Launched in June, the ‘Own Our Venues’ campaign is a long-term proposal that aims to bring the freehold of grassroots music venues into a state of benevolent ownership through a Community Share model.
The campaign has so far established Music Venue Properties (MVP), a Community Benefit Society that will purchase the freeholds and rent them back to operators at a cheaper rate than landlords are currently charging.
By purchasing these shares, music fans and ethical investors will not only be part of raising funds to buy the freeholds of music venues but will also receive a 3% annual return on their return. Making it a win-win for all involved.
The scheme hopes to raise £3.5 million by the end of this year, planning to buy nine grassroots music venues in the UK – six in England, two in Wales and one in Scotland. These are geared as venues to test the scheme on. In total, MVT supports over 900 venues across the UK.
And this latest intervention from superstar Ed Sheeran, Spotify’s most-streamed artist in the world, who has long-been a supporter of grassroots venues, will add clout, prestige and (hopefully) funds toward this effort.
“Own Our Venues is an initiative I’m really passionate about getting behind,” Sheeran said of his backing. “Small, independent venues are so, so important to the music community, and I’ve played some of my favourite gigs of my career in these rooms. We’ve got to do all we can to protect these beautiful venues that we’ve all come to love for years to come.”
Mark Davyd, CEO and Founder of MVT, meanwhile, added: “We are blown away by the support already for Own Our Venues. This is a campaign that is really resonating with music fans who understand exactly how important it is to keep access to live music in our communities, our towns and cities right across the UK.”
“With the Own Our Venues project gathering steam, we are incredibly pleased to get Ed’s support for this initiative – he knows this sector incredibly well and understands how important it is.”
The proposal backed by Sheeran aims to provide a long-term solution to a problem that has been deteriorating for a good while. According to MVT, in fact, 35% of Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) have closed in the last 20 years.
It’s an issue that rapidly deteriorated, too, during the pandemic, which forced venues to shut their doors. Despite this, 67% of the main source of support during that period – the government’s Culture Recovery Fund – went to landlords, not the operators. In total, the sector acquired some £90 million worth of new since the beginning of the COVID crisis.
Last week, Davyd told whynow that more was needed beyond the government’s recently announced Energy Relief Bill, to combat the “continual wave of challenges which have simply swamped venue operators” since the spring of 2020.
“I’ve been working in this sector for 35 years and I’ve never experienced anything like the stress, anxiety and pressure of the last three years,” he said.