Local gig venues up and down the country look set to guarantee live music for years to come, thanks to an exciting community share offer that’s been made possible with help from The Hive.
"Everyone loves music," said Mark Davyd. "But it’s a precarious existence for many grass roots music venues. They’re at the mercy of landlords who can hike prices or fail to renew contracts."
"But the music industry needs those venues,” he continues. “Playing them is how bands ‘learn their craft’ and progress from rooms in pubs to stadium gigs. Think of some of the great bands whose music you love. If local venues like these didn’t exist, you may never have had the chance to hear it."
Mark is the CEO of Music Venue Trust (MVT), a charitable membership organisation that was set up in 2015 to support gig venues across the UK with booking bands, selling tickets, running bars, providing tech support, lobbying on their behalf and more.
It was during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that Mark and his colleagues at MVT decided something had to be done to better secure the future of the country’s music venues.
"While there was government funding available to furlough staff and keep things ticking over, there wasn’t enough to pay rent – and landlords still wanted their money," he said. "It brought into even starker relief just how vulnerable music venues are."
So MVT set about setting up a subsidiary: Music Venue Properties (MVP), a charitable community benefit society. It was created to raise capital to buy venues and act as a landlord with the best interests of those venues at heart. "The idea is to keep them in the hands of people who love music and guarantee their future."
Creating a subsidiary society that could raise finance via community shares required expert help, which MVT sought from The Hive – the business support programme delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.
They also enlisted the help of community shares expert Dave Boyle. "Because of how Music Venues Trust was set up, it couldn’t become a community benefit society," said Dave. "So with the help of The Hive and Co-operatives UK’s legal team, MVT were able to create a subsidiary and draw up rules that would enable them to achieve their goals."
"Another charitable organisation had previously created a subsidiary community benefit society, so Co-operatives UK drew on their experience of that to establish Music Venue Properties. They were really helpful in managing the whole process."
With every T crossed and I dotted, the team have now launched a community share offer and are seeking to raise £4 million to buy nine venues across the UK. The share offer has also secured the Standard Mark – the ‘rubber stamp’ given to share offers that meet national standards of good practice.
"We’re confident we can make very rapid progress in buying the venues should we be able to raise the money," said Mark.
As well as benefitting the music industry and enriching the culture of towns up and down the country, MVP will keep the people who get paid by music venues in work – and reduce operating costs.
Co-operatives UK has been a driving force behind community shares since 2012 – empowering people and communities to own and control the businesses and spaces most important to them.
Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK, said:
"This campaign from Music Venue Trust is a real game-changer for community shares. More than £200m has been invested across the UK to save anything from piers and harbours to local pubs and shops – bringing them into community ownership. This has the potential to be the biggest community share offer to date. Music fans and communities will be able to save the venues that matter most to them – and just as importantly they'll own them too. It is an amazing opportunity to be part of securing and shaping the future of grassroots music venues."
Another driving force behind the venture is to secure venues in towns where people don’t have much disposable income. "Community share offers have previously saved venues in more affluent areas. By acquiring them through MVP, we can own venues in places where people can’t afford to invest in a share offer," said Mark.
"We aim to move to an open share offer in future. Our goal is to have a venue in every town – a place that will never be sold to build flats by a landlord who doesn’t care that it’s the beating heart of the music scene."
To date, more than £200m has been raised through community shares to save and create much loved spaces and services for communities across the UK.