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‘Live music is going to get bigger, for longer’

Economist Will Page has offered a stirring forecast for the live industry following his latest report on the global music copyright business

By James Hanley on 08 Dec 2023

Will Page

image © Anjelica Bette Fellini

Former Spotify and PRS for Music economist Will Page has offered a stirring forecast for the live music business after revealing the global value of music copyright topped $40 billion (€37bn) for the first time last year.

Page calculated the all-encompassing figure of £41.5bn – up 14% on 2021 – as part of an annual report published on his Pivotal Economics platform. His research involves consolidating three sources of industry analysis – the IFPI’s Global Music Report, CISAC’s Global Collections Report, and Music & Copyright’s analysis of music publishing.

Royalties from live and public performance rose 69.9% to €2.7bn in 2022, prompting CISAC president and ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus to declare that live music has “surged back”.

“The CISAC network is once again throbbing with concerts, exhibitions and festivals, and the royalties they generate to help creators make a livelihood,” he said.

The CISAC report noted, however, that the sector fell short of a full recovery – remaining 7.9% below its pre-pandemic level as local events and smaller venues struggled to match the recovery in international tours and big festivals. Just this week the Music Venue Trust said it was lobbying the UK government for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for live music events above 5,000 capacity after grassroots venue Moles in Bath was forced to shut down this week, while organisers of independent festival Nozstock The Hidden Valley have announced its 2024 edition, set for 18-21 July, will be its last.

Page previously reported that UK music fans spent £2.1 billion (€2.4bn) on gig tickets last year, with UK stadiums and festivals now making up half of all box office spend, compared to 40% in 2019 and just 23% in 2012.

“Live music prices in experiences that can’t be purchased anywhere else”

“If we step back from the detail, I think it’s fair to say part of the bounce back is the bottlenecks of the pandemic unravelling and part is this new phenomena of stadiums and festivals increasing frequency, ticket prices and demand,” he tells IQ.

“Live music is going to get bigger, for longer. Rolling all this back up to the $41.5bn figure, which is just copyright (i.e. not the gross but the declarations to the PROs), and it’s striking to see that performing rights income exceeded that for labels’ digital income.”

Though Page acknowledges that concerts have “bounced back beyond anyone’s expectations” from the pandemic, he is confident the level of growth is sustainable.

“It’s very sustainable, because the promoters have learned that the experience economy is a ‘merit good’ – increasing the quality of the experience increases the perceived value which allows prices to rise and demand to rise with it,” he says. “Be it investment in huge ‘jumbotron’ screens or small LED bracelets, these are all producing memories that make people want more. Sure, I’ve seen Coldplay perform in the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town in the 90s, but seeing 80,000 yellow bracelets light up in Wembley was worth every penny, and I want to do it again. Live music prices in experiences that can’t be purchased anywhere else.”

Page admits to being surprised at the sheer scale of the increase since he started crunching the numbers in 2015, when copyright revenues stood at just $24.37bn.

“It speaks volumes for our industry that we’re no longer the ‘sick cousin’ of all the media verticals,” he says. Now, what happens when we add on top the gross box office – which is not copyright – to this number? If I do some rough maths in my head, are we looking at a business that’s worth $75bn? If so, that moves us to eye level with the streamers like Netflix et al. That’s what I want IQ readers to take away from this work – to stand up a little taller when discussing the industry we all work in.”


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