UK's first live music census warns of threats to small venues

UK's first live music census warns of threats to small venues

The UK’s first live music census has highlighted the threats facing the long-term future of the domestic grassroots circuit.

One in three of the small music venues surveyed said they had experienced problems with property developments, which can cause noise complaints from people living nearby. In addition, one third of the nearly 200 venues surveyed reported that increases in business rates were having a negative impact. 

The census was carried out in March 2017 by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Turku in Finland. Surveys were conducted in Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle-Gateshead, Oxford, and Southampton. 

“This survey is the largest of its kind in the UK," said Dr Matt Brennan, from the University Of Edinburgh’s Reid School Of Music. "We hope it can influence the valuable contribution live music makes to wider society and help support the protection of the live music ecology.”

Since the census was conducted, the Government has backed moves to enshrine the Agent Of Change principle in law, which promises to offer protection to venues, with developers having to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses before going ahead with their plans. 

The findings point towards a thriving grassroots scene: More than three quarters of people surveyed had visited small music venues - defined as those with a capacity of up to 350 people - during the past year, and 74% had visited pubs and bars for live music.

Findings show that the total spend of people at live music events contributes significant sums to local economies - £78.8 million annually in Glasgow, £43.3m in Newcastle-Gateshead and £10.5m in Oxford.

Nearly half of 4,400 people surveyed spend more than £20 on tickets for concerts or festivals each month. On secondary ticketing, just 0.4% of respondents said that they bought a ticket to a music event for the purpose of reselling it at a profit in the last 12 months. 

"The UK Live Music Census found that 44% of respondents to the audience online survey had to resell a ticket for a live music event in the past 12 months, i.e. purchased a ticket and then found they could not attend," stated the report. "Of those, 41% resold the ticket at face value and only 2% resold it for profit.

"In the last 12 months, only 0.4% of respondents to the audience survey said that they bought a music festival or concert ticket for the purpose of reselling it at a profit. While it is undeniable that demand exists for customers to be able to return unwanted tickets, the question then becomes: who is reselling the ticket and for what purpose? The census showed that it was an ongoing concern for significant numbers of respondents to the audience survey and that very few bought with the specific aim of selling on.

"With this in mind, we recommendthat the UK government continues to investigate secondary ticketing via the Competition And Markets Authority and that the Digital, Culture, Media And Sport Committee continue its investigations in this area.”

Dr Brennan said that festival and concert attendance continued to grow, adding: "This report not only shows the cultural and economic value of live music but also the challenges it faces."

Funded by the Arts And Humanities Research Council, the project's industry partners are the Musicians’ Union, Music Venue Trust and UK Music. Researchers believe that mapping current trends will help inform debates about the future of the live music industry, an area of increasing importance to policymakers – such as the recently announced Digital, Culture, Media Amd Sport Committee inquiry into live music.

Affiliate censuses were run in March 2017 by Brighton’s British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM), Leeds Beckett University and Southampton Solent University; LIPA/University of Liverpool ran its live music census in June last year.

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