Across the UK, grassroots music venues are facing over £90million of debt as a result of the closures enforced during the Covid-19 lockdown. The music industry was one of the worst affected throughout the 18 months of the Coronavirus pandemic.
At the height of lockdown in March 2020, 500 small venues were at risk of closure. However, many were saved thanks to public donations to the Music Venue Trust’s #SaveOurVenues campaign. In addition, the government eventually responded to public pressure and introduced the Cultural Recovery Fund, which has allowed a number of establishments to keep their doors open.
While the Music Venue Trust’s quest to “open every venue safely” has had a substantial impact on the health of the UK’s small venues, it now seems that many grassroots spaces are still at risk of closure due to the gargantuan debt incurred throughout the pandemic.
According to MVT’s CEO, Mark Davyd: “The grassroots music venue sector is more than £90million in debt. Getting that paid off isn’t going to be done this year, it likely won’t be done next year and might not be until 2024 or 2025 if things keep going as they are. The average debt they’re emerging with is around £80,000-£120,000 per venue – some are in much more significant debt than that.”
Davyd has said that the debts are down to a combination of “landlords, suppliers, services and money that’s owed within their supply chain,” adding that the best way people can help their local venues is to return to these spaces when they are ready. “The number one thing that people can do is go out there, go and see a show, put your money in a venue, because they know how to use it best to recover from this. If everyone who cares about live music went to one extra grassroots show a month it would completely revolutionise the economics of this sector. Just go and take a chance on something you haven’t seen before, fill up those gigs that are currently half full,” Davyd said.
He went on to reassure prospective gig-goers that the UK’s small venues are Covid-aware and that people should not feel hesitant about supporting these essential cultural spaces: “Venues took on a lot of work and effort to try and understand what they should do to make their spaces safe, and then they went out and did it. The facts are that case numbers were rising significantly and very, very high – right up until the ‘freedom day’ of July 19. Venues then opened on July 19 and, in the following six weeks, case rates went down week on week.”