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The UK’s grassroots music venues in £90 million debt

“The average debt they’re emerging with is around £80,000-£120,000 per venue – some are in much more significant debt than that," says Mark Davyd.

By Alastair James

Grassroots music venues (Picture: Pexels)
Grassroots music venues have struggled since Covid (Picture: Pexels)

Grassroots venues are £90 million in debt due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the costs associated with lockdown, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) has warned.

At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, more than 500 venues almost shut forever.

However, many have been saved thanks to the donations to the MVT’s #SaveOurVenues campaign. Pressure on the UK government and the Cultural Recovery Fund has also helped keep places afloat.

Speaking to NME, Mark Davyd, the Chief Executive of the MVT, said many venues remain in financial trouble despite people’s efforts.

He explained: “Getting that [£90 million debt] paid off isn’t going to be done this year, it likely won’t be done next year and might not be until 2024 or 2025 if things keep going as they are.

“The average debt they’re emerging with is around £80,000-£120,000 per venue – some are in much more significant debt than that.”

These debts, Davyd says, are down to money owed within the supply chain all the way from landlords to suppliers. He says the best thing is for people to come back to venues when they’re comfortable.

Grassroots Venues (Picture: Pexels)

Davyd also praised venues for taking measures to become Covid-safe. He told NME: “The facts are that case numbers were rising significantly and very, very high – right up until the ‘freedom day’ of July 19.

“Venues then opened on July 19 and, in the following six weeks, case rates went down week on week.”

The drop in case rates was greater in the local areas around grassroots venues, according to Davyd, who believes this proves that such venues have contributed very little to case rates.

He’s encouraging people returning to shows to take Covid tests to help keep spaces safe for everyone. “It’s only reasonable” for audiences to do the same, he adds, if crews, bar staff, and bands are taking tests as well.

“The number one thing that people can do is go out there, go and see a show, put your money in a venue because they know how to use it best to recover from this.

“If everyone who cares about live music went to one extra grassroots show a month it would completely revolutionise the economics of this sector.”