Friday, February 17, 2017

Closing time?

No sooner have I written about the fact that Cardiff's local music scene is in many ways in rude good health, than along comes a revelation that threatens the future of countless venues in the city and right around the country. Vice's Mark Wilding has pointed out that the re-evaluation of business rates is due to take place this April, for the first time since 2010, and that, given that these rates are calculated with reference to property values, the result is likely to be significant increases for music venues - many of which are naturally situated in city centres and areas that have recently experienced gentrification and localised booms.

As you'd expect, the Music Venue Trust are extremely concerned about the scale and impact of the anticipated increases, with chief executive Mark Davyd no doubt pulling his hair out while delivering a gloomy prediction: "We would estimate half of all these venues will be placed in difficulty."

So what's the solution? Exemption, hopefully - which isn't quite as fanciful as it sounds, given that exemption is already enjoyed by other cultural institutions such as theatres (if not by other small independent businesses whose future will also be under threat). If that's not forthcoming, then pursuing charitable status might be a means of seeking refuge. Otherwise, the inevitable outcome will be higher ticket and bar prices, (even) less risk-taking by promoters and venues in a bid to maximise revenue - which, as Stacey Thomas of the Lexington underlines, would be "detrimental to grassroots music and the community as a whole" - and a catastrophic number of closures.

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