SCOTLAND’S music venues need a long-term solution to the threat from higher business rates, a leading nightclub owner has warned.
Donald MacLeod, who owns The Garage, in Glasgow, said a short-term cap on business rates for the hospitality sector was welcome, but did not provide the future security venues need.
And he called for a UK-wide solution to make sure the current network of small clubs is protected.
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The call came as academics said increasing tax paid by music venues could pose a major threat to the UK’s live music scene.
Organisers of Britain’s first live music census have warned a major overhaul of commercial property rates could see a huge rise in costs and force many venues to close.
Matt Brennan, from Edinburgh University, who is leading the project, said venues operating at grassroots level were particularly vulnerable.
He added: “Venues around the country have been telling us that they already operate on thin margins, so proposed increases in rateable values of up to 55 per cent in some cases will have a significant impact.
“Our UK Live Music Census will be important in identifying
challenges the industry faces, such as rising rates and other issues.
“It will give us a detailed picture of what exactly it means to be a venue owner, a musician and a live music lover in 2017.”
Mr MacLeod said: “The cap in Scotland is welcome, but we need a long-term solution here and we need a solution that will work for the whole of the UK.
“There are no boundaries in music and Scottish bands need venues across the UK to perform in.”
The census is being led by the universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow.
For 24 hours, volunteers will track performances in cities across the country, from lone buskers to massed choirs and from dance floors to stadium concerts.
There will be co-ordinated censuses in Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Leeds, Southampton and Brighton, with volunteers attending live music events including Olly Murs at Leeds Arena, Nicola Benedetti at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, RnB in Oxford, and jazz in Newcastle.
Jo Dipple, chief executive of UK Music, one of the partners of the census, said: “The findings for each of the six cities will inform academics, entrepreneurs and music fans alike.
“It will help organisations like UK Music to understand better the pressures on music businesses and venues so we can lobby for the most effective policies in each area.
“For example, we know that a disproportionate hike in business rates could pose a serious threat to grassroots venues. The more we are able to identify threats, the more effective our lobbying for policy change in that area will be.”
Lord Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat peer and spokesman for the creative industries, added: “Live music is facing a number of challenges at the moment, from venues closing down to the threat of increased business rates.”
Collected and spent by Scotland’s 32 councils, business rates are based on the rental, or rateable, value of a property multiplied by
an annual poundage rate set by central government, which in 2017/18 is 46.6p.
In 2017-18, non-domestic rates will raise around £2.6 billion for council services.
But the system is complicated by various discounts, or reliefs, for small businesses, charities and others, as well as a supplement on large properties.
Licensed premises are also rated on turnover, but other firms on size.
New reliefs for hotels, bars, pubs and restaurants nationally, and office space in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, plus some renewable energy schemes, add yet more complexity.
Because they are unpopular, governments tend to defer revaluations – the last was in 2010 – leading to greater shocks when they arrive.