Them’s the breaks – could tax breaks help the independent music sector?

Last Friday, as part of our Joining the Dots programme, we turned our thoughts to tax and the independent music sector – and more specifically whether or not tax breaks might benefit musicians, promoters and producers working in independent music. For our – highly sparky –  hubchat, which came in the same week as the government announced its response to the recent Orchestra Tax Break Consultation, I was joined by Mark Davyd from the Music Venue Trust, top cultural sector legal eagle Sean Egan, and Inner City Music CEO (and member of folk reggae outfit Edward 11) Gavin Sharp. As with all good debates, there were highly vocal moments of absolute agreement… and disagreement, and LOTS of food for thought.

Our just shy of 50 minute hubchat broke down into four main sections: an intro to tax breaks; whether or not tax breaks are a potential ‘golden egg’ for independent music; what other financial measures might help us more, and finally, what one ‘killer industry issue’ our panellists would like the next government to tackle. We’ve given you some timings here so that, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, you can head for the discussions that are most useful for you…

02.12: Head for here if you’d like to hear Sean Egan’s really great introduction to tax breaks. It lasts around 2 minutes, and explains what tax breaks do and don’t cover, as well as giving a bit of historical context.

05.54: Sean again, this time explaining why the new Orchestra Tax Break Scheme (that should become legislation in the next parliament) is actually a misnomer, and could benefit any ensemble with 12 or more players, who want to tour.

09.00: Pick up the debate here if you’d like to know what our panellists think about how useful tax breaks could be for venues, artists, promoters and producers working in independent music. In this 10 minute segment you’ll hear views about if tax breaks might help venues, producers and bands with tour-related costs, how venues are perceived in the cultural ‘ecology’ and not recognised as R&D incubators for the rest of the music sector, and some of the difficulties government might face in developing a further music industry tax break.

19.32: And this is where to head for if you want a walk through some alternative financial measures that our panellists and others in the music sector think could be more effective than tax breaks. This 20 minute segments ranges across a whole load of possible initiatives… Sean talked us through some already in existence, but not well known in the music sector, initiatives: The Enterprise Investment Scheme, Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Social Investment Tax Relief. And in the crystal ball we looked for reductions in business rates and PRS tarriffs, a relaxation of licensing requirements, VAT exemptions… and a scenario where other parts of the music sector were required to reinvest in the small scale venues that nurture artists at the start of their careers. What comes through perhaps most strongly though is how much we need the cultural value that music venues have to be properly recognised – by us ourselves (it’s easy to forget or dismiss it as ‘just what we do’), by funders and by local and central government. Why, as Mark Davyd said, do music venues get consigned to the same ‘box’ as licensed premises rather than art galleries.

39.25: Finally, with the election just six weeks away, we asked our panellists what one ‘killer music industry’ issue they’d like to see the next government introduce. So, head for here if you want to find out the answers we got.


And there’s even more useful content from some other people who know about this stuff….

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve talked the tax breaks issue through with a number of people who have some informed views on the matter. These clips are, without exception, are definitely worth a few mins of your time…

First up, here’s Horace Trubridge from the Musicians’ Union on whether tax breaks could be part of the answer, and what other financial measures he thinks we should be looking at in independent music….

Meanwhile, Mark Pemberton from the Association of British Orchestras, could not have been more helpful, in terms of explaining the historical context for tax breaks, what they are there to do and how the government thinks about them, and some potential ‘banana skins’ that might trip us up if we’re not careful….

Julian Bird from UK Theatre was also really helpful in explaining how tax breaks work in the theatre sector, and some of the thinking behind the proposed orchestra tax break scheme. …

And finally, Mike Weatherley MP, took time out to explain why and how we in the music sector should engage with our local MPs and government more widely, how to operate in those Westminster corridors of power….


If you’d found this blog interesting and are interested in new thinking about the independent music sector, then do join our Community of the Curious and Generous to stay up to date with other content we make, check us out on youtube or head to our site for lots more examples of thought-provoking content.