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‘Woefully unjust’: UK Music boss slams business rates as studios and venues take financial hit

Industry chief warns soaring bills triggered by rates’ revamp could forces venues and studios to shut down

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher is demanding the Chancellor orders an urgent review in the Budget of business rates to protect thousands of music venues and studios.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is already under intense pressure to drop a planned 4% rise in business rates next year when he unveils his Budget next week (November 22).

Dugher warned the rises – coupled with the impact of the Government’s business rates revaluation earlier this year – could leave music venues fighting to survive.

One small venue, the Lexington in north London, has seen a rise of 118% in its rateable value this year, compared to Arsenal FC’s 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium nearby enjoyed a 7% cut in its rateable value.

Dugher said: “The Chancellor must rethink these changes which are woefully unjust and could have a potentially catastrophic impact on some music venues and recording studios.”

New research from UK Music reveals that recording studios have also faced substantial increases in 2017. The rateable value of the world-famous Abbey Road Studios increased by 32% in 2017. Air Studios, where the soundtrack to Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was recently recorded, has also experienced a rise of 32%.

In the past decade, around 35% of music venues have closed, according to the Music Venue Trust charity.

The UK Music chief warned the tide of closures could continue due to soaring rate and rent bills faced by venues, many of which are already battling against the threat posed by developers and council licensing chiefs.

In a letter to the Chancellor, Dugher said the Valuation Office Agency should work with the music industry to agree an approved guide on business rating to help safeguard the future of music venues and recording studios. His letter also listed the rise in business rates at larger and grassroots music venues. 

Dugher added: “The Chancellor should use his Budget to make sure the venues and studios that gave artists like Adele, The Beatles and Oasis their big break are not put under threat because of soaring rate bills.

“Music is the jewel in the UK’s cultural crown. But we need to protect music venues are vital if we are continue to nurture the stars of tomorrow. The Chancellor must think again and act before it is too late.”