UK Music has been campaigning to the Government to revise business rates for music venues.
On January 27 2020 the Government announced that they would be including live music venues in the business rates reduction.
What was the issue?
Grassroots venues offer a great opportunity for emerging artists to develop their skills in front of audiences, however 35% of venues have closed in the past decade. Rising business rates continue to be the single most common reason behind venue closures.
The 2017 business rate revaluation amounted to a 31% increase in business rates payable by grassroots venues.
Grassroots music venues are not eligible for business rate relief under the Government’s retail discount scheme. The guidance to local authorities says that music venues “are not similar in nature” to pubs and clubs.
UK Music has campaigned to establish a change to the guidance to ensure grassroots music venues are eligible for business rate relief in the same way as pubs and clubs. This modest change would cost just over £1 million over a two-year period, benefiting 124 venues in the process.
What have we done?
In January 2019 UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer accusing him of discriminating against music venues over the issue of business rates and called for Treasury guidance to be changed. Read more here.
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss the issue. At the meeting – granted after Mr Brennan raised the industry’s concerns with the Chancellor in the House of Commons – UK Music’s CEO presented the Chancellor with a dossier outlining the impact of a revaluation of business rates in 2017.
In February 2019 senior MPs from the main political parties backed UK Music’s call, including then Culture Minister and Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, Baroness (Jane) Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Liberal Democrats DCMS Spokesperson and Conservative MP and then Industry Minister Sir Greg Knight. Read more here.
In March 2019 members of the APPG for Music, led by Chairman MP David Warburton, wrote to the Chancellor to use his Spring Statement on Wednesday March 13 to ensure music venues would benefit from the new business rates retail discount scheme. Read more here.
UK Music also hosted then Ministers Jeremy Wright and Margot James at an industry roundtable, where the issue of business rates was discussed. Read more here.
In May 2019 the Culture Secretary admitted that “suffering” music venues are facing a “very considerable” problem of business rate hikes of 600 per cent. The Cabinet Minister’s comments came in response to questions from MPs on the influential Digital, Culture Media and Sport Select Committee on Wednesday (May 8).
His remarks followed a roundtable meeting with UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and UK Music board members in March, where the problems music venues faced with crippling business rates bills was raised. Mr Wright revealed to MPs that he was “having a look” at the issue together with then Communities Secretary James Brokenshire. Read more here.
Following the Spring Statement UK Music CEO Michael Dugher released a statement saying it was a “missed opportunity” to help grassroots venues hit. But he vowed UK Music would continue to fight for a Government rethink on the business rates’ shake-up. Read more here.
He also raised the issue in a piece for the Evening Standard here and PSN Europe here and made a call to the new Prime Minister in a speech at the Musician’s Union conference here. Deputy CEO Tom Kiehl also raised the issue in front of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. Read more here.
In September 2019 UK Music called for the political parties to include a revision to business rates for music venues in their manifestos. Read more here. The call was answered by the Conservatives and Labour, as part of their wider business relief reform.
The business rates for music venues issue formed a key part of UK Music’s Music By Numbers 2019 Next Steps and we are continuing to campaign on behalf of the live music sector.