government action on the energy crisis which threatens to permanently close hundreds of grassroots music venues,” the post reads. “In the short term, this will require financial interventions to tackle extraordinary price rises. In the longer term, we need your department to investigate the energy market for music venues (and the rest of the hospitality sector) and to work with us to find a way to make energy supply reliable, sustainable, and affordable.”

In regards to taxes, the MVT referred to Britain as having the “highest tax regime on the creation and development of new music talent anywhere in Europe” while noting that “already available and established distribution of cultural funding sees the grassroots music sector attract less public subsidy in the UK than any other comparable music producing nation in Europe”.

“This high tax, low subsidy position is not sustainable in a highly competitive market,” it argued. “We would like to work with your department on a strategy to address this challenge with a tax/subsidy framework which supports artists and venues to launch and foster the careers of UK talent. This is not a plea for new money; it is about the sensible and structured use of already available funding and a considered approach to where and when taxation is appropriate.”

Welcome to your new role Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 1. We need urgent…

Posted by Music Venue Trust on Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Although, as the post states, grassroots venues in the UK are facing “multiple challenges”, including “sustainability and economic viability”, the organisation said that they are “solvable”. The MVT has invited Donelan to a Parliamentary event on September 14 in which it will lay out one solution – a plan that will “change the ownership model so that the music community itself has a say in the future of grassroots music venue”.

The post concluded by noting the group’s hopes for a working relationship with the new Culture Secretary and requested a meeting with her “at [her] earliest opportunity”. “Music Venue Trust has met with eight of the nine previous Secretaries of State for DCMS that have held this post since our creation in 2014,” it said. “We look forward to meeting with you so we can begin the work of creating a truly world-beating grassroots live music sector.”

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Last month, five organisations representing the UK hospitality sector wrote an open letter to the government calling for urgent action on rising energy prices. The letter highlighted the “rocketing energy prices” in the UK that are forecast to become “a matter of existential emergency” later this year and demanded the government act soon to prevent a catastrophe to UK culture.

Operators in the hospitality sector are facing average annual bill increases of at least 300 per cent, meaning that businesses and jobs in the sector are “at grave risk”.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME in August that, without action from the government, the energy crisis could force more venues to close than the pandemic. “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.”

Back in May, the organisation announced the Music Venue Properties (MVP) scheme – a groundbreaking new initiative that will involve purchasing the freehold of grassroots music venues across the UK. The MVP plan aims to secure the long-term futures of these venues by directly tackling the issue of ownership. The scheme has been likened to “The National Trust, but for venues”.

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