DCMS Live Music Inquiry Report Released Today
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee
Between 2007 and 2015, the UK lost 35% of its Grassroots Music Venues. As the report makes clear, there was a complete failure by government, cultural sector and music industry to identify that crisis and to act to stop it.
Five years ago, we launched Music Venue Trust in response to the challenges facing our venues. We did that because we strongly believed that Grassroots Music Venues were not properly being understood by those key stakeholders, and we believed that the collective loss of hundreds of these venues had long term social, cultural and economic impacts that were much more serious and important than the loss of any one single venue, no matter how important or loved that venue was. With your help and support, we’ve grown this cause into an effective and meaningful campaign that has made a real change in the way venues are perceived, treated and valued.
Today we have a cross party government report that says exactly what we all think and why we started this in the first place: Grassroots Music Venues matter. They matter to us, to the artists, to the audiences and to the people that love them. They are core to our communities, to the life of our towns and cities, and to the future prosperity of our £4.5 billion music industry.
The DCMS Report recommendations provide a clear path for key stakeholders, the government, the cultural sector, the music industry, to act together with Music Venue Trust to deliver a comprehensive and sustainable solution to this crisis. We will be reaching out, once again, to our colleagues at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, UK Music, Arts Council England, Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru | Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Arts Council of Northern Ireland to begin the process of working with them to deliver these recommendations.
Thank you to everyone who supported and helped us to get to this point.
Real positive change for our Grassroots Music Venues is coming. We won’t stop until it happens.
SUMMARY OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS:
1. The closure of music venues presents a significant and urgent challenge to the UK’s music industry and cultural vibrancy. The Government has not acted promptly enough to stem the tide of these closures, which have been happening at a rate unprecedented in other cultural sectors for more than 10 years. The full impact of these closures may not be felt immediately; however, there is a real threat that without access to spaces to hone their live craft, the next generation of musicians will struggle to maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of the industry. (Paragraph 65)
2. Business rate rises and applying for associated reliefs place a financial and administrative burden on already over-stretched Grassroots Music Venues and independent festivals. The Government should immediately review the impact of recent business rates changes on the live music sector and introduce new, or extend
existing, relief schemes, such as those for pubs or small retail properties, to lessen the burden of business rates on music venues. (Paragraph 71)
3. We welcome the inclusion of the ‘agent of change’ principle in planning policy as there is a legal obligation on local authorities to comply with it; however, robust and consistent implementation of the principle nationwide is crucial for it to be of meaningful benefit to live music venues. Moreover, the principle does not address the full array of development pressures that live music venues experience. We
recommend that in the next legislative session the Government appoints a statutory consultative body to promote the protection of music venues, provide advice to local authorities on relevant planning applications and monitor how ‘agent of change’ is applied in practice around the country. (Paragraph 76)
4. The Government is expected to produce post-legislative memorandums within three to five years of legislation gaining Royal Assent; however, we are yet to receive such a memorandum for the Live Music Act 2012. The Government needs to conduct thorough scrutiny of the impact of the Act this year. We request that the
Government supplies us with a full post-legislative memorandum for the Live Music Act 2012 before the end of this parliamentary session. We believe that the Government should amend the Act to extend its provisions to venues with a capacity over 500 and beyond 11pm and ask for the memorandum to consider these proposals and set out the
Government’s intentions for them. We also ask the Government to extend the creative industries tax relief to support other forms of music production, in addition to that already given for orchestral performances. (Paragraph 85)
5. It is unsurprising that the live music sector has a history of under-engagement with Government and funding bodies, given the staffing constraints many venues face and the low rates of support for Grassroots Venues in Arts Council England’s flagship funding programme. Nonetheless, we recognise that the current imbalance
in funding is not sustainable and welcome ACE’s commitment to engage with music venues and learn from its experiences with other sectors. We ask that in its next ten-year strategy, the Arts Council makes explicit how it plans to redress the balance in funding for Grassroots Venues and contemporary music, with a view to securing the infrastructure and leadership that will enable them to maximise business opportunities. (Paragraph 91)
6. Structural problems within the music industry limit artists’ ability to earn a sustainable income, and that in turn risks excluding sections of society from a career in music. The industry needs to ensure a greater proportion of its revenues is channelled into supporting artists at the early stages of their careers. We recommend that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and UK Music convene a taskforce this year comprised of musicians’ representatives and corporate stakeholders to explore how the industry may be supported and incentivised to invest more effectively in supporting grassroots talent. (Paragraph 113)