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LIVE study highlights ‘battle for next generation’

LIVE chief economist Chris Carey speaks to IQ about the gig-going trends identified in the organisation's latest report

By James Hanley on 14 Jun 2023

Chris Carey

Chris Carey

The pandemic’s impact on young people’s concert-going habits has been made clear by the latest study by UK live music industry umbrella group LIVE.

LIVE’s Deep dive into consumer trends Q2 report is based on a nationally representative survey carried out by insight agency Opinium, which collected 2,000 responses in November 2022 and a further 2,000 responses in April this year.

While the previous report highlighted how a section of customers had got out of the habit of attending gigs and others were attending less frequently due to financial pressures, the 2023 findings are more positive.

Among the headline findings are that 16% of respondents are now attending fewer events overall, compared to 22% five months earlier. Ticket-buying attitudes also appear to be softening, with 27% (a 4% decrease) of participants saying tickets are too expensive, 19% (-3%) saying everything feels expensive post pandemic, 18% (-4%) saying they have less disposable income to spend on tickets and 15% (-4%) saying they were trying to reduce their spending to only essentials.

However, concerns remain around nurturing young fans, denied the opportunity to develop a gig-going habit by lockdown. LIVE chief economist Chris Carey tells IQ the findings highlight the “battle for the next generation of lifelong music fans”.

“The world has changed in terms of convenience – people expect things to be available last minute and don’t plan as far ahead”

“Because they never got the habit, they’re going to less events overall,” says Carey. “We can make sure we’re promoting the right stuff for them and putting on things that are cost-effective.”

The 18-24 and 25-34 age groups also retained the biggest concerns around Covid, indicating they were put off buying tickets because they were worried they would get ill and be unable to attend the show.

“It’s a bigger barrier for them than for the older groups,” says Carey. “Gigs were banned for health reasons. [To them], gigs were dangerous, other people were dangerous. And I think we’re still living with some of that.”

Elsewhere, the trend towards late sales looks set to continue as 18% of 18-24-year-olds and 16% of 25-34-year-olds said they buy tickets later because they were confident tickets would still be available.

“People feeling confident they’re going to be able to attend regardless is an odd dynamic for the live music industry,” says Carey. “The world has changed in terms of convenience; people expect things to be available last minute and don’t plan as far ahead. But I also think that dynamic of, ‘tickets will still be available’, had never been true before, and now it has become true sometimes.

“It’s quite a risky dynamic for us and is something we’ve got to manage quite carefully – particularly given that selling tickets out early helps with cashflow and getting the next shows on. If people are waiting, it has a dramatic impact on the business overall.”

“Younger fans are more likely to not show because of the expense of the whole night”

No-shows have also persisted post pandemic, according to the study, with only 62% of people definitely using tickets. A key point for Carey is that 6% say they did not attend because of the expense of the whole night.

“That is hugely problematic for us and partly drives people towards having one giant night out, rather than four or five nights out,” he says. “It also raises questions about the middle market and how much support they’re getting. Is there a risk that the middle market becomes prohibitively expensive, not because of the ticket price, but because of the cost of everything around it?

“And is there an opportunity there? Can we bundle food and drinks with tickets to get people in the room spending at our venues and help soften the blow of the cost of that whole night? Or getting the money upfront so they get two beers on arrival? Or 20% off a burger once you’re in the venue? That’s something we possibly could be doing.”

He adds: “Younger fans are more likely to not show because of the expense of the whole night. If we jump back five years, you would expect 18-24, 25-34 to be your core audience. But at the moment they’re the ones with the core challenges and that’s something we should be very aware of.”

Turning his attention the next edition of the report, Carey, whose FastForward conference returns to London with an expanded two-day programme from 19-20 September, has a number of objectives in mind.

“I would hope to see that the Covid concerns continue to soften and the attitude to ticket buying improving slightly, and that enough people have got back to their first event since Covid by that time,” he says. “You have to experience it to remember just how good it is and I hope, after this summer, we will have many more people who have experienced it again and have renewed excitement for it. And that will boost us and bolster us.”


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