Exclusive:Music leaders step up campaign for concert ticket tax in Scotland to support grassroots venues
Music industry leaders have stepped up a campaign for the introduction of a concert ticket tax to help support grassroots venues as new research revealed the events are worth more than £44 million for Scotland's economy.
Nearly 2,500 people are employed at 74 venues, which are either dedicated to live music or regularly programme bands and artists. More than two million people are said to have attended gigs or shows outwith arenas and stadium events throughout 2023.
The Music Venue Trust, which has published the new figures on the scale of the industry in Scotland, recorded 16,576 live music events in grassroots venues last year, with nearly 9,000 of them ticketed.
However, it has argued for a “compulsory levy” to help support a dedicated fund for venues secure their future, including carrying out improvements to their buildings, handling complaints from neighbours and diversifying their business models.
The trust wants a £1-per-ticket scheme put in place for all arena and stadium-sized concerts across the UK with a capacity of more than 5,000 by early next year. The Scottish Government has pledged to seriously consider the idea after it was backed by the Greens at Holyrood.
Beverley Whitrick, chief operating office of the Music Venue Trust, said there was an urgent need to find ways of helping venues which are facing “extraordinary” financial pressures, which she said had led to a 38 per cent increase in the number of businesses seeking emergency financial help from the charity.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, she said: "Despite what some people think, there is absolutely no reduction in appetite for attending grassroots music venues. It’s not that the demand isn’t there. But we are seeing venues putting on fewer events in many circumstances. Venues are having to work very hard to work out the economics of putting certain events on.
"Venues are doing an amazing job in Scotland, with 149,184 individual performances in venues which employ 2,486 people. We must fight hard to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues across Scotland, because they are incredibly important in our cities, towns and rural communities
“Grassroots venues represent really important community hubs. Sometimes that’s a local geographical community, sometimes it’s a community of like-minded people who represent a particular scene. The overall economic contribution of grassroots venues in Scotland of £44m is not to be sniffed at.”
The trust estimates more than a third of the UK’s grassroots music venues operated at a loss last year due to rising running costs. The average rent increase alone in Scotland was said to be 37.5 per cent, with an average profit margin of just 0.5 per cent.
Ms Whitrick said: “The overall subsidy for live music from grassroots venues, which comes to more than £10m, is an investment in artists so that they get opportunities to play and grow. It is incredibly important work, but the key question it raises is whether it should be the people running venues making that investment or is it reasonable to look at another source to ensure that development of music in Scotland carries on."
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