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Live music industry reacts to UK’s autumn budget statement

Live music industry reacts to UK’s autumn budget statement

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By Andy Malt | Published on Friday 18 November 2022

Live music industry reacts to UK’s autumn budget statement

The live music industry has welcomed a proposed cut in business rates for small businesses proposed in yesterday’s autumn budget statement from the UK government. But little else. And the Music Venue Trust warns that “multiple opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector are being consistently missed”.

Representatives of the live sector say that calls for further relief for live music and other night-time businesses continue to be ignored – prompting the Music Venue Trust to call on the British government to set up a live music commission to consider the challenges facing the industry.

In his first budget as the UK’s Chancellor Of The Exchequer yesterday, Jeremy Hunt laid out £55 billion of tax increases and spending cuts – although there was some support for people on lower incomes, as the country grapples with spiralling living costs and a recession.

There was some support too for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, with the announcement that business rates will be further cut from April next year by almost £2.1 billion across the sector.

However, while this is something that live music representatives have been requesting for some time, it is only one of the measures they say are necessary to keep venues, clubs and more alive. Those other measures – such as a cut in the rate of VAT on ticket sales, similar to that instigated during the pandemic – were not included in the latest UK budget.

“While we welcome the government’s desire to bring stability to the UK economy, today has offered little help to secure the future of our £4.5 billion industry and the 200,000 people it employs”, says CEO of live music trade body LIVE, Jon Collins. “Unprecedented operating conditions are pushing our sector to the brink, as much-loved venues close their doors, tours are cancelled and artists drop out of the industry”.

“The pandemic hangover combined with the increased cost of living has led to 54% of people stating they are less disposed to attending live entertainment, putting incredible pressure on the live music sector”, he goes on. “Today, we renew our call for a reintroduction of a lower VAT rate on ticket sales to inject cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses, bring us in line with many other European countries, and secure the future of live music for all”.

CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, adds: “This government is guilty of neglecting thousands of businesses and millions of employees and freelancers across the night time economy, this budget has not gone far enough and still lacks clarity, and will without doubt see a huge swathe of SMEs and independent businesses disappear in the coming months”.

“When businesses should be preparing for the busiest period of the year, they are now having to consider their future, and will remember the fourth failed attempt to deliver a budget to safeguard businesses at the sharpest end of the crisis”, he continues. “There is no consideration for the human impact, this will have a devastating effect on not only business owners, but the individuals and families who have committed their lives and livelihoods to this sector”.

Meanwhile, head of the Music Venue Trust, Mark Davyd, said that the government should launch its own live music commission to examine the challenges facing the grassroots music industry – given that it has repeatedly ignored calls for support from the sector itself.

“Music Venue Trust welcomes the government’s announcement that the retail, hospitality and leisure relief on business rates, which includes the majority of UK grassroots music venues, will be extended from 50% to 75% from 1 April 2023”, he says in response to the budget. “However, we have written to the Treasury to ask that they clarify the support being offered to venues with values in excess of £110,000 – the autumn statement lacks clarity on what is proposed for such venues”.

Davyd also notes that the government committed to carry out a full review of business rates on grassroots music venues back in January 2020. However, this has not yet happened. “We strongly urge the Chancellor and Prime Minister to bring forward that review at the earliest opportunity”, he says. “The UK has the highest level of premises taxes on grassroots music venues in Europe”.

And it’s not only premises taxes that are high, he adds. “The UK [also] continues to have the highest rate of VAT in Europe on live music tickets. This must change so the UK can compete”.

“The government states it is committed to stability and growth”, he notes. “Despite its welcome action to provide some stability around business rates for a further twelve month period, the multiple opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector are being consistently missed, budget after budget, statement after statement”.

“Our grassroots music venue sector creates 29,000 jobs, delivering over 170,000 performances to more than 20 million people”, he adds. “It is a vital sector with real opportunities to deliver growth, but that is not recognised and acted upon in this autumn statement”.

“In light of these missed opportunities, Music Venue Trust calls for the government to set up a live music commission”, he goes on. “This body can be charged with considering the significant opportunities to stabilise and grow the live music sector, with the aim of informing future government policy so that these opportunities are not consistently missed”.

“A live music commission can provide the government with the tools it needs to be able to recognise the incredible asset the UK has in its grassroots music venues and ensure that future policy protects, secures and improves them”, he concludes.

At this stage, given how many times the government has failed to enact requests for relief from multiple music industry organisations, it’s probably safe to say that these are things that the governing Conservative Party simply does not want to do. However, we shall see if any of these calls are heeded in the coming months.

READ MORE ABOUT: Jeremy Hunt | Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment (LIVE) | Music Venue Trust | Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)