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UK live music attendance hits all-time high

The findings form part of music industry umbrella organisation UK Music’s latest This is Music report for 2023

By James Hanley on 07 Nov 2023

Wembley Stadium hosted a record 16 concerts in 2022

UK live music attendance reached an all-time high in 2022, with 37 million people generating ticket revenue, ancillary spending at venues and merchandise sales.

Stadium tours by acts such as Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga are credited alongside the return of Glastonbury and the expansion of BST Hyde Park from seven shows to nine.

The findings form part of the 2023 edition of British music industry umbrella organisation UK Music’s annual This is Music report, which puts UK music export revenue for last year at £4 billion – a figure boosted by the return of international touring.

“2022 was packed with live shows, including rescheduled dates from 2020 and 2021 in addition to newly announced shows for 2022,” states the report. “Demand for stadiums was so high, venue operators, promoters, and agents had to be flexible with routing – in some cases, sourcing alternatives.

“Wembley Stadium hosted a record 16 concerts in 2022, up from 14 concerts in 2019.”

“Costs for promoters and artists have soared over the past two years owing to inflation, extremely high energy prices, and supply chain costs”

Furthermore, the report reveals that the UK music industry contributed £6.7 billion to the UK economy in 2022 in gross value added (GVA), while total employment in the business was 210,000. But despite some positive headline figures, the organisation notes that the overall landscape is not entirely rosy, with the Music Managers Forum (MMF) reporting that its members saw cost increases of 35% last year.

“Costs for promoters and artists have soared over the past two years owing to inflation, extremely high energy prices, and supply chain costs, some of which were influenced by Brexit,” it says.

“Rising costs squeezed margins for promoters and artists, especially for those shows scheduled in 2020 and 2021 because ticket prices and fees were already set and could not be amended. Even where tickets were on sale for the first time in 2022, promoters and artists were limited in the extent to which they could increase prices.”

It continues: “In many instances, promoters and artists looked to cut costs, but this had a knock-on impact on others within the music ecosystem. For example, in some cases, artists and their managers have had to make tough decisions about the size of their road crews, the number of touring musicians performing with an artists’ live band, and so on.

“It is also the case that some artists have had fewer invitations to perform as promoters reduce the number of acts on the bill or look for cheaper alternatives.”

“The added burden of the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills has further exacerbated the problem for small venues”

The report also underlines the threat facing grassroots music venues and independent music festivals, with the Music Venue Trust reporting that venue closures of 66 in the last 12 months are at an all-time high.

“Many venues have struggled to recover from the pandemic, but the added burden of the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills has further exacerbated the problem for small venues,” it adds. “Rising costs are also a problem for festivals, according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), with costs up 30%, but ticket prices have only risen by 12-15%. This increases the risk for festival promoters, and one in six independent
festivals did not survive the pandemic.

“A decline in the number of tours at that level and the number of dates per tour has significantly added to these challenges, especially for small venues. Artists are not touring in the way that they used to. Rather than going from town to town, the focus has swung increasingly towards bigger cities where demand is felt to be more reliable.”

UK Music interim CEO Tom Kiehl says the music business requires additional government assistance to continue to compete on a global level.

“The UK music industry and its exports have grown beyond doubt to hit new heights, which is fantastic news in terms of our sector’s contribution to jobs and the economy,” he says. “However, the competition for international markets is intensifying rapidly. The UK’s competitors are increasingly well funded and can often count on far more support from their governments.

“South Korea, Australia and Canada have invested heavily in music and cultural export offices to help grow their overseas markets. The UK has several successful export schemes, such as the Music Export Growth Scheme and the International Showcase Fund.

“However, we need far more support – otherwise we risk the UK being left behind in the global music race and that would be a bitter blow for music industry and a missed opportunity to grow our export market.”


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