The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced ‘Music Venue Properties’ a progressive and possibly groundbreaking new initiative that involves buying the freehold of grassroots music venues across the country.
‘Music Venue Properties’ (MVP) is a Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS), and it aims to guarantee the long-term future of grassroots venues by directly tackling the controversial issue of ownership.
Technically, a CCBS can raise money through community shares. By purchasing these, music fans and other investors can help raise money that will allow MVP to buy the freeholds whilst also receiving a three per cent APR return on their investment. It’s a win-win situation for all those involved.
Now, in a new interview with NME, the coordinator of MVT ownership, Matt Otridge explained: “It’s essentially a not-for-profit, charitable organisation that allows us to raise funds via community shares, which then allows anybody who invests money to be a part of that society. So it’s very equitable – one investment equals one vote at AGMs – it’s completely community focused, and it’s a good mechanism to promote longevity and community aspirations.”
He continued: “We’re calling this bit the pilot project, and we’re hoping that eventually it will grow and grow into a point where we have hundreds of venues that are owned by Music Venue Properties and hundreds of venues that would benefit from having a landlord that literally can’t be motivated by profits because it’s a not-for-profit organisation, as well as a landlord that shares their ambitions in seeing more money going back into the circuit.”
Per an account by the trust, in the past 20 years over 35% of grassroots music venues have closed, with 93% of these being tenants that still have 18 months left on their tenancy.
Compounding the pressure of running a venue in this sector is the harmful effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning it now owns £90 million in debt, making it increasingly economically unfeasible to run a venue. Adding insult to injury is that 67% of the Cultural Recovery Fund grant was paid directly to landlords, and not the venues, where it should have gone.
The MVT sees ownership as a positive means of alleviating the many uncertainties faced by tenanted grassroots venue operators, and at face value, it looks like the best solution anyone has put forward yet.