Research commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has found 21 music venues at risk of closure due to business rates increases.
A further 18 of London’s 94 grassroots music venues are expected to experience significant financial challenges, according to the report, which says that in total, these 39 venues account for up to 530 jobs and generate up to £21.5m for the capital’s economy.
On top of this, an additional 23 venues are at risk of having to cut the number of new artists they book, instead opting to put on safer, more-established artists that generate higher sales.
The research estimates that this could eliminate at least 14,000 emerging-artist performances annually and have a knock-on effect for the music industry, reducing the opportunities for new and emerging talent in London.
The research, compiled for the Mayor by Nordicity, reveals that the total business rates bill for music venues rose overnight by 26% when the new charges came into effect on 1 April - from £3.2m to £4m. Approximately one-third of grassroots music venues have seen their annual business rates increase by £10,000 or more.
Venues most at risk include the Lexington and the Macbeth, both in Islington.
Khan has called on the Valuation Office Agency to review its valuation policy for grassroots music venues and is encouraging the 33 London billing authorities to ensure a share of the £72.5 million of funding they will receive in 2017-18 from the Government to offer locally determined business rates reliefs is prioritised for cultural businesses, such as grassroots music venues.
He has also asked for business rates to be fully devolved to London.
One grassroots music venue facing a huge rise in their business rates is The 100 Club in Oxford Street, whose national non-domestic rates bill has increased this year by around £20,000 or more than 40%
Owner Jeff Horton said: “The impact of this on grassroots music venues is going to be huge and will make it very hard for many to survive. It is becoming harder and harder to run a normal business around here and we keep having to think of different ways to generate revenue.
“London is one of the most visited cities on the world and people come here because of our incredible arts and cultural heritage. If that falls off a cliff edge, everyone will suffer. I am not sure the Government realise the damage they are doing with these business rates increases. Venues like us need to be looked at like an asset of the community like in Berlin.
“We can’t just leave the area because this venue is part of who we are and everyone will know it is just not the same place. People come here from all over the world. Places like this are priceless when it comes to our economy and culture. I worry about where the new up-and coming bands are going to come from – if you look at the major festivals it is often the veteran bands who headline them and that is partially because there aren’t as many grassroots music venues that nurture talent as there used to be.”
Khan said: “London’s grassroots music venues are the foundation of the UK’s world-leading music industry, providing a vital talent pipeline for the artists and stars of tomorrow.
“Music venues are often the place where risks are taken on new artists and cultural innovation happens. They are the main platform for new and emerging artists and for the music industry to spot and recruit the next generation of talent.
“The way in which the business rates are evaluated for London’s grassroots music venues doesn’t make sense – it is completely unfair to bill a business based on the size of its building and not to take its profits into account. At the very least, I want to see Transitional Rate Relief being prioritised for small businesses like grassroots music venues, which contribute so much to London’s reputation as a powerhouse for culture and music.”
Night Czar, Amy Lamé said: “As London’s Night Czar and the chair of the London Music Board, I’m deeply committed to protecting live music venues across the capital. Over the past few years we’ve lost too many of these amazing venues so it’s vital that we act now to protect the ones we have and to encourage new places to open. We’ve just reached a point where we’ve stemmed the flow of closures and now these precious venues are facing rising business rates bill, adding another blow to their survival.
“In my first three months as Night Czar, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many venue owners, developers and local authorities to see how we can work together and I’ve been encouraged by the conversations I’ve had so far. We will do all we can to safeguard their future so they can continue to make London the amazing musical hotbed that it is. This requires urgent action and I will be looking to meet DCLG along with music venue owners to address these issues head on.”
Philip Kolvin QC, Chair of the Night Time Commission said: “As Londoners who care about our city, we have to face up to the fact that venues which are critical to the culture, diversity and reputation of our city could be priced into extinction. If we value those businesses which bring joy and individuality to our urban fabric, we must take action to protect them. They should not be punished for economic factors beyond their control, and as a society we should intervene to protect them from market imbalance. The system of rates benefits online businesses over high street enterprises, so as long as we care about the vibrancy of our high streets we should work to redress the disparity. I hope that local authorities and national government will do all they can, before further of London’s brilliant arts venues are culled to the detriment of Londoners as a whole.”