Would a ticket levy on arenas help grassroots music venues and you?

By Thomas Jackson

20 May 2024

MP’s, The Music Venue Trust and big artists are in favour of a £1 ticket levy. But will it work?

The Music Venue Trust charity (MVT) stated that 125 venues closed their doors for good in 2023. Many more venues are expected to continue this trend, such as Moles in Bath who played host to the once emerging talents like The Cure and Radiohead.

Arenas, on the other hand, have seen record ticket sales and record profits; new arenas have been given heavy investment – like the Co-op live arena in Manchester.

Organisations like the MVT and now the Government recognise that the talent needed to fill these giant arenas is not being nurtured and developed in the grassroots music venue sector.

If this sector does not see the investment it needs, just like the big arenas, new musical talent will not be able to hone their skills and gain a following. The talent pipeline will be cut off and many jobs and businesses will be put at risk.

The levy that the MVT proposed to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee back in April, would like to see a voluntary £1 levy on all tickets sold at stadiums, which the MVT said would accumulate to over £20M each year.

The reasons for a grassroots venue closing are varied and often depend on the location. But speaking with many venues up and down the country, they sighted the three main problems are the lingering effects of the Pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and increased business rates and rent.

Many of the owners of these venues are making less than minimum wage in real terms for the hours they work and often take risks to get punters through the door, including putting on unticked (free) events.    

As of May 14th, the government has proposed that the industry introduces a voluntary levy on arena and stadium tickets no later than September 2024. 

Matt Barnwell, Music Venue Trust Guru

However, if a voluntary levy has not been agreed by September, or if the levy is not collecting the income required to support the grassroots sector, the government may introduce a mandatory levy.

Further measure includes a VAT break for smaller venues on tickets as well as a fan led review of the sector.

Speaking to one of the MVT’s gurus, Matt Barnwell, explains that that what is being proposed would not take the £1 from the profit margin of arenas and stadiums but from the top and so would go directly to the venues that are local to them.

He also suggested that it would not be difficult to follow the examples of France and Australia, who have seen no closures as a result of their own measures. France has gone as far as making their levy mandatory.

There have been critics of the proposed levy, notably former Co-op Live boss Gary Roden, who suggested that the reason why grassroots venues are closing is because they are “poorly run”. Remarks which lead to his resignation amongst other problems with the opening of the new stadium.

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