British Live Market Grows to Generate $5.1 Billion

A view from the Emirates Airline of the 02 Arena at sunset with Canary Wharf and the London skyline in the background.
Matt Cheetham/Loop/Getty Images

A view from the Emirates Airline of the 02 Arena at sunset with Canary Wharf and the London skyline in the background.

Britain's booming live market shows no signs of slowing, with over 30 million people attending concerts and festivals in 2016, up 12 percent on the previous year, according to new research from umbrella organization UK Music.

The increase in ticket sales meant that music fans generated £4 billion ($5.1 billion) to the U.K. economy, up 11 percent on 2015's figure of £3.7 billion. The weakened value of the pound to the dollar does, however, mean that when converted into U.S. currency this year's total value is slightly lower than the $5.2 billion generated in 2015. 

Box office receipts climbed 19 percent to £656 million ($844 million), while direct spend, which includes tickets, transport and accommodation, was up 9 percent year-on-year to total £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion).

Of those 30.9 million people who attended a live music event in 2016, 27 million went to concerts (up 13 percent on 2015) with the remaining 3.9 million braving the U.K's unpredictable weather to attend festivals (up 6 percent).

UK Music deemed 11.6 million ticket buyers as 'domestic music tourists,' which the London-based organization defines as British citizens who have traveled at least three times the average commuting distance in the region in which the event took place. 

The number of overseas music tourists (anyone who booked a ticket to attend a British gig or festival from outside the U.K.) climbed 7 percent year-on-year to total 823,000, although the study did highlight that a smaller number of international music fans are attending gigs in small or fringe concert venues, with overseas audience numbers in venues of below 1,500-capacity falling 21 percent.

Grassroots venues are also seeing ticket buyers spend less once they are through the door, with direct spending down 13 percent year-on-year. Nevertheless, the number of people full time employment as a result of music tourism rose 22 percent to over 47,000, according to the study carried out by Oxford Economics on behalf of UK Music.

"Live music in the U.K. is a tremendous success story and makes a massive contribution to our culture and general wellbeing, as well as our economy," said UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher, citing music's "incredible power" to heal, following the May 22 Manchester Arena bomb attack that killed 22 people, many of them children, and injured hundreds more.

Striking a note of caution for the future, Dugher also issued a warning over the pressures that many smaller music venues -- "a vital part of the live music industry" -- continue to face, as well as the uncertainty that Brexit brings, putting that success at risk.

"We will be pressing the government to make sure the impact of Brexit does not damage our export trade or make it harder for U.K. artists to tour abroad and for overseas acts to come here," vowed the chief executive. 

Those words were echoed by Live Nation UK and Ireland COO Paul Latham in the study's foreword.   

"There are undoubted challenges ahead -- whether that's the threat to local venues through planning, licensing or tax issues, or the wider uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its impact on our sector," said Latham.

"The key to our continued success that we celebrate in this report will be rising to those challenges and standing up for the millions of people who love what we do," he stated, adding, "Be bold, be creative, be happy, be the very best we can be."


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