Scotland “seriously considering” ticket levy on stadium and arena gigs

The SNP is “seriously considering” the introduction of a new tax on tickets for stadium and arena shows in a bid to support grassroots venues.

First Minister Humza Yousaf’s proposed plans would require fans of major acts such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Harry Styles to pay a levy to help the nation’s small and medium-sized live music spaces.

Angus Robertson, SNP Culture Secretary, has said he would consider the tax amid concerns over the future of arts funding in Scotland.

It came after he was questioned in Holyrood by Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who suggested that the introduction of just a £1 levy on each ticket could help raise over a million pounds per year.

Robertson went on to say that “new thinking” was needed in terms of arts funding in the country.

He explained: “We have gone through a pivot point during the pandemic; there has been a change in social behaviours and there has been extreme distress in the arts and cultural sector.

“We acknowledge that and we have tried to support the sector through that difficult period.”

Robertson added: “The levy proposal is worthy of further consideration.”

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) said 120 grassroots venues have closed across Britain in 2023 alone, and that Scotland is “disproportionately” affected (via The Times).

Taylor Swift (Photo by Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift performs live. CREDIT: Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Those in favour of the levy have suggested that the additional £1 would go unnoticed by most concertgoers as tickets for these huge shows usually have high prices to begin with.

However, critics have claimed that the tax could further price out those on lower incomes because these concerts are already expensive and come with additional fees.

Tickets for Taylor Swift‘s upcoming ‘Eras Tour’ dates at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, for example, cost £109.40 for general standing access. The top-tier VIP package is priced at £661.40.

Mark Davyd, chief executive of MVT, told The Times that they were “actively advocating” the proposed ticket levy in Scotland.

“The most successful events in our industry have a duty and responsibility to contribute to the costs of developing and nurturing talent,” he explained.

“A levy on each ticket would be an effective mechanism to achieve that outcome.”

Davyd continued: “Right now, a disproportionately high number of venues in Scotland are in our crisis service receiving support.”

Music Venue Trust

Back in October, Ticketmaster announced a new plan to allow its customers to contribute directly to the MVT. Fans could donate to the organisation via a charity upsell option on the website for one month, beginning on Venues Day 2023 (October 17).

Independent ticketing company Skiddle also began donating 50p from every ticket sold towards saving grassroots music venues recently. Additionally, the firm pledged to match all funds raised through the levy – effectively doubling each contribution.

Elsewhere, The Piece Hall in Halifax launched an MVT donation scheme while Taxi app FREENOW pledged to give £1 from every journey in an effort to save grassroots music venues.

Back in January, a report from the MVT indicated that grassroots venues in the UK were “going over a cliff” – shutting off the pipeline of future talent without urgent government action and investment from large arenas.

NME then reported in September that the UK was set to lose 10 per cent of its grassroots gig spaces in 2023. It came as calls grew for the “major leagues” of the music industry and larger venues to do more to pay into the ecosystem and save them.

In October, the MVT repeated the call for arenas to invest back into grassroots venues to prevent them from facing “disaster”.

“We’re kind of past the point at which we needed to see action, because otherwise it’s just more kind words while venues are closing down,” said Davyd at the time.

That same month, the MVT bought the first venue under its public ownership scheme.

The #OwnOurVenues initiative was first announced in May, following the news that legendary live spaces like North London’s Nambucca and Sheffield’s Leadmill were closing their doors or under threat, respectively.

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