December 13th 2023

Mapping Grassroots Music Venues

As part of the ongoing development of LCR Music Board’s live venue mapping project, we are incrementally adding filters that enable users to quickly identify certain types of venues or programming. Our newest filter identifies the region’s Grassroots Music Venues through their membership of the Music Venue Trust (MVT). To recognise the introduction of this filter, the following is a guest post from MVT team member Chris Sherrington about the fantastic work MVT does in the Liverpool City Region and across the UK. 

Liverpool’s place as a city of music is undeniable and at the heart of this reputation are the Grassroots Music Venues that have fostered and nurtured artists, providing a space for them to reach fans and develop their work. Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) are uniquely placed to provide long term and sustainable cultural delivery and their position at the heart of regional music ecosystems supports a wide region beyond their doors.

In the Liverpool City Region the venues are as diverse as the music produced within them with historic icons such as the Cavern and The Jacaranda as well as new ground-breaking cultural centres such as Futureyard and the Arts Bar. Despite the deep association between music and the Mersey the venues in this city face the same challenges as those around the country and that threaten the future of the industry.

Music Venue Trust (MVT) is a UK charity, created in 2014, which acts to protect, secure and improve over 840 GMVs across the country and it works to gain recognition of the essential roles these venues fulfill, not only for artist development, but also for the cultural and music industries, the economy and local communities. We work with the industry, government, venues and academics to support the amazing venues across the country but the challenges faced by venues in 2023 are harder than ever before with one music venue closing every week. The impact has been seen in Liverpool with the closure in recent months of Jimmys and Melodic Bar and threats to Meraki from nearby developments, whilst many operators are having to reduce their musical offering to reduce risk.

It isn’t because people aren’t interested in music anymore. The total value of the sector is over £500 million, and there were 22 million audience visits to a gig last year. However the industry is failing to invest in its Grassroots music venues which currently have a profit margin of 0.2% meanwhile, eight new arenas are proposed to open in the UK in the next five years. Those arenas are totally reliant on the talent pipeline that starts at venues like those across the region, but they have no plans to make a financial investment in that pipeline.

Music Venue Trust have been working hard to ensure that industry and government invest in the region’s spaces and 2023 was a successful year with “United By Music” celebrating the best music and venues that the region has to offer and our Pipeline Investment Fund delivering grants to support venue improvements at Meraki.

Change is also coming, thanks to our lobbying, from within the industry with recent announcements by artists, Enter Shikari and ticket companies, including Ticketmaster, Skiddle and Good Show of new partnerships with Music Venue Trust. These will provide funding support through ticket levies and donation options to our Pipeline Investment Fund to aid and develop venues which have struggled to be recognised by other funding sources.

2023 has also seen us secure the first music venue property purchased as part of the groundbreaking own our venues campaign which has brought together over £2.5M investment and funding support from communities, industry and government. The Snug in nearby Atherton is the first of many venues to be secured future generations from the threat of commercial ownership and development At the heart of developing this recognition is the identifying and mapping of music spaces and the communities they serve. Support and representation rely on data and it has been great to work with the team at University of Liverpool and the Liverpool City Region Music Board to help place these wonderful Grassroots Music Venues on the map. We hope that through work like this we can secure the venues we have and see more flourish, continuing to be creative centres for social and educational development and helping the Liverpool City Region develop a legendary musical future.