Music venues call for “decisive and immediate action” for help as COVID sees audience numbers decline

The Music Venue Trust has asked for "specific funding to prevent permanent grassroots music venue closures"

The Music Venue Trust has called for “decisive and immediate action” as COVID worries are causing audience numbers to decline at live shows.

Today (December 13), industry experts reported that up to 40 per cent of fans are not showing up to UK gigs due to worries over the Omicron variant, saying that it is “decimating the whole industry”.

In response to the worries, MVT boss Mark Davyd has said that action must now be taken by the UK government in order to protect grassroots venues.

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“Regardless of any restrictions or vaccination campaigns, the fact is that grassroots music venues are experiencing a huge downturn in the number of people attending,” he said in a statement. “This real life outcome results directly from confused messaging by the government and risks making the sector economically unviable very quickly.”

Davyd added: “Decisive and immediate action is needed to address this situation. That action must include the immediate cancellation of the VAT rise and the suspension of Business Rates.”

Concert crowd
Live gigs are being affected by worries over Omicron (Picture: Fin Costello/Redferns)

“Specific funding to prevent permanent grassroots music venue closures needs to be brought forward,” the statement continued.

“After 23 months of this crisis, and repeated requests from this sector and elsewhere, the government must finally adopt the position where the decisions it makes are directly tied to, and announced simultaneously with, the action required to deal with the financial outcomes of those decisions.”

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for the country due to a rise in cases of the Omicron variant, in measures dubbed ‘Plan B’.

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Speaking to The Observer, a number of industry experts discussed how huge numbers of ticketholders to events, including gigs that have been sold out for months, are now deciding against attending.

Artist manager Graeme Stewart said that while “around 5 per cent” of fans would not show up for events they had tickets for in normal situations, “you’re getting as much as 40 per cent no-shows for some gigs now”.

COVID
Concert-goers enjoy a non-socially distanced outdoor live music event at Sefton Park on May 2, 2021 in Liverpool, England. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

As part of the new restrictions, face masks are now required in cinemas and theatres, while COVID passes will be enforced for concerts and nightclubs from Wednesday (December 15), with a negative lateral flow test also being sufficient.

These new measures have been heavily criticised by bodies across the live music industry. “The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their COVID-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification,” said Greg Parmley, CEO of live music organisation LIVE.

It was recently revealed that the UK’s grassroots music venues are facing £90million of debt due to the spiralling costs incurred by the coronavirus pandemic and being shut during lockdown.

“The grassroots music venue sector is more than £90million in debt,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME. “Getting that paid off isn’t going to be done this year, it likely won’t be done next year and might not be until 2024 or 2025 if things keep going as they are.

Visit here for information on how to help or donate the #SaveOurVenues campaign.

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