Live music performances down by 16.7% in 2022 says UK's Music Venue Trust

(Image credit: Martha Fitzpatrick/Redferns)

Grassroots music venues contribute £500 million to the UK's economy but are facing huge challenges, according to the annual report by the Music Venue Trust (MVT). 

Live performances are down by 16.7% last year with audience numbers also in decline and down 11% at the UK's cost of living crisis bites. 

The MVT is a registered charity that represents 1000 grassroots music venues, the lifeblood of the the live music industry in the UK and a vital platform for newer talent as well as established acts. The report's findings throws the future of performing as an income for emerging artists into question. 

In a survey of the 960 members of the Music Venue Alliance (MVA), the results found that they staged 177,000 events in 2022, with 565,000 individual performances attracting audience visits of almost 22 million.  This is a decline of 16.7% from 2019 as venues were forced to make significant cutbacks following the pandemic and cost of living crisis.


(Image credit: Helen Boast/Redferns via Getty Images)

The current economics no longer stack up

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust

These MVA employ over 30,000 people throughout the sector and the report also highlighted further decline in the average grassroots music venue audience members per event; 124 and 11% down from 2019.  

Profits margins are also taking a hit. While the total income of those 177,000 events in 2022 was over £500 million, venues reported an average profit margin of just 0.2% – resulting in them subsidising live music performances by around £79m for the year. 

“Obviously we are pleased to highlight the fact that grassroots music venues contribute over half a billion pounds to the UK economy and to emphasise their enormous impact on the cultural life of our country," said Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust. "But it is also necessary to reiterate the precarious financial position that much of the sector still finds themselves in – the current economics no longer stack up.”

The MVT is now calling on the wider music industry and the UK government to support the sector and highlighted the VAT (Value Added Tax) added to ticket sales as a possible barrier to profitability. The MVT would like to see it reduced to the average European level of 5% or preferably removed entirely. 

We don't penalise any other industry like this and we need to stop putting barriers in the way of risk taking and investment in new British talent

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust

The organisation has also called for a review on what it believes to be “excessive and anti-competitive” business rates on grassroots music venues.

“We need urgent action from the government on all these factors as well as a full review of VAT on ticket sales," added Davyd. "In short, we need a coherent long term economic plan that recognises the importance of what our members do and gives them a chance to keep nurturing up and coming artists and contributing to their local communities.

“It doesn’t make any sense for the government to continue to tax what is clearly research and development," he continued. "We don't penalise any other industry like this and we need to stop putting barriers in the way of risk taking and investment in new British talent. 

"The spiralling cost of energy bills, rents, excessive & anti-competitive business rates, and other overheads, combined with the effects that the cost of living crisis is having on the disposable income of our audiences, means that venues are operating on razor thin margins and in many cases struggling to survive.”

The MVT is also looking for new arenas to give back to the grassroots scene that helps develop tomorrow's headline acts. The organisation has laid out plans for these venues to invest a percentage of every arena ticket sold onto the grassroots "music eco-system". Starting with the new 23,500 capacity Co-Op Live Arena in Manchester.

The charity has issued a direct request to the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, Manchester City Council and all Manchester MPs to ensure that the new arena, due to open in Manchester later in 2023, pledges a commitment to this new initiative.

View the MVT's full 2022 annual report on protecting, securing and improving grassroots music venues across the UK

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.