Image credit: Music Venue Trust

Music venues across the UK are at risk of closure in what would be a massive blow to the British live industry.

A new report from Music Venues Trust (MVT), reveals that over a third of UK grassroots music venues are making a loss. Out of 835 venues across the UK, 38% of them made a loss in 2023.

These venues are entirely independent and many of them are small, catering to local or niche crowds. Despite their capacity, they also provide a lifeblood of culture and a much needed place for music at all levels across the United Kingdom.

They pointed towards rent prices as the biggest problem facing small venues. Music venues who rent their location, rather than own it outright, saw a rise of 37.5% in renting costs in 2023 compared to 2022.

The number of music venues dropped by 125 between 2022 and 2023, around two a week. That’s 16% of UK grassroots music venues ending live music. Roughly half of them closed completely, whilst the other half ceased offering live music.

Co-owner of Moles in Bath, Tom Maddicott pointed to the “massively increased costs of stock, utilities, and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis”. He continues: “The reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only Grassroots Music Venue forced to close.”

Tom Maddicott, co-owner of Moles, Image: Artur Lesniak
Tom Maddicott, co-owner of Moles

The remaining 835 MVA members hosted over 187,000 events in 2023 and attracted over 23.5 million people. That’s a lot of people with the potential to lose the joy of live events, not to mention all of the jobs involved; from artists and their management to the venue staff.

The venues signed to the Music Venues Alliance generated more than £500 million in revenues through 2023. However, their profit was just 0.5% that, at £2.5 million between them all. 164 member venues have accessed the MVT’s Emergency Response Service.

MVT COO, Beverley Whitrick said: “2023 was the worst year for venue closures since Music Venue Trust launched ten years ago. We are still losing on average two venues a week and those that have survived are now consumed by threats to their continued existence that they have no chance of overcoming without immediate help.”

MVT’s CEO, Mark Davyd says that “enough is enough”. He writes: “This report speaks for itself and we will not allow this to continue. We must either find a way to act collectively to get these venues and the artists who rely on them the financial support they need to survive or we will seek legislation to compel it.”

Maddicott adds: “There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots, where it all begins, to secure that pipeline of talent. Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”

You can read the full Music Venue Trust if you want the important but saddening full details.