Music industry ‘should support struggling small gig venues’

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Record labels should help bail out small music venues that are struggling to survive during the pandemic, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said.

Mr Burnham, a former culture secretary, called on the “big players” in music to pay a levy, just as football clubs contribute to grassroots facilities.

The recording stars who go on to sustain the industry often start in “critical” small venues, he said.

The industry would be “fundamentally weakened” if venues closed, he argued.

The Music Venue Trust says 30 venues are at imminent risk of permanent closure because of the pandemic, with hundreds more in trouble.

The BPI, which represents record labels, said it had co-ordinated £1.67m of donations to help artists and venues during the pandemic.

But Mr Burnham, a big music fan, told an event for Independent Venue Week: “The industry isn’t stepping up.

“The industry needs to step up for you, and I think we should be mounting a case to say, the industry has to pay a levy to support grassroots venues, because that is their talent production ground. They are the junior football clubs of the country. That’s where the talent comes through.

“There’s an argument on the music industry, on the big players, that they need to pay a levy back to the industry at the grassroots.”

Allowing venues to close would “be like closing junior grassroots football clubs and then expecting English football to still be strong”, he said.

Mr Burnham suggested a system like the Football Foundation, which channels funds to community football facilities and which he helped set up in 2000. The Premier League and Football Association gave £53m last year, with another £18m contributed by the government.

The BPI said its £1.67m had gone to a range of charities and support organisations, including almost £60,000 to the Music Venue Trust. Its spokesman also called on the government to “prioritise the return of the live music sector as speedily and safely as possible” and support venues and festivals with an insurance scheme.

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