Live music census carried out in UK strikes note of caution over future of venues


Director of Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS), Professor Martin Cloonan was part of a research group that carried out the world’s first live music census in the United Kingdom in March 2017. The results suggest that small live music venues are facing a number of threats that could affect their long-term future.

​​Researchers tracked performances in cities across the country – from pub gigs to massed choirs to arena concerts. The research combines data collected by an army of volunteers over a 24-hour period in March 2017 with data from nationwide online surveys. Surveys were carried out in Glasgow, Newcastle-Gateshead, Oxford, Brighton, Leeds, Southampton and Liverpool. 

Increasing business rates and property developments were reported as having a negative impact 

Announced on 16 February 2018, the results of the UK’s first live music census show that increasing tax rates and noise level restrictions are affecting smaller live music venues. 

One third of the nearly 200 music venues surveyed reported that increases in business rates were having a negative impact. One in three of the small live music venues surveyed had experienced problems with property development around the venue, which can lead to noise complaints from people who move in to new developments which are close to established venues. 

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. 

Live events were preferred over recorded mu​sic 

The study provides further evidence that people spend more money on live events than on recorded music. Nearly half of 4,400 people surveyed spend more than £20 on tickets for concerts or festivals each month. Only one quarter spend the same on recorded music. 

The census highlights the social and cultural value of venues – showing how they help people discover new music and become part of their life stories. 

Small music venues appeal to the consumers of live music 

The findings showed that many people attend events in smaller spaces. More than three quarters had visited small music venues – those with a capacity of up to 350 people – during the past 12 months and 74 per cent had visited pubs and bars for live music. 

Mapping trends inform the future of the live music industry 

The researchers say mapping current trends will help inform debates about the future of the live music industry. 

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

Academics from the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music coordinated the project in collaboration with Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies and the University of Turku’s Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS). 

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The industry partners are the Musicians’ Union, Music Venue Trust and UK Music. 

The final project report and executive summary can be downloaded at ​ 

News on the University of Edinburgh’s website: 

For further information, please contact:
Director, Professor Martin Cloonan, tel. +358 50 464 5411,

Created 19.02.2018 | Updated 19.02.2018