Julian Knight MP
Chair - Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
I am writing to you in your role as Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and in support of the committee conducting an inquiry into steps to ensure the sustainability of grassroots music venues (GMVs). Brighton Pavilion is home to some wonderful grassroots venues and this is something that matters a great deal to my constituents and to the local economy.
As you may know, these are venues where new musical talent is discovered, and where many musicians and music professionals develop their expertise. They’re an invaluable part of the fabric of communities, providing opportunities for local artists, bands, DJs, and singers to publicly perform, as well as constituting venues for grassroots fundraising events and the like. Arts Council England describes GMVs as the ‘research and development’ sector of the music industry.
GMVs are a hugely significant part of Brighton and Hove’s cultural offering and are the backbone of a vibrant live music scene, with almost 30 grassroots venues such as The Prince Albert, The Pipeline and The Green Door Store providing young or undiscovered artists with the opportunity to share and develop their craft. Without these venues, many young musicians would have nowhere to perform. GMVs also contribute substantially to the economy. Music Venue Trust (MVT) estimate that GMVs contribute around £390 million to the UK economy, invest £187 million per annum in talent development and support around 9600 full time equivalent jobs.
Sadly, despite being a core part of the UK music industry, GMVs have been suffering from a steady decline in recent years – a situation which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. From 2007 to 2016, the number of GMVs in London fell from 144 to only 94. Given MVT estimate it costs over £500,000 to open a new GMV, the loss of these venues is devastating and will have a lasting negative impact. During the pandemic, income in the GMV sector was estimated to have fallen by 75%, despite some venues attempting to make money by opening as socially distanced bars or pop-up coffee shops. Rising energy prices are now adding to the financial pressures on GMVs.
I hope that an inquiry by your committee might explore the potential role for key stakeholders in the music industry to help protect, and even financially support, the future of GMVs, as well as associated artists and crew.