crowd of people cheering at a music gig, focussed on one guy in hat smiling with hand in air

The Economic Impact of Live Music: Industry Rundown for 2022

Gabby Zgrajewski
Gabby Zgrajewski

Despite the large hit to live music during the Covid pandemic, PwC has predicted that the UK’s live music scene will return to its pre-covid revenues by 2025 in their 2021-2025 Global Entertainment & Media Outlook.

Now that the music industry is finally seeing the other side of the pandemic and slowly recovering from the effects of continuous lockdowns, how is the industry really recovering? Before delving into the aftermath and recovery of live music across the UK, let’s have a look at a recap of 2019 statistics compared to 2021 and the great impact that the live music industry has on the economy and livelihood of UK citizens.

In 2019, the live music industry boomed with £5.8 Billion in revenue landing at an 11% increase from 2018. In the UK Music report This Is Music 2021,  the industry’s revenue then declined dramatically, estimated at 90% during the pandemic, as live music shut down, music export declined, and live music employees lost their jobs due to the decrease in work.

So what is so important about music?

The importance of music for UK citizens shows in the UK Music This Is Music 2021 report, as 75% of adults say they are proud of Britain’s rich music industry and heritage. Listed high in importance, ahead of other industries like sport, banking and construction, the love of the music industry is held in high regard. This is reflective in the UK economy, as music is seen as more important than cars, insurance and legal services.

Flowing into everyday life, the report also states that almost 5 million create and perform music currently. In addition to this, an estimated 1 million took up music as a hobby during the pandemic lockdown.

Published in 2017, the UK Live Music Census stated that live music contributed £1 billion GVA to the economy. In 2016, a total of 30.9 million people attended live music events (18.4 million locals and 12.5 million ‘music tourists’ from abroad) generating £4 billion in direct and indirect spending. This also fueled and sustained 47,445 jobs of music industry professionals.

The impact of Covid for venues and consumers

According to Music Venue Trust (MVT), as of August 2021, 86% of Grassroots music venues have opened and offered live music. With a survey size of 221 small live venues, it is reported that 67.5% of venues ticket sales have dropped dramatically compared to pre-COVID.

As for punters, of 1891 people surveyed, 82.1% had attended or planned on attending a live music event in the UK. Only 38% of 18-24 year olds advised that they were looking forward to attending live music, whilst 45% of those surveyed were worried about the financial viability of their local venues due to covid.

91.3% of punters advised that they chose to take additional precaution to protect themselves from COVID when attending live music, whether that is double vaccination or extra testing. From this sample size, only 8.9% wanted mandatory certification of health status to be addressed prior to entering a venue.

A lot has changed during Covid, including how we consume music

So far, it is predicted that 2022 will be the biggest year for live music as things are starting to open up. Although there may be a big boom  for live music, the issues will be in regards to finding staff to uphold these events as many professionals have strayed to other careers..

As employment fell from 197,000 in 2019 to 128,000, as an industry that is predominantly filled with self-employed professionals, these people were hit the hardest.. Not only did live music employees see the decrease in work, but recorded music employees also suffered a similar drop in work.

During the lockdown, despite live music going down in revenue, recorded music and streaming revenue saw a dramatic increase, making it quite prevalent that music is an important factor in the lives of many UK citizens.

The This is Music report also concluded that streaming revenues increased to £737 million in 2020, compared to £638 million in 2019 becoming the most popular method of music consumption. Vinyl also became quite popular for physical consumption, with the market creating £87 million in revenue.

What’s trending?

There has been a notable rise in genres that are more accessible during a time of social distancing. Ticket Source released a study in late 2021 providing statistics of genres of live music events that have increased and decreased within the UK.

As of 2021, genres that typically honour a more socially distant experience became more favourable compared to genres that are more physically engaging. Retro became 75% more popular followed by acoustic (70%) and cover-band (52%). Meanwhile, rock (-53%), funk (-67%) and hip-hop (-86%) sat amongst the drastically declined genres hosted at live venues.

These genre trends can be attributed to the live experience as acoustic and cover-bands are typically sit-down shows or shows that do not have a high-energy dancing environment, compared to other genres.

However, ticket prices also play into this as the average ticket price of a rock show went from £15.89 in 2019 to £28.78 in 2021. Whilst a retro show (£14.06 average in 2019 to £16.14 average in 2021) or acoustic performance (£9.57 average to £10.30 average) can be a more affordable option due to the financial hit and slow recovery of the pandemic.

Surging in no-shows, both large acts and local acts have been affected as there has been an estimated collective 40% increase of ticket-holders not attending live music. This is prevalent in newly scheduled and rescheduled shows, as punters are less engaged with attendance.

Grassroots debt & the government

So far, grassroots venues are still suffering from a collective debt of £90 million according to NME. The article advises that thanks to public support and donations, the Music Venues Trust campaign #SaveOurVenues has helped the majority of over 500 venues facing closure.

The public pressure on the government to help venues has also contributed to helping grassroots venues stay open by the Cultural Recovery Fund. The total fund for the Emergency Grassroots Music Venue fund released in 2020 was £2.25 million, later upgraded to £3.36 million in order to help grassroots live music venues across the UK.

Accelerated funding was also provided by the Arts Council England, providing grants of up to £80,000 in order to help the venues that were financially struggling and at risk of closing their doors for good. This support was to ensure that ongoing costs including rent and utilities were paid.

The support from MVT and their push to locals to support venues continue today, ensuring to help local music venues by providing a paid membership model named Music Venues Alliance. This allowed more well-off venues to pay more in membership while providing support to struggling venues. Focusing on creating structures appropriate for grassroots venues is also at the top of their priorities list to ensure venues stay afloat while in recovery

How does the UK music industry compare to the global market?

As the global industry continues to grow, the UK music industry sits in third place as one of the biggest markets in the world behind the US and Japan.

While popularity continues to grow for UK artists, 80% of all streaming of British artists come from outside of the UK according to British Phonographic Industry’s All Around the World report. As the live music industry struggled through the pandemic, streaming services boosted and helped keep artists and their teams afloat due to the increase in recorded music revenue.

Continuing to be the largest music exporter globally, the efforts of the UK music industry are widely recognised as it’s maintained its position in a very competitive market. This is due to the growth of physical formats, syncing, and performance rights to name a few of the many aspects of the industry.

The boost in physical sales has helped the independent market or record stores and specialist chains with interest peaking in vinyl. Despite supply issues, 23% of all albums were purchased on vinyl.

Although there is still a long road to recovery for the UK music industry, things can only get better. As the music industry is still growing rapidly and taking place in the top three of the global industry, there is hope and opportunity to rebuild post-pandemic. With continuous support from the government, initiatives such as MVT and punters alike, the industry can only grow stronger than it once was.


Joining the next generation of venues taking local music to the forefront of the U.K. entertainment scene? Check out our Complete Live Music Rundown for Venues to help you get started. 


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