Government ‘demeaned’ the music industry during battle for funding

Local venues who struggled for government support have been granted funding after an extensive battle with the application process. Unfortunately, many venues have missed out.

Who got the necessary state funding?

Oporto, an independent music venue on Call Lane, Leeds, has been granted just under £65,000 to remain open. This grant was funded by Arts Council England following the near permanent closure many music venues across the country had to prepare for. 

Although being one of the independent venues that was granted this fund, the vigorous application process that Oporto went through has still not paid off. Nick Simcock, events manager, explained that despite receiving their grant offer in September, they have still haven’t received a penny of the grant. 

He continued, saying: “we had to beg for the funding and act very grateful which felt very demeaning to an industry which makes the UK over £5 billion a year.” 

What were the alternatives to governments funding? 

The lack of government support for independent venues meant that private causes took matters into their own hands, in order to keep British music culture alive after the pandemic.

Oporto were one of many venues who got involved in the #SaveOurVenues campaign which trended on Twitter in April. This campaign, set up by the Music Venue Trust, was to raise money to keep 550 grassroots venues open and gained a lot of momentum across the UK. By the end of April, the MVT had raised over £180,000. 

The goal of the campaign was also to demonstrate how important grassroots venues are to the music and arts industry itself, something many thought was being overlooked by the government in the industry’s time of need. 

What is a grassroots venue?

A grassroots venue is an independent music venue that showcases the talent, rather than focusing on the financial profit. LeedsList describes them as a place that “nurtures local talent and provides a platform for artists to develop their music and build their careers.” 

These kind of venues are locally known as a place for genuinely passionate musicians, sound engineers and artists to authentically demonstrate their skills and are a huge part of the reputable Leeds culture. 

According to the Music Industries Association, over 9 million people attended a live show at a grassroots venue in 2018 and they’re still a highly thought of setting to watch and perform live music.

Despite not focusing on the profit, like any business funding is required and is usually earned through ticket purchases. Since Covid-19 has limited capacity numbers, the sufficient amount of money is not being made, which will have a huge knock-on effect on the whole music industry. 

Who has been ignored? 

Unfortunately, not every independent venue in Leeds came out with government funding, leaving them to fend for public donation and requiring more help from the Music Venue Trust. Boom, on Millwright Street, was one venue that wasn’t even eligible to apply for funding from the ACE, as it didn’t fit the financial criteria. 

This is not the first time the government has come under fire for their lack of support for the arts. Earlier this month, the government caused a stir after releasing an advert suggesting artists, such as ballerinas, will need to change careers. While normally inconspicuous, the advert came at a time where the government were making cuts to the arts and not acknowledging their importance.

The government advert caused a Twitter storm, eventually spurring them to remove the advert from the public.

Despite defending the advert and clarifying its meaning as a tech recruitment ad, the government’s attitude towards funding the creative industries during the pandemic has left a sour taste with the artistic side of the nation. 

Covid-19 has hit the British economy hard, leaving many businesses unable to ever open their doors again. Thanks to social media, crowdfunding and eventually, financial support from Arts Council England, the likes of Oporto and other popular music venues in Leeds can remain open. Sadly, others have not been so lucky.

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