Manchester asks for £16.4m to save and support city's music sector and venues

Manchester has asked culture secretary Oliver Dowden and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak for £16.4m over the next two years to directly support fifty city music venues and organisations.

The figure asked for follows close liaison over the last weeks and months during lockdown between the council, cultural leaders and venues of all kinds, to come up with a comprehensive cultural recovery plan for the city, taking in all aspects of culture including live music. 

As a result of these discussions the council wrote to government on July 8 asking for a total of  £71.8m over the next two years to restart, repair, and rethink cultural life in the city.   This included an overall stabilisation package of £36m to stop venues and cultural organisations going bust and closing permanently, and a further stimulus package of £30.7m to re-ignite and boost the city-wide cultural economy over the next two years.

The government ask includes £8.4m that has been earmarked to provide direct stabilisation support to fifty music venues and organisations in Manchester.  

As well as talking directly to cultural organisations the council has also been in discussion with the British Council, the Music Venue Trust, and its partners in the global Music Cities Network - which Manchester was invited to become a member of last year.

Through these talks a clear and urgent need was identified for the £8.4m immediate stabilisation support for live music venues to be further topped up, over the next two years, with an additional £8m to provide a dedicated music stimulus package.  Together this would provide a total of £16.4m for Manchester's music sector to give it the support it needs to get back up and running, and to help it plan for the future with more confidence.

Debra King, Chair of Manchester Music City, and Director Brighter Sound, said: "As a city with music at the heart of our DNA, Manchester’s venues are absolutely crucial and are at the core of the city’s music ecology. With this kind of investment from the government we would have a real chance of saving this part of the city's cultural identity, and the jobs and livelihoods that go with it."      

The support package for the music venue sector is seen as vital life-support for the city's venues, many of which have been keeping musicians and technicians, bar staff and others in jobs for decades, as well as helping gig-goers make memories that last a life-time.

At the start of the pandemic the Music Venue Trust warned that 550 independent music venues up and down the country, including bars, clubs and gig venues were at imminent risk of closure as a result of Covid-19.

With 21 Manchester venues in its membership, the Trust has been leading the #saveourvenues campaign calling for government support to protect venues including a VAT cut on ticket sales to help the industry back on its feet.

It says that the music industry generates £5.2bn a year for the UK economy and a further £2.7bn in export revenues, but is facing a substantial loss of grassroots infrastructure, with 90 percent of venues and festivals at risk of permanent closure.  The Trust estimates that for every £10 ticket sale for a grassroots music venue, £17 is spent elsewhere in the local night-time economy.   

Jay Taylor, North West Co-ordinator, Music Venue Trust, GMCA Night-time Economy Taskforce member, and in-house promoter at much-loved music venue Night and Day in Manchester, said: “The contribution that grassroots music venues play in the development of future talent and the opportunities they provide can't be overestimated. Inside these intimate independent spaces creative chances are taken, live industry roles are nurtured and encouraged, enthusiasts gather and career altering deals are made. And of course, these venues play a crucial role in the night-time economy of not just Manchester but of towns and cities throughout the UK."

The economic case alone for supporting the city's music venues could not be clearer. 

Figures contained in the Greater Manchester Tourism Review carried out in 2019 to assess the role of music and the visitor economy, show that Greater Manchester’s music ecosystem alone was responsible for generating a turnover of approximately £896 million in 2017.  

The 2019 Greater Manchester Music Industry Review by UK Music also provides striking findings about the live events part of the music sector in Manchester and the city region and its impact in terms of employment and visitor economy.

The reviews show: 

- Greater Manchester’s music ecosystem turnover grew 37.5% between 2016 and the end of 2018  

- The total number of direct jobs generated by the music sector in the region was 21,285 in 2017

- Live music audiences in Greater Manchester were over 1.9m in 2017

- 88% of Greater Manchester music audiences attend events in the City of Manchester with 1.7m attendees in Manchester compared to 233,900 attendees across the other 9 Greater Manchester boroughs

- There was a £68.9m box office spend in Manchester representing 88% of box office spend across Greater Manchester

- 703,000 attendees were music tourists, each spending on average in direct & indirect spend £240pp contributing to a £169m total direct and indirect spend generated by music tourism in Greater Manchester

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure, Skills, and Youth, Manchester City Council, said:  "This is not rocket science. Music is what helped make Manchester the city it is, and although the sums speak for themselves, its value goes way beyond the pound signs. It's jobs, it's livelihoods, it's whole neighbourhoods.  It's also community, creativity, and better mental health.

"Music is what grabs the soul, makes you soar, tears at your heart, rips it up, and puts it back together again. 

"And all this is why live music matters.  And why the money to support it and help it get back on its feet, and once up, to keep on standing - keep on moshing - must be found, must be enough, and must come now."

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