As consumers of live entertainment, whether it is gigs at the Barrowlands in Glasgow or musicals at the Edinburgh Playhouse, most of us will be very familiar with the concept of booking fees.

But what if the price of such shows were to include a fee that would be earmarked to support grassroots music venues and ultimately nurture emerging talent?

That is the proposal of the Music Venue Trust (MVT), an organisation that supports hundreds of grassroots music venues in the UK, and it is certainly worth examining given the pressures currently facing independent venues.

The MVT wants a ticket levy to be applied to the price of all major stadium and arena gigs, with the monies raised going to help outlets struggling at the lower end of the venue food chain.

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And help they most certainly need. A report published by the MVT in January found 125 grassroots venues closed down in 2023, at the rate of two per week, which it said underlined the challenges facing venues of this size from factors such as high rents and energy costs.

According to the MVT, the findings threw into stark relief the difference between the record revenue and profits being generated by venues and artists at the top end of the music industry and those operating at grassroots level.

The MVT said its survey of the remaining 835 members of the Music Venues Alliance found that, while they staged more than 187,000 events in 2023 and generated over £500 million in revenue, these venues made a profit of just £2.5m, or a margin of 0.5%, for the period. Moreover, it found that without grants and donations worth £3.1m from the MVT’s own Pipeline Investment Fund, Arts Council England and other bodies, the sector would have made a loss.

“2003 was the worst year for venue closures since Music Venue Trust launched ten years ago,” said Beverley Whitrick, the group’s chief operating officer, when the survey was published. “We are still losing on average two venues a week and those that have survived are now consumed by threats to their continued existence that they have no chance of overcoming without immediate help. Without external support, our entire sector would be bankrupt.”

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People who love live music will need no reminding of the importance of grassroots venues. On a romantic level, many of us will fondly recall seeing bands who would one day become major stars perform in the smallest venues at the start of their careers. Seeing Radiohead in King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and Oasis at The Cathouse in Glasgow are among my happiest gig-going memories.

It is a rite of passage for music fans to follow their favourite acts as they move up the venue ladder but equally these are vital stepping stones for the bands themselves. It is the grassroots venues which offer fledgling bands and singers their first opportunities to play before an audience and hone their craft.

In town and city centres, grassroots venues form a vital part of the economic ecosystem. They bring people into urban areas, encourage spending on bars, restaurants, hotels and taxis, and provide employment.

"As representatives of Scotland's night-time industries, we wholeheartedly endorse the call for a support mechanism for businesses grappling with the soaring operational costs," a spokesperson for the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) in Scotland told The Herald. "The plight of independent and grassroots venues cannot be overstated in this crisis.

"It is imperative to understand that any financial aid must be allocated with absolute transparency and accountability.

"With 77% of the night-time economy comprising independent businesses, it is crucial to address the needs of the entire spectrum, including mid-tier establishments. Strengthening support for SMEs and independents across various fronts will fortify our industry's foundation, nurturing talent and fostering sustainable growth through a robust ecosystem.”

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The most successful grassroots venues put their towns or cities on the map. I have never attended a gig at Moles, the renowned independent venue in Bath that closed its doors after 45 years in December, but I am certainly well aware of it. It is one of those names that has lodged in the mind after years of reading the music press and hearing of the legendary performances that it hosted, alongside the 100 Club in London and (now defunct) Boardwalk in Manchester.

However, in recent times a whole host of famous venues have bitten the dust, with the Chameleon in Nottingham, Ironworks in Inverness, and Jazz Barr in Edinburgh among those exiting the stage.

Donald MacLeod, managing director of Hold Fast Entertainment, owner of the Garage and Cathouse venues in Glasgow and promoter CPL, which has helped break scores of acts over the decades, told The Herald that he supports the idea of a levy in principle.

“Grassroots music venues are a vital part of our culture really, right across Scotland and the UK," he said. "They are the breeding ground of almost every band, act or singer-songwriter of whom you can think. They are great places to hang out and as a music man myself and somebody who has been involved in the industry for 45 years, what is happening is tragic.”

However, Mr MacLeod said any levy would have to be underpinned by legislation and, echoing the NTIA, declared that several key questions would have to be answered first.

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He said: “It would need to be set in tablets of stone, and who has that power? Is it the UK Government or Scotland? Can it be a devolved matter?”

Mr MacLeod, who welcomed the fact the Scottish Government is looking into the issue, added: “The French model, with 3.8% of gross ticket sales going into a fund, is possibly the best model. But who is going to govern and administer that fund? And what is the application process going to be like?

“I would not want the Scottish Government to throw all the eggs in the basket and support this while at the same time not give us the [business] rates relief that we undoubtedly deserve, and which was given to help hospitality venues in England.”

Mr MacLeod and the NTIA are right to call for transparency. The rules surrounding any proposed levy must surely be thrashed out and made clear to ensure the venues most in need get the benefit.

But the sooner the idea is explored, the better. Otherwise we stand to lose even more of our cherished live music venues.