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21 grassroots music venues could close due to business rates increases

  • At least 14,000 performance opportunities by emerging artists could be cut
  • Hundreds of jobs under threat
  • London’s cinemas are also being hit with increased charges
  • 100 Club among venues facing crippling rate rises

Twenty-one of London’s much-loved grassroots music venues are at risk of closure due to business rates increases according to shocking new research commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

A further 18 of London’s 94 grassroots music venues are expected to experience significant financial challenges. In total, these 39 venues account for up to 530 jobs and generate up to £21.5m for the capital’s economy.

On top of this, an additional 23 venues are at risk of having to cut the number of new artists they book, instead opting to put on safer, more-established artists that generate higher sales.

Overall, this reduction could eliminate at least 14,000 emerging-artist performances annually and have a knock-on effect for the music industry, reducing the opportunities for new and emerging talent in London.  

This comes just as London’s grassroots venues are getting back on their feet. After ten years of decline, 2016 was the first time that the number of venues across the capital remained stable.

The research, compiled for the Mayor by Nordicity, reveals that the total business rates bill for music venues rose overnight by 26 per cent when the new charges came into effect on 1 April - from £3.2m to £4m. Approximately one-third of grassroots music venues have seen their annual business rates increase by £10,000 or more.

Venues most at risk include the Lexington and the Macbeth, both in Islington.

In addition, research from the UK Cinema Association suggests that on average, London’s cinemas face being hit by a 25 per cent business rate increase.

While the Mayor has welcomed plans to alleviate the impact of the increases announced by the Chancellor in the recent Budget, he does not believe they go anywhere near far enough.

He is calling on the Valuation Office Agency to review its valuation policy for grassroots music venues. This is because the way business rates are calculated puts grassroots music venues at high risk as they need large buildings in town and city centre locations – where property prices have particularly soared.

With hardly any grassroots venues making enough profit to absorb the rates increase, Sadiq believes they should be protected as they play a vital social, cultural and economic role for London and the UK.

The Mayor will also be encouraging the 33 London billing authorities to ensure a share of  the £72.5 million of funding they will receive in 2017-18 from the Government to offer locally determined business rates reliefs is prioritised for cultural businesses, such as grassroots music venues.

In addition, he is asking the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to hold an urgent meeting with his Night Czar, Amy Lamé, and the music industry to address the impact of business rates rises on the survival of music venues.

The Mayor also believes that business rates should be fully devolved to London so that he, like the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, can act in the interests of Londoners and their businesses.

Sadiq has today highlighted the plight of a music venue and an independent cinema that are going to struggle to make ends meet due to increased business rates.

One grassroots music venue facing a huge rise in their business rates is The 100 Club in Oxford Street, one of the most famous independent venues still standing in Britain. Their national non-domestic rates bill has increased this year by around £20,000 or more than 40 per cent.

Sadiq Khan said: “London’s grassroots music venues are the foundation of the UK’s world-leading music industry, providing a vital talent pipeline for the artists and stars of tomorrow.

“Music venues are often the place where risks are taken on new artists and cultural innovation happens. They are the main platform for new and emerging artists and for the music industry to spot and recruit the next generation of talent.

“The way in which the business rates are evaluated for London’s grassroots music venues doesn’t make sense – it is completely unfair to bill a business based on the size of its building and not to take its profits into account. At the very least, I want to see Transitional Rate Relief being prioritised for small businesses like grassroots music venues, which contribute so much to London’s reputation as a powerhouse for culture and music.”

Since being elected in May last year, the Mayor has appointed Amy Lamé as Night Czar to act as a champion of the night time economy, develop a vision of London as a 24-hour city and a roadmap of how this vision will be delivered. Amy chairs the London Music Board, a body set up in April 2016 as a response to a rescue plan for London’s grassroots music venues.  The London Music Board brings together representatives from the music industry, government, tourism, culture and education and oversees how the Rescue Plan will be put into practice. The board recently published a report which shows that the number of grassroots music venues in the capital has remained stable for the first time since 2007, with 94 venues currently operating in London. The report also emphasises that, although good progress has been made in tackling the challenges facing grassroots music venues, there is still a lot to be done in order to sustain the capital as a music powerhouse.

Sadiq has also appointed Philip Kolvin QC, the lawyer who acted on behalf of nightclub Fabric, as Chair of the Night Time Commission. Together, Philip and Amy will work together to facilitate dialogue between local authorities, the Metropolitan Police, venue and business owners, developers and members of the public – ensuring everyone benefits from London as a 24 hour city and that the contribution of live music venues towards the capital’s unique character is recognised.