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UK Music and Music Venue Trust challenge Chancellor for discriminating against music venues

After receiving a letter from the Treasury stating music venues would not be eligible to apply for discounted business rates, UK Music and Music Venue Trust addressed the Chancellor directly about his decision

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond accusing him of discriminating against music venues.

A letter was received from the Treasury in December, which stated that music venues – unlike bars and pubs – would not be eligible to apply for a discount on their business rates, prompting backlash from UK Music and Music Venue Trust.

The organisations wrote a letter to the Chancellor urging him to “think again” and revealing that 35 per cent of grassroots music venues have shut in the past decade. The letter emphasised the unequal treatment the music industry has received in comparison to other industries; Arsenal Football Club enjoyed a 7 per cent cut in its business rates on its Emirates Stadium as a result of a revaluation in April 2017, whereas the nearby Lexington music venue was hit with an increase of 118 per cent. 

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd commented: “This is a perfect opportunity for government to take action on the challenges faced by grassroots music venues. At the moment, that opportunity has been missed because the government has still not fully understood the social, cultural and economic importance of these venues and the serious threat posed by their loss right across the UK. That error can be corrected with a simple update to the guidance and we strongly urge the Chancellor to think again.”

In the letter, Mr Dugher and Mr Davyd said: “The Government’s policy on business rates, as set out in the letter and accompanying guidance, is discriminatory towards grassroots music venues. It fails to acknowledge these venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars and that they should be eligible for the retail business rates discount as a result.

“Bars, pubs and music venues have a number of obvious similarities: they are all customer focused experiences whose core business is to provide entertainment, food and drink for the benefit of patrons. We kindly ask that you change the guidance by stating that music venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars for the purposes of the scheme.”

Mr Dugher added: “The Treasury is discriminating by definition against music venues. If the Treasury does not revisit this policy, its message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain tax advantages, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”