The UK’s Music Venue Trust has today formally launched a new organisation called Music Venue Properties – which is a charitable community benefit society set up to buy the freeholds of properties that currently house grassroots music venues, providing those venues with the much needed security of having a landlord that shares their interests and objectives.
For the last two years grassroots venues – like the entire live music sector – have faced unprecedented challenges, being in crisis mode pretty much throughout the pandemic.
However, it’s no secret that many grassroots venues were already facing significant challenges long before the pandemic began, including rising costs, licensing issues, and problems resulting from the gentrification of areas where grassroots venues are often based, despite that gentrification usually being kickstarted by the cultural value delivered by the venues themselves.
Dealing with those challenges was a key reason for the Music Venue Trust being launched in the first place. And, based on their experience of tackling those challenges, the MVT team say that the issue of ownership – which is to say the fact that 93% of grassroots venues rent rather than own their buildings – “underpins almost every other challenge”.
It also means that two thirds of government support for the grassroots venue sector during the pandemic actually ended up with landlords rather than venue operators.
It’s with that in mind that Music Venue Properties has been launched. As a so called charitable community benefit society, this new organisation will be able to raise money by selling community shares. MVT explains: “By purchasing these shares music fans and ethical investors will help raise funds to allow MVP to buy freeholds, whilst also receiving a 3% APR return on their investment”.
Once the new entity has acquired the freeholds on the buildings currently housing grassroots venues, it “will offer the majority of current operators an immediate rent reduction and help contribute to building repairs and insurance, while also guaranteeing long term security and market resistant rents”.
Nine venues have already been identified by MVP as part of a pilot, the freeholds of which it will seek to acquire this year following an initial phase of fundraising that aims to secure £3.5 million. Six of those venues are in England, with one in Scotland and two in Wales.
Launching the new initiative, MVT CEO Mark Dayvd says: “This is the most ambitious initiative Music Venue Trust has ever undertaken. The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership. Too many have been at the mercy of some commercial landlords whose motivations revolve primarily around profit”.
“We have lost over a third of our venues in the last 20 years and with over 90% having only eighteen months left on their tenancies we are at the cliff edge and could see the decimation of our sector if we don’t do something radical about it”, he adds. “The Music Venue Properties scheme will allow ethical investors and music fans to invest in the future of live music while receiving a healthy return on their money”.
“Our #SaveOurVenues campaign launched during the pandemic raised over £4.1 million with more than 80,000 people contributing”, he concludes. “We already have the crowd – we just need to ask them to invest from 23 May and are confident they will”.
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