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Survey: UK Venues Struggling To Survive

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LONDON (VIP-NEWS) — The UK’s first live music census has found that a third of Britain’s small venues outside of London are fighting to survive in the face of high business rates and noise restrictions.

Of almost 200 small music venues (with a capacity of up to 350 people) surveyed, 33% reported that increases in business rates had an “extreme, strong or moderate” impact on their existence in the past 12 months. One medium-sized venue (351 – 650 capacity) reported their rateable value quadrupling from £17,500 to £72,000.

Some 29% of small venues and 27% of all venues reported experiencing problems with property development around their premises, which can provoke complaints from nearby residents. In response, the researchers recommended that the government continue to develop at a national level a legally binding “agent of change” principle, which would put the onus on developers to soundproof new-build properties, rather than placing restrictions on existing venues. Last month, ministers including housing secretary Sajid Javid committed to strengthening planning rules to protect grassroots venues.

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of the Music Venue Trust, welcomed the news. “For us, the UK live music census is an entirely positive story because it’s taking a lot of the things that we have been saying about the needs of the grassroots music sector and reinforcing it with evidence. MVT has operated as a small organization on anecdotal evidence for the last few years and we have gone as far as we can with that. And what we needed was evidence to show why help is needed. The census is a huge step forward in providing that help.”

Investigations showed that live music contributes significant sums of money to local economies: £78.8m annually in Glasgow equating to an estimated 2,450 full-time equivalent jobs; £43.3m in Newcastle-Gateshead (1,620); and £10.5m in Oxford (350). The study recommended that local authorities “recognize small and medium music venues as key sites of artist and audience development and as cultural and community assets.”

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