The Great British Live Music Census

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art

Abstract

Live music is popular across the UK, and has become increasingly important to the music industries, overtaking recording revenues in 2008. Yet recent years have been difficult for venues. These challenges are felt particularly keenly by the smaller venues, clubs and pubs which provide for local musicians and audiences, and which serve as the training ground for future headline acts.

There is widespread interest in the live music sector, and there have been numerous reports assessing its value produced by industry organisations, policy bodies and the third sector. Nevertheless, there is still a knowledge gap about the specific relationship between the value of live music on the one hand and current challenges facing venues across the UK on the other.

Accounts of live music activity vary according to where they have been produced and according to which type of policy, industry or academic research has provided them. For instance, reports by The Scottish Household Survey, City of Edinburgh Council, Department of Media Culture and Sport, as well as those that industry bodies have commissioned, use both different definitions and parameters for what counts as live music activity. They often conflate live music with other performance activities (like theatre) or musical sources of revenue (like recording or publishing). This variation can make it difficult to make meaningful comparisons across cities, and between different types of music. It also means that the full range of settings in which live music takes place is not always properly captured by work which has a specific industry or policy focus.

Our project will address these issues directly. The Great British Live Music Census will be a collaboration between music industry organisations, policy bodies and leading academic live music researchers. Working with key personnel in the live music sector, and building on the project team's pilot study of a census of live music in Edinburgh, we will provide the first account of live music in the UK that covers the full range of venues and that includes all types of musical activity - from amateur to top-flight professional.

In conjunction with industry personnel and policymakers, our team will develop a toolkit for conducting a snapshot census of live music in three cities (Glasgow, Newcastle and Oxford) and share it with other institutions so that they can conduct parallel snapshots across the country.

With project partners UK Music, the Musicians' Union and the Music Venue Trust, we will also survey musicians, venues and audience members nationwide to provide the most comprehensive dataset yet of live music in the country.

Our prior research shows that different local government responses to cultural activity and venue licensing can have a profound effect on live music provision, but also that it is difficult for policymakers to make informed decisions given the variety of different definitions and parameters used in the available evidence.

By bringing together industry bodies, policymakers and academics to formulate the questions and promote the surveys, this project will assist researchers, policymakers and industry alike, providing consensus on an academically rigorous methodology and subsequent dataset for assessing the scope and value of live music in the UK. This will be a large step forward for all concerned in working to safeguard and develop the cultural and economic wellbeing of this most valuable component of local character in cities and localities across the country.

Planned Impact

The census will build on the unique connections that the research team has forged within the music industries. It has been purposely designed to facilitate knowledge exchange with the music industries, local authorities and the general public. The main targets for impact are:

LIVE MUSIC VENUES
Music venues are key cultural hubs across the UK providing entertainment, places to meet and sites for cultural exchange and business transactions. This is especially true of smaller venues which, our prior research and media commentators suggest, are vulnerable parts of the live music ecology. Few venues take time to consider the implications of their activities as cultural centres and the census will allow them to review their status here. It provides a chance for venue operators to further understand their place within the broader live music industry and to reconsider their business practices. The presence of the Music Venue Trust on our Advisory Group offers an ideal prospect for dissemination to these key, but hitherto disparate, stakeholders.

CITIES ACROSS THE UK
The census will bring clear benefits to the three primary cities in which it takes place, enabling local music businesses and policymakers to gauge the health of their live music ecology and to design strategies to support live music provision. The cities could potentially build our findings into their marketing and tourism strategies. We we will work with local agencies to forward this. Such impacts will be echoed by the parallel exercises conducted by MAP institutions using the toolkit produced by the project team.

LOCAL POLICYMAKERS
Live music is a source of potential problems (e.g. noise) and benefits (e.g. cultural diversity, economic impact) for policymakers who are often caught between competing interests, like those of residents and businesses. Our work can help decision-makers by providing a wealth of information about different practices and localities. We will consult with the representatives on our Advisory Group from the City of Edinburgh Council and Greater London Authority about dissemination.

MUSICIANS
Musicians will benefit from increased knowledge of the local and wider live music ecology. The Edinburgh census has already raised awareness of key issues and contributed to a situation where musicians are engaging with debates about the city's live music ecology. Members of our team sat on working groups with representatives from the city council's licensing and culture divisions and from the city's musicians and music industries. The pilot study informed these forums, was included in reporting by the City of Edinburgh Council and has been fed into wider discussions regarding the council's updating of its cultural policy. This research offers the opportunity to snowball this impact further.

MUSIC POLICYMAKERS
We will disseminate findings to the main music industry lobbying groups for both the UK and for Scotland (UK Music, the Scottish Music Industry Association). UK Music personnel will be on the Advisory Group. We will engage with other key bodies such as the Scottish Cultural Evidence Network, Creative Scotland, Arts Councils of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities and the Local Government Association. Again, having the Musicians' Union on the Advisory Group, with its excellent links across the music and wider creative industries, offers obvious potential for impact.

THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Live music is now an economically dominant part of the UK's music industries. This success has been built on audiences and the fate of the UK's live music ecology often attracts media attention. This research could therefore reach beyond specialist audiences to a wider public. We will work with communications teams at participant universities to access media outlets like the BBC (which covered the Edinburgh report) and use the project website to elicit and analyse further comments from the public.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/N008936/1 01/09/2016 16/07/2018 £187,483
AH/N008936/2 Transfer AH/N008936/1 17/07/2018 16/09/2018 £9,375
 
Description LIVE MUSIC HAS SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC VALUE
• In Glasgow, the estimated total annual spend on live music is £78.8 million, equating to an equivalent estimated GVA of £36.5 million and an estimated 2,450 FTE jobs;

• In Newcastle-Gateshead, the estimated total annual spend on live music is £43.6 million, equating to an equivalent estimated GVA of £19.9 million and an estimated 1,620 FTE jobs;

• In Oxford, the estimated total annual spend on live music is £10.5 million, equating to an equivalent estimated GVA of £4.8 million and an estimated 350 FTE jobs;

• The census provides further evidence that people now appear to spend more money on live music than recorded music. Nearly half (47%) of respondents to the audience survey spend £20 on tickets for concerts/festivals each month while only a quarter (25%) spend the same on recorded music. 36% of respondents aged 18-34 years old spend more than £20 on tickets for gigs/clubs/small venues each month, while only 20% spend the same on recorded music;

• On average, nearly half (49%) of professional musicians' annual income comes from performing live compared to only 3% from recording.

LIVE MUSIC HAS SIGNIFICANT SOCIAL AND CULTURAL VALUE
• Live music enhances social bonding, is mood-enhancing, provides health and well-being benefits, is inspiring, and forms part of people's identity;

• 18% of all respondents to the musician survey moved to their current permanent place of residence specifically for more music opportunities. For professional musicians this figure rises to nearly a third (31%);

• Two-thirds (66%) of respondents to the venue survey and nearly half (48%) of respondents to the promoter survey said that they do (unspecified) charity work, while well over half (57%) of those venues and half (50%) of those promoters have informal links with educational communities such as universities and colleges.

THE SMALLER END OF THE LIVE MUSIC SECTOR IS A VITAL PART OF THE LIVE MUSIC ECOLOGY
• Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents to the online audience survey had visited small music venues (under 350 capacity) for live music in the past 12 months, and three-quarters (74%) had visited pubs and bars (for live music);

• Two-thirds (67%) of respondents to the musician survey had performed in small music venues over the past 12 months while nearly two-thirds (64%) had performed in pubs or bars. This is around double the next two venue types (small outdoor spaces at 38% and churches at 31%);

• Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents to the musician survey identifying as being in their formative years and those identifying as emerging musicians had performed in small music venues in the past 12 months, and over three-quarters (78%) had performed in bars or pubs.

BUT THE LIVE MUSIC SECTOR IS FACING CHALLENGES, PARTICULARLY AT THE SMALLER END
• Two out of every five (40%) participating small music venues and a third (33%) of all respondents to the venue survey said that increased business rates had an extreme, strong or moderate negative impact on their live music events in the past 12 months;

• One-third (33%) of small music venues and nearly one in five (22%) of all respondents to the venue survey said that planning and property development had a negative impact in the last 12 months;

• Nearly one-third (29%) of small music venues and 27% of all respondents to the venue survey said that noise-related complaints had a negative impact in the last 12 months;

• More than one in five (22%) of all respondents to the musician survey had gigs which have been negatively affected by noise-related complaints in the last 12 months;

• Nearly two out of every five (39%) respondents to the venue survey suggested that the increasingly competitive environment between venues and promoters had negatively impacted on their events in the past 12 months;

• Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents to the promoter survey said that venue closure had a negative impact on their events in the past 12 months;

• 68% of all respondents to the musician survey said that stagnating pay for musicians makes it difficult to bring in a viable income while this figure rises to 80% for those respondents identifying as professional musicians;

• Over half (54%) of respondents to the musician survey who identify as professional musicians have worked unpaid in the past 12 months;

• Two thirds (66%) of all respondents to the musician survey who worked unpaid for what the engager termed 'exposure' believe that the exposure did not benefit their career;

• One in five (20%) respondents to the venue survey are not open to under-18s or only open with some exceptions, suggesting that one in five venues are mostly inaccessible to the next generation of live music fans.
Exploitation Route These findings will be useful to a range of stakeholders including creative industries policymakers, music industries, concert promoters, music venues, musicians, and local, regional, and national government.
Sectors Creative Economy

URL http://uklivemusiccensus.org/
 
Description Our work on this project fed into a significant campaign to introduce the Agent of Change principle into Westminster and Scottish Government planning frameworks. Both objectives were achieved.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Title UK Live Music Census 2017 data for DataVault 
Description The dataset which was created for the UK Live Music Census 2017 and which consists of data from audiences, musicians, promoters and venues. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes