Music venues are haemorrhaging cash. As Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of the Music Venue Trust explained in a telephone interview with Sebastian last week: “We have analysed the costs of our 770 members. We can see how far the early phase of government support took them till it ran out on 27 April. The increase in the liabilities of all our members is currently £524,000 per day.”
Faced with the increasing risk to the survival of so many venues, which will increase the longer the closures last, what is impressive here is the number of ways in which the MVT is acting on behalf of venues, and also the joined-up way in which it has sets about defending them.
In the first instance it has launched the #saveourvenues appeal and is directly raising money. The appeal has so far attracted over 13,000 donations. “These are dark days, says Mark Davyd, and “there has been a response from industry, from the public, and from artists. We have got the attention of parts of the music industry that weren’t previously paying attention. It’s been heartwarming, frankly”
The Trust has also been awarded the part of the Mayor of London’s £2.3m Culture at Risk Business Support Fund announced on 30 April which deals with music venues.
The Trust’s work, however, goes much deeper and is much more detailed than this. At the heart of what it is undertaking is a campaign based on the specific circumstances of each venue.
The MVT has a strap-line for this part of its work which explains the purpose clearly:
“Re-open Every Venue Safely.”
“Each of these venues,” Davyd explains, “has a unique fingerprint. There is a whole range of different circumstances. There are some venues that do only international touring acts. There are others which are a restaurant with live music.”
What the MVT has been doing here is to look closely at each venue’s circumstances, working closely with them. As Mark Davyd explains: “We will be able to go to government and tell them with certainty: these venues will be able to do it and here is the subsidy or support they will need…and these are the venues that can’t what can be done so they don’t close down. In other words it is “what govt should be telling them, how they would be able to function in particular guidelines.”
One aspect of the MVT’s work is acting as a vital public voice for this issue. This is because so many venues – indeed virtually all of the venues that we at LJN have spoken to in the past two months – have been understandably reluctant to go on record publicly about how or when they might re-open. In some cases it is because of the specific circumstances which govern their individual tenancies and lease arrangements. And also because there has been a general lack of clarity about what they might be asked to do.
Davyd sees a route through this: “There needs to much more focus from government from councils from public health officials on what we need to do for public health and then music venues whatever their genre or specific circumstances will be able to respond to that with ‘ this is is what we can do. There is a willingness from venues but their main concern is public safety. I don’t think any venue wants to be open unless they have confidence that they can open safely. We know all the different scales of what they might need to do. So as soon as we are told the rules, we will be able to give a framework to venues.”
There are practical things which are different for each venue such whether safe distancing can be respected as the members of an audience get in and when they get out again. It is all about being willing do deal with all the practicalities. Nothing is going to work without that.
But alongside that empathy with the needs of each of the venues is a passion, an ideal a deep sense of mission. As Mark Davyd explained:
“It is not a casual thing to imagine living in a musicless society. Our concept is that we want to have people back and enjoying music again because it is an essential part of the health and well-being of our communities.”
LINKS : Save Our Venues appeal
At the time of writing this appeal has raised over £1m