Own Our Venues campaign has a solution to save the struggling grassroots live music industry

The music industry, for all of the bombast that still surrounds it, is succumbing to an increasingly corrosive corporate consolidation. Far away from the colossal spectacle of the modern concert experience is a world of extortionate ticket selling services and smaller, more communal venues struggling to make ends meet. Ultimately this is as much as anything else a dynamic of an economic system that is increasingly subservient to large scale rentierism. When diners pay for their restaurant meals or concertgoers pay for their tickets, a growing portion of their money is being extracted by a class of intermediaries; landlords. The detrimental effect this has on the economy is evident from the fact that the most popular tax among economists is tax on land, which we at Mutual Interest have also advocated with a series of articles.

However, waiting for governments to reverse this trend away from productive pursuits towards extractive rent-seeking is something we cannot afford. The pushback must begin with ordinary people affected by this shift taking action by organising. One industry where the shift has wreaked particularly horrible havoc is that of grassroots live music venues. Over one third of grassroots music venues have closed down in the last 20 years. While over nine in ten grassroots music venues are tenants and do not own their premises, over two thirds of Cultural Recovery Grants (that were supposed to help the creative sector survive the pandemic) were paid to landlords. With an average of 18 months of tenancy left, grassroots music venues are facing an unprecedented threat of being razed to the ground.

To revitalise the sector, Music Venue Trust, an organisation whose membership consists of 900 grassroots music venues and whose patrons include many of Britain’s best known musicians such as Sir Paul McCartney, have launched “Own our venues” campaign. The campaign is centred around establishing Music Venue Properties, a social enterprise democratically co-owned by the trust and everyone who wants to invest in the venture; giving gig-goers and musicians a chance to have a stake and say in how it’s operated.

Mutual Interest Co-operative is democratically owned by our readers and writers.

We are not owned by billionaires or governments.

Mutual Interest Co-operative is democratically owned by our readers and writers.

We are not owned by billionaires or governments.

The enterprise will purchase premises that grassroots venues are tenants of and lease them back to the venue operators at as affordable rates and favourable terms as possible. The venues that form the Music Venue Trust will gradually become their own landlords. Whereas currently community music venues are dependent on the whims of landlords whose only goal is to make money from the property; rather than use it to offer great experiences and events to the local community. More often than not, the most enjoyable events are not synonymous with the most lucrative events.

Music Venue Properties aims to mix both the regaining of control that grassroots venues want with taking on some of the liabilities that many venues are unlikely to be able to do individually; rather than each venue buying their own premises separately, having the sector as a whole come together to jointly-purchase and manage a portfolio of properties can spark a virtuous cycle of compounding accumulation of pooled resources.

In the words of the Music Venue Trust:

All the problems and challenges that grassroots music venues face eventually come back to this core point: No Grassroots Music Venue in the UK is sustainable or resilient, no venue can have 100% confidence in its future, no venue can continue to support musicians and bring music to our communities for decades to come, unless the music venues are owned by people who want them to be music venues. If the music community wants grassroots music venues to be protected, to be secure, to be improved, to be everything they can be for the future of live music, then the music community must Own Our Venues.” The Own Our Venues campaign is seeking to raise 2.5 million pounds initially to purchase 9 grassroots venues across the UK as a pilot; 8 of the venues are located in areas identified by government as “most in need of the investment” and they are all either the last or most iconic venues in their area. Many of the venues themselves are also democratic, community owned social enterprises similar to the Music Venue Properties itself.

The Own Our Venues campaign is seeking to raise 2.5 million pounds initially to purchase 9 grassroots venues across the UK as a pilot; 8 of the venues are located in areas identified by the government as “most in need of the investment” and they are all either the last or most iconic venues in their area. Many of the venues themselves are also democratic, community owned social enterprises similar to the Music Venue Properties itself.

Everyone can buy shares in the venture, which seeks to provide a targeted annual return of 3%. Investors will also have the ability to stand and vote for directors of Music Venue Properties; with each investor having one vote regardless of the amount they have invested.

We at Mutual Interest Media encourage our readers to support the We Own Our Venues campaign; you can easily do so via this link.

Contribute to Own Our Venues

Own Our Venues is a radical, rewarding & exciting opportunity for the live music community to own, protect & improve UK Grassroots Music Venues.

Contribute to Own Our Venues

Own Our Venues is a radical, rewarding & exciting opportunity for the live music community to own, protect & improve UK Grassroots Music Venues.

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