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Booming British Live Market Grows to Generate $5.2 Billion

Ed Sheeran gives television audiences a front row seat to his sold out summer headlining shows at London’s Wembley Stadium in a one-hour NBC special, titled “Ed Sheeran - Live at Wembley Stadium,” airing Sunday, August 16
Christie Goodwin

Ed Sheeran gives television audiences a front row seat to his sold out summer headlining shows at London’s Wembley Stadium in a one-hour NBC special, titled “Ed Sheeran - Live at Wembley Stadium,” airing Sunday, August 16, 2015.

Close to 30 million people attended live music events in the United Kingdom last year, contributing £3.7 billion ($5.2 billion) to the local economy, according to new figures from umbrella trade organization UK Music.

The third and most comprehenisve edition of its "Wish You Were Here" report, which specifically measures the economic impact of foreign and domestic music tourism, reveals that in 2015 a total audience of 27.7 million people bought tickets or attended a concert or festival in the U.K.

That figure includes over 10 million ‘music tourists,’ which UK Music defines as someone who has traveled at least three times the average commuting distance in the Government Office Region (GOR) in which the event took place. This category of domestic fans accounted for 38 percent of the country’s live audience, while the number of overseas music tourists (anyone who booked a ticket to attend a British gig or festival from outside the U.K.) climbed 16 percent year-on-year to total 767,000.

International visitors are also spending more when they are in the U.K. with their average spend totalling £852 ($1,200) -- up 13 percent year-on-year.

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The study additionally found that 3.7 million people attended a festival last year and that more music fans are attending gigs in their local area, with 17.3 million people sticking to nearby venues -- a 14 percent increase on 2014’s figure.

In London, the live music audience totalled 8.4 million -- 3 million of which had travelled from outside the U.K. capital to attend a show -- and generated just under £1 billion in revenue ($1.4 billion), supporting 7,500 jobs.

Following a succession of high profile small capacity venue closures throughout the U.K., including The 12 Bar Club in London, Roadhouse in Manchester, Cockpit in Leeds and Princess Charlotte in Leicester, the "Wish You Were Here" report looked into audience numbers at grassroots venues with a capacity of under 1,500 for the first time. It found that 5.6 million people bought tickets for shows in small concert halls, providing a vital lifeline for upcoming artists, promoters and venue operators, generating around £230 million ($325 million).

As a consequence of the booming live business, there is now close to 40,000 people in full time jobs in the United Kingdom. As a result, direct spend (which includes tickets, transport and accommodation) from music tourists totaled £2.3 billion ($3.3 billion) -- up from £1.9 billion ($2.7 billion) the previous year.

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Meanwhile, box office receipts in 2015 totaled £549 million ($778 million), says the report, which was compiled by Oxford Economics on behalf of UK Music.

"The appetite for live music continues to grow," said UK Music chief executive Jo Dipple. "What this report shows, unequivocally, is the economic value of live music to communities, cities and regions."

"The future of British music is dependent on emerging talent, both in performance and business," added UK Music chairman Andy Heath.

"Securing our future depends on the creation of optimum conditions to support young people to become musicians, songwriters, creative technicians and one of the 39,034 jobs in this report. This report must focus policy makers on creating the right conditions for the future of an industry that astounds, entertains and attracts the world," he went on to say.


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