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UK live music at “record high” £1.1bn value

The live music sector contributed £1.1 billion (US$1.42bn/€1.28bn) to the British economy in 2018 – a 10% year-on-year increase – according to UK Music’s inaugural Music by Numbers report.

Music by Numbers 2019 – which builds on and replaces the umbrella body’s forerunner Measuring Music and Wish You Were Here reports – reveals the UK music industry continued to grow across every sector last year, with live once again leading the charge.

UK Music, which includes the UK Live Music Group, measures the health of Britain’s music business each year by collating data on its contribution in goods and services – known as gross value added (GVA) – to the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), including export revenue.

The findings of this year’s report include:

GVA from recorded music also rose, by 5% to £535m – remaining at around half the contribution of the live sector – while total record label revenues grew for the third consecutive year (3% in 2018).

“The figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”

Employment in live, meanwhile, increased 7% to 30,529.

“Our report reveals firm evidence that the British music industry is in great shape and continuing to lead the world,” comments UK Music CEO Michael Dugher. “The figures are hugely encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions of people, music makes an incredible contribution to the UK’s economy.

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad to our arenas and smaller venues alike.

“Music exports are another amazing success story, with the best of British creative talent being showcased across the globe. However, this is not a time for complacency. We face many challenges to ensure we keep our music industry vibrant, diverse and punching above its weight. 

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad”

“We need to do more to protect grassroots venues by helping them combat soaring business rates. We need to nurture the talent pipeline, including by reversing the decline of music in education, so that children from every background have access to music. 

“We need to make sure that creators get fair rewards for their content and are not ripped off by big tech. And we urgently need to ensure that the impact of Brexit doesn’t put in jeopardy the free movement of talent, just at the time when we should be looking outwards and backing the best of British talent right across the world.”

The UK live music industry first broke £1bn GVA in 2016, though the 2018 figure is around £100m higher, indicating continued growth.

Writing in the Music by Numbers 2019’s foreword, culture secretary Nicky Morgan pays tribute to emerging British acts including Sam Fender, Dave (pictured) and Little Simz, and says “the figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”.


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How streaming has changed the industry

In March this year, Ed Sheeran broke the UK singles chart top-20 record when, thanks to his streaming figures, his songs occupied 16 places in the list. It’s just one example of the dramatic way that streaming has changed the music industry.

At a time when sales of CDs and CD players were starting to decline, streaming suddenly emerged as the dominant way for people to consume their music. Record labels may have had to change what tracks they release, how they release them and how they market them, but in many cases streaming has kept them profitable. For some, like Warner Music Group, streaming has become the most important source of revenue. For others, it’s making them more money than ever before.

You might think that with the greater ease of access to music that streaming has brought about, that attendance at live events would be in decline. After all, attendance at cinemas is dwindling as people increasingly choose to watch films on their TVs, computers or smartphones. But in the case of live music, the opposite has happened. In fact, according to UK Music’s Wish You Were Here study, audience attendance at concerts and festivals in the UK is up to a record 30.9million annually. The live sector is one of the most vibrant and profitable parts of the music industry, and it is through ticket sales and merchandise that most musicians generate the majority of their revenue.

“Promoters understand the advantage they have over streaming services is that they offer not just music but an experience”

This may have something to do with the effect streaming has had on the profits of individual artists. Streaming has complicated the way they make money, and reduced the total amount they earn to the extent that some artists, such as Taylor Swift, have tried to boycott streaming altogether. Swift famously pulled her music off Spotify and refused to allow Apple to offer music from her latest album. It may have been a shrewd PR move (her eventual return to streaming was covered by every major newspaper and website) but it’s no secret that one of the challenges facing streaming services and record labels is appeasing and alleviating the fears of artists while still offering tracks cheaply to their customers.

It’s also to the credit of festival and concert organisers that they’ve thrived in the new musical environment. These organisers understand that the advantage they have over streaming services is that they offer not just music but an experience, and they’ve looked to improve all the elements that together make live music an experience, such as the stage design, the lighting and the pyrotechnics. At the same time, they’ve managed to keep the price of tickets at an affordable (though increasing) level. An all-day festival in the UK costs between £50 (€57) and £100 (€113); a single standing ticket to see Drake costs £110 (€125).

“Despite the improving health of the live music industry, for some festivals making a profit is no longer a given”

But can this model endure? With the proliferation of outdoor festivals comes the fact that the market is getting pretty saturated. There has been a sharp fall in the amount of money that is spent at smaller venues (those with a capacity below 1,500). In London, where costs are rising, licensing is strict and property developers wield a lot of power, these venues have declined in number by 35%.

With more and more festivals coming on stream, it is the artists who are benefiting most: they are now able to up their fees while different festivals compete to secure their presence. And despite the improving health of the live music industry on the whole, for some festivals, making a profit is no longer a given. One or two of the existing festivals are beginning to pull up stumps. This will be the last year of Secret Garden Party, for example, and there are rumours that other long established festivals might not appear next year.

As the figures show, live music has more than weathered the changes to the wider music industry. The live market has always been a valuable revenue generator for established artists, and this will always be the case. Nevertheless, the future may not look so bright for smaller festivals and small music venues. Their fate remains to be seen.


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“A tremendous success story”: UK audiences surge 12%

The number of people who attended a concert or music festival in the UK climbed 12% last year, reaching 30.9 million – almost half the country – and underscoring the “massive contribution” live music makes to Britain’s “culture and general wellbeing”, reveals UK Music’s latest Wish You Were Here study, released today.

Concertgoers generated £4 billion in combined direct and indirect spending in 2016 – an increase of 11% on the £3.7bn reported in 2015 – while the number of music tourists, both from the UK and abroad, rose even further: 20% compared to the previous year, to almost 12.5m. (The number of music tourists in the UK has increased 76% since 2011.)

The increase in concert tourism in 2016 had positive a knock-on effect on employment in the industry, sustaining 47,445 full-time jobs – a 22% increase on the 2015’s figure of 39,034. The growth in live music industry jobs tallies with recent government figures that showed employment in the creative industries has grown at three times faster than the UK average since 2011.

But it’s not all good news: UK Music’s figures illustrate the difficulties that grassroots venues continue to face, showing a 13% drop in direct spending at music venues with a capacity of under 1,500, and a 21% fall in the number of overseas visitors.

“Live music in the UK is a tremendous success story, and makes a massive contribution to our culture and general wellbeing”

Karen Bradley, Britain’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, comments: “UK Music’s Wish You Were Here report clearly shows music and the creative industries are not only central to our cultural DNA but also hugely important for creating jobs and growth across the country. It’s fantastic to see a record number of visitors to live events in the UK and the huge popularity of our artists overseas. Our musicians are cultural ambassadors for Britain and help us show the world that we are an optimistic and open country.”

“Music fans poured into a huge range of festivals [such as] Glastonbury, Latitude in Suffolk, The Great Escape in Brighton and Green Man in the Brecon Beacons,” adds newly elected UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher. “They also enjoyed seeing the best British new talent in smaller venues, which are a vital part of the live music industry. […]

“Live music in the UK is a tremendous success story and makes a massive contribution to our culture and general wellbeing, as well as our economy. It showcases our talent to the world and brings pleasure to millions every day.

“But this success is being put at risk. That’s why UK Music will continue to campaign to safeguard smaller music venues, many of which are fighting for survival, and will be pressing the government to make sure the impact of Brexit does not damage our export trade or make it harder for UK artists to tour abroad and for overseas acts to come here.”


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Encouraging music tourism

In November 2016, I hosted the world’s first Music Tourist Summit in Glasgow (the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music) aimed at fostering closer ties between the music and tourism industries and laying the foundations to develop a global network and consultancy.

The event began with a day of TED-style talks and workshops hosted in a brewery, followed by evening networking activities and a music tour the next morning involving visits to several key venues.

Speakers included representatives from Icelandair, ICS Festival Service’s Full Metal Cruise, an Oslo hotel with its own recording studio, a tour operator offering packages to an electronic music festival in Cuba, and an AC/DC tribute festival in the small Scottish town where Bon Scott lived before his family emigrated to Australia. Moreover, delegates also heard from industry organisation UK Music, whose most recent Wish You Were Here report estimates that live music tourism is worth £3.7 billion (€4.3bn) to the British economy.

By the end of the first day of the summit, 53% of survey respondents stated that they were ‘very likely’ (with a further 29% responding ‘likely’) to do business with the other sector – and that was before the whisky tasting got underway.

Given that these figures are based on delegates who had met only hours earlier, they indicate the huge potential of what could be achieved if music and tourism businesses work together in a concerted manner. Nevertheless, in far too many places throughout the world, the music and tourism industries still appear to operate in parallel universes. Many festival promoters appear resigned to the lack of engagement from destination marketing organisations (DMOs) and governments (local, regional and national), which often appear to feel more comfortable targeting segments such as food/drink, city breaks, walking/nature, golf, or MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions).

As a result, music tourists are not being encouraged to extend their stays, thereby depriving visitor attractions, restaurants, bars and accommodation providers of business. And in an age where travel decisions are increasingly made on the basis of recommendations, this means destinations are missing out on valuable word-of-mouth promotion.

“In far too many places throughout the world, the music and tourism industries still appear to operate in parallel universes”

Prior to launching Music Tourist, I spent several years highlighting the benefits of co-operation and have recently noticed encouraging signs that previously disinterested DMOs, governments, hoteliers and public bodies are slowly beginning to take notice. In part this is due to a growing awareness of initiatives in cities such as Austin, Nashville and Hamburg, but it also reflects the emergence of a new generation of individuals in both industries who are keen to seek out new opportunities.

Since 2011, the Wish You Were Here report (to which I contributed preliminary research) has served as an additional tool to get the attention of decision makers both in the UK and internationally. However, as it focuses only on people travelling for the purpose of attending a music event (as do most economic impact studies conducted by festivals) it fails to reveal the full potential. Visitors taking part in music retreats, residential workshops and music-based tours are currently excluded from the study, as are tourists travelling for other reasons but who may be keen to experience the local musical offerings. For venues, promoters, musicians and even record shops, the latter should be of most interest, as it is where many opportunities lie. Tourism research indicates a trend where people want to feel local (rather than like a tourist) and going to a gig is the perfect way to engage with the indigenous community.

Grassroots venues, in particular, can benefit from focusing marketing activity where it reaches visitors (eg accommodation providers, tourism information offices and travel websites). Moreover, the MICE market offers great potential as corporate clients seek out more original locations and experiences, which can involve hiring clubs for events and programming music activity.

Conversely, when hoteliers, as well as visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, castles and churches, are interested in working with music, they are often unsure of how to go about engaging with promoters, artists, agents and managers.

Music Tourist is a forum where they can all connect, and by working with partners to host summits around the world, it will seek to prioritise local requirements while simultaneously creating ties on an international level.

Since the inaugural event in November, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has announced that music will form a key element of its promotional strategy. Scotland’s visitor attractions are set to benefit from an influx of thousands of metal cruisers, and Cuban musicians will be hired to perform for German visitors. These early outcomes are encouraging and are the first steps in building a community around music tourism, where everyone can feel local.


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38% of UK concertgoers are music tourists

Over one in three attendees at live music events in Britain last year were music tourists – an increase of 16% on 2014.

A total of 10.4 million music tourists attended UK festivals and concerts in 2015, of which 767,000 were from overseas, reveals UK Music’s Wish You Were Here 2016 report, released today. Foreign concertgoers bought £38m worth of tickets and spent an average of £852 each (up 13% on 2014).

The report also revealed that music tourists spent a total of £3.7 billion in 2015, with 39,034 full-time jobs reliant on the sector.

It was also strong year for British live music in general, with 3.7m people attending a festival and 24m at least one concert (although last year’s WYWH report focused solely on music tourism, so there are no comparable data for the market as a whole).

“This is a fantastic achievement and a great testament to both our live music industry and the musical talent it supports”

“This is a fantastic achievement and a great testament to both our live music industry and the musical talent it supports,” says UK culture secretary John Whittingdale OBE, who penned the foreword to the report. “This is no surprise given British artists account for just over one in seven albums purchased by fans around the globe.”

The report also contains in-depth analyses of regional markets around the UK. In London there were 3.2m music tourists (of a total attendance of 8.4m) as the capital’s grassroots venues begin to rebound following years of decline.

A launch event for Wish You Were Here 2016 will take place at the House of Commons on Wednesday (15 June).


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