“The uncertainty is the worst thing.”
Today, The Guardian released a conversation piece surrounding an example venue of Band on the Wall in Manchester as our grass-root venues up and down the country face difficulty in startling energy prices skyrocket in order to maintain the upkeep of an already struggling venue industry.
On an annual turnover of £2m, the venue’s costs have rocketed from £450,000 to £650,000. The Music Venue Trust estimates that for the sector as a whole, which has a gross turnover of £399m, the current rise equates to an additional £90m in costs. This crisis is a simply a single wedge as the venues play host to many other factors, including the financial crash and COVID-19 – causing initial decline and keeping the doors open.
We’re budgeting all the time, but it’s becoming impossible because with inflation in double figures you don’t know how much anything is going to be in four or 10 weeks’ time,” explains CEO Gavin Sharp. “Say one supplier raises prices by 6% or 8% – that’s not an isolated increase, it’s the same with every single supplier. And our staff costs – our single biggest expenditure – are being impacted because we’ve had to put up the hourly rate so they can pay their bills. It becomes a spiral.”
It’s becoming a common occurrence for MVT to voice their ever-growing concerns surrounding the support – albeit lack of – that our independent venues receive, certainly within the depths of the UK industry.
The reopening and return to live music has been highly successful, but the tide is turning. The rising cost of everything from drinks to taxis means that many people are cutting back on entertainment just as Band on the Wall’s cost increases are five times what they had expected them to be after the revamp. That’s what it’s all about and what it comes down to, really. Money. As the mass works of the major festivals and gigs have indoctrinated the news to the success of the industry, it’s not without the lower end of the chain becoming far less fruitful. Attending gigs and festivals has become a secondary importance for many avid fans up and down the country, as cost of living becomes a crisis all in its own for UK residents.
While the major festivals receive major art grants and Government bonuses due to their forceful impact they have on the industry, the true communities and grassroot level of musicianship – where all these big folk actually started out – is becoming forgotten about again.
As always, perseverance and staying optimistic is key to this game. And even more so in the world of music.