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Information for Students
MVT has a website full of information, from who we are and what we do (front page of the website and Team/Contact) to links to key reports, documents and films to read and watch (Resources), press releases and information about projects we are involved in (News) and a list of what we have done since our creation in 2014 (Achievements). You can search any term by clicking on the magnifying glass and all relevant articles on the website will come up. Reading the website is the first action if you want to know more about our work and what the challenges are for Grassroots Music Venues.
For general questions about MVT, please listen to this short interview:
Our Youtube page has a number of useful videos that will be helpful:
Our Department of Digital Culture Media & Sport Live Music Inquiry – Music Venue Trust Evidence report is also available to read in full and we would recommend doing so before getting in touch.
Once you have researched what is available to you and decide you need to email us with a request for an interview, please bear in mind the following:
1. We are always delighted to hear that our work is coming to the attention of students and tutors HOWEVER, we are inundated with emails from students asking for help with their dissertations. So much so that we are no longer able to give individualised answers to questions and have instead created this handy student guide to address most of your questions. Please use the answers below (or elsewhere on the website) in your dissertation/work as they come directly from our CEO Mark Davyd and our Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick. Where you do use our resources, please make sure to properly credit us for them. If your questions have already been covered by this page please DO NOT email us, we will simply direct you to this page.
2. If your questions have not been covered in the answers below, BEFORE getting the itch to email us, please do check whether they are answered elsewhere on our website (see paragraph one above).
3. If your answer still hasn’t been covered please then email [email protected].
Please bear in mind that we really only have time to answer ONE question. Do not send through a list of questions as we will not answer them. Think carefully about your question, ask yourself ‘has it been covered on this page?’ and make it count.
Please also note that when it comes to questions on, for example, the secondary ticketing market, sexual harassment at shows, or business models at the Arena/Stadium level, Music Venue Trust is probably not the appropriate organisation to be directing those types of questions to. Please do make sure to keep your question within the remit of what we work on at MVT…
So to sum everything up, please bear in mind that:
1. Music Venue Trust is a very small organisation with very limited resources – we have a big mission but a very small core team.
2. A lot of information about when we were founded, what our aims are, who we are and who supports our work is in the public domain on this very website. Please read it thoroughly to check whether we have already answered your question.
3. If a number of students are interested in Music Venue Trust’s work and it is relevant to your course syllabus perhaps talk to your tutor about finding some money to bring us in and talk with you. We like doing this but it has to be practical for us and our costs would need to be covered.
Examples of Responses to Previous Dissertation Questions
Please feel free to use any of these for your dissertation as they are written by Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of MVT
The origins of Music Venue Trust
MVT was CEO Mark Davyd’s idea. As someone who has co-owned a Grassroots Music Venue (Tunbridge Wells Forum) for over 25 years he was aware of the raft of closure across the country and started to analyse the reasons behind this. In addition, he and co-owner Jason Dormon (one of MVT’s trustees) were concerned about succession, ie. who will run the venue when they retire. As things stand, the only way for them to realise any sort of pension from Tunbridge Wells Forum would be to sell it, not as a music venue but for redevelopment as a restaurant or residential accommodation. Mark and Jason were unhappy with this so started discussing options for changing this.
MVT was created with the long-term goal of making it into a sort of National Trust for music venues; an organisation that could purchase the buildings and lease them to people who would continue to run them as venues in perpetuity. As things stand they do not represent a great investment, so intervention in the market is required if they are to be saved.
As our work took off it became clear that the previous lack of any one body representing all of these Grassroots Music Venues meant that they had been overlooked by government and the music and cultural industries, disadvantaging them in the 21st century. The Music Venues Alliance was created following the first Venues Day networking event in December 2014, where it became obvious that there was support for collective working to try and resolve the problems venues were/are facing. MVA members mandate the work of MVT and are consulted with regularly. Our ability to go to government and say that we represent over 500 venues across the UK means that they are now more prepared to listen to us.
Grassroots Music Venues as Cultural Assets
One of the major factors on which we lobby is the need for recognition of Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) as cultural venues. Too often the perception that they are profit-making businesses/bars/ nightclubs means that they are treated harshly by local authorities and local police. All arts centres and theatres have licensed bars, yet they are not treated as if serving alcohol is their main business and regulated accordingly. And GMVs are rarely successful in applying for cultural funding. There is no Business Rates category for GMVs so some are classed as bars/pubs and some as Sui Generis (which means unclassified and therefore not eligible for any statutory rate relief). In planning terms, when assessing the impact of proposed developments on ‘cultural buildings’, experience shows that local authorities have tended not to consider GMVs in this but if a theatre is threatened their response is quite different. For this reason we have worked hard to ensure that Planning Policy in all 3 countries says music venues specifically in the section about Agent of Change, and will continue to push for this to become legislation – ie. what developers MUST do (by law) rather than what they SHOULD do (according to policy).
Property redevelopment/business rates/landlords
There may be a landlord who has considered the music community when making a key decision about the future of a venue but MVT has not yet met them! Running a Grassroots Music Venue (GMV) is not a business decision, in terms of something you decide to do to make money, it is something you do if you are passionate about music. GMVs are not really businesses, they are places designed to invest in developing talent, with a high proportion of the what they do naturally being loss-making. In other parts of the cultural industries this is subsidised activity, whether through cultural funding or through reinvestment from higher levels of the industry. In spite of our efforts to gain recognition for GMVs in this way they still do not receive any such support.
We are increasingly seeing GMVs being squeezed by the owners of the property in which they are housed because the landlord believes that they should be seeing a rise in rent. This is compounded by the new level of Business Rates in many parts of the country, where the Valuation Office Agency has stated that a business operating in such premises should be paying higher rates, not taking into account any information about how GMVs operate (no category for music venue exists so they are assessed as bars/pubs/clubs or even ‘retail businesses’). If the landlord runs a commercial business then the return from their property is likely to be the only point of interest. GMVs do not make money so getting an alternative tenant who might instead seems like a sensible business decision (or selling the building for development of course.) For the square footage model, ignoring that there are parts of a GMV that cannot generate income means that the figures are inflated – eg. the stage and dressing rooms count towards the calculations even though no audience occupy them.
For the FMT (Fair Maintainable Trade) model there are multiple problems – this is basically a pubs/restaurants tariff and therefore assumes opening hours from lunchtime through till closing 7 days a week, even though GMVs only open when they have a gig on and many have licensed hours between 7pm and 11pm only. In addition, income from ticketing of events can be used to indicate the business’s turnover but this completely ignores the fact that a high percentage of the ticket money is paid straight back out to artists. In the case of The Fleece and a number of other venues, the shows they promote external to the GMV have been used as income for these calculations, massively inflating the turnover and leading to extraordinary increases in business rates.
What constitutes a Grassroots Music Venue?
Grassroots Music Venues is a term that MVT started using when we formed in 2014. Since then the phrase has been widely adopted and is now used internationally however, the fact that prior to the creation of MVT these venues were completely unrepresented nationally means that most legal and financial structures do not have a category for them. This means that even music industry bodies such as PRS and PPL do not treat our venues consistently. For business rates, again there is no category for GMVs. This means that some of our members have their business rates calculated by the Valuation Office Agency according to their square footage (rentable value) typically used for shops, while others have their business rates calculated according to Fair Maintainable Trade, ie. the money they could be expected to achieve if they ‘operate in a reasonably efficient way’. There are enormous problems with both of these models for GMVs.
Achieving recognition that GMVs are important cultural venues and should be treated in the same way as theatres, arts centres, galleries etc. would transform the whole atmosphere around the way they operate and enable us to tackle a lot of the other challenges. That is going to be a long process which is why we are working on a number of fronts at the same time. The other thing that we desperately need is investment into the sector to physically improve the nation’s GMVs. Very few of them have had the money to invest in their installations over the last 20 years, meaning that they are running on sound and lighting gear largely held together with gaffer tape! The power bills to run this kit are higher than they would be if the gear could be updated, the noise bleed is greater than it needs to be.
Basically, upgrading the experience for artists and audiences by investing in the infrastructure would save venues money, increase audiences and narrow the experience gap between GMVs and large-scale venues, enabling GMVs to raise ticket prices and so generate more money for future improvements. Most other European countries ARE investing in their GMVs and the UK is getting left behind. For background on this and the process MVT has been through to try and bring change, see this article: It’s Time: Britain Deserves a World Class Grassroots Music Circuit
Then read about our Pipeline Investment Fund: Music Venue Trust Launches The Pipeline Investment Fund
The role of MVT Patrons
Our patrons definitely add weight to the arguments, demonstrating that the statements we make about the importance of GMVs for artists are accurate. Particularly for some other parts of the industry who perhaps thought our championing of venues might be at odds with the need to champion artists’ needs/rights, having respected artists say that the work we do is important helps enormously. The vast majority of MVT‘s work is not public-facing, it is with Government, Local Authorities, the music industry or venues themselves. When we do need public support for a particular campaign or to help raise money to fund our work, having a well-known spokesperson is powerful.
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