Manifesto For Music: Protecting Music Spaces

20.05.2024: UK Music's Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown examines the important role of music spaces and what can be done to support them to ensure they remain key elements our towns and cities. 

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20.05.2024: UK Music’s Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown examines the important role of music spaces and what can be done to support them to ensure they remain key elements of our towns and cities.

Music spaces, including recording studios, grassroots music venues and rehearsal spaces, are fundamental to the sector’s success.

They serve as cultural hubs, helping to develop future talent and attracting people and businesses to an area. The Music Venue Trust (MVT) estimates that every £10 spent on a ticket in a live music venue is worth £17 to the local economy (see here).

However, the decline of these spaces, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, is concerning. While the Government announced £5 million in additional funding for the Arts Council England‘s Supporting Grassroots fund, according to the MVT British music venues are still closing at a rate of one per week.

Audiences, meanwhile, are increasingly being exploited by unscrupulous secondary ticketing practices, further threatening the vitality of the live sector.

The UK also boasts world-class recording studios that attract global artists and producers. However, there is a worrying trend of many top UK artists choosing to record outside of the UK due to the appeal of better serviced studios elsewhere.

Adele, for example, only recorded three tracks from her latest album in the UK. World-renowned studios, such as Olympic Studios in London and Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios, have closed in the last 15 years. To avoid a talent drain and secure the sector’s long-term growth, we must protect and nurture these important music spaces.

The next Government should:

  • Consider a long-term business rates cut for music spaces and reform Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes: The current business rates system penalises studios and venues, since they often require a large floor space and are typically in city centres or regenerating locations. Moreover, modern music infrastructure often involves multi-use facilities affiliated with indie labels and SMEs. These locations typically include studios, rehearsal spaces and other community music facilities that suffer from high rates. Updating outdated SIC codes is critical for business rates reform, with studios, venues, and other music spaces lacking dedicated classifications reflecting their unique characteristics.
  • Put ‘Agent of Change’ protections in primary legislation to protect venues threatened with closure: Many music venues are threatened by planning and licensing disputes arising from new developments and resident complaints about noise levels. The Agent of Change principle places responsibility on new developments to mitigate noise complaints when situated near existing music venues. To ensure reliable protections for venues, it is essential to enshrine Agent of Change in law and move beyond its current implementation through guidance and policy.
  • Regulate against exploitative secondary ticketing practices: Many online secondary ticketing platforms allow event tickets to be resold at prices significantly above face value. Just hours after Eurovision 2023 tickets sold out, they appeared on these platforms for up to £9,000 – more than 20 times their original price. Extortionate resale prices, alongside practices like bulk-buying and speculative selling only serve to enrich resellers and exploit fans. The Government should protect music lovers by introducing measures to curb these practices.

Read UK Music’s Manifesto for Music to find out more about what UK Music is calling for action on ahead of a general election. 

Find out more about the work UK Music is doing to protect music spaces here

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