British venues attracted more than 22 million visitors in 2022 — down 16.7% from 2019 as profit margins continue to shrink amid the cost of living crisis.
Music Venue Trust (MVT), representing nearly 1,000 UK grassroots music venues, has launched its 2022 annual report, highlighting the importance of its members’ contributions to the UK economy and the sobering reality of the challenges facing many in the sector.
A survey of 960 members of the Music Venue Alliance, which employs over 30,000 people within the sector, revealed that nearly 22 million visitors attended performances at these venues in 2022. However, this is a decline of 16.7% from 2019, as these venues were forced to make significant cutbacks to continue operating during the pandemic.
This decrease stems from the weekly events staged at individual venues falling from 4.2 in 2019 to 3.5 in 2022, with a mere 1.97 of those identified as ticketed live music shows. Additionally, only about 40% of the venue’s capacity was filled on average — down 11% from 2019, when the average capacity was 51%.
The total income from those events was over £500 million ($617 million). Still, venues reported an average profit margin of just 0.2%, resulting in the subsidizing of live music performances by around £79 million last year.
“Obviously, we are pleased to highlight the fact that grassroots music venues contribute over half a billion pounds to the UK economy and to emphasize their enormous impact on the cultural life of our country,” says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust. “But it is also necessary to reiterate the precarious financial position that much of the sector still find themselves in — the current economics no longer stack up.”
As a result, MVT calls on the local government and the wider music industry to support the sector, which it describes as “now past the tipping point.” Part of this call to action highlights the VAT (value-added tax) applied to venue ticket sales as an ongoing barrier to profitability, which is “crushing the economic viability of this sector.”
“We need urgent action from the government on all these factors as well as a full review of VAT on ticket sales,” Davyd adds. “In short, we need a coherent long-term economic plan that recognizes the importance of what our members do and gives them a chance to keep nurturing up-and-coming artists and contributing to their local communities.”
Additionally, MVT has called for a thorough review of what it refers to as “excessive and anti-competitive” business rates resulting from a “completely broken” assessment system as fundamental in the ongoing pressure that venues face.