The UK Live Music Census

9 March, 2017

The UK Live Music Census is happening today (Thursday 9 March)

A volunteer army of music lovers has being recruited to take part in the UK’s first ever live music census, and BIMM’s Phil Nelson – Industry Liaison & Music Cities Ambassador – is coordinating the census in Brighton.

For 24 hours, Phil along with some BIMM student volunteers aim to track performances across Brighton – from lone buskers to massed choirs, pub gigs and musicals. The survey is a world first and will help measure live music’s cultural and economic value, discover what challenges the industry is facing, and inform policy to help it flourish.

There will be coordinated censuses in Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton and Brighton. Volunteers will be asked to record aspects of the gig, including the musical genre, the venue, door charge and audience demographic.

Phil Nelson said “Late last year we opened the Brighton Music Office, and we have been building a database of every single music business and job in the Brighton area. The Live Music Census is another valuable piece in that jigsaw. I knew the organisers of the census from my work with UK Music and was keen to get involved here in Brighton. From noon today, we will identify every gig, every concert, every DJ and every Open Mic night taking place in 24 hours. Some of the volunteers are BIMM Brighton students; they will be working alongside the census team who will be collecting the data.”

The census will gather information about why people attend gigs, which venues are considered important, how much people spend and how far they will travel. Organisers say that a major overhaul of commercial property rates revealed in Wednesday’s Budget could see a huge rise in costs and force many music venues to close.

Matt Brennan, of the University of Edinburgh – who is leading the project – explained how venues operating at the grassroots level are particularly vulnerable:

“Venues around the country have been telling us that they already operate on thin margins, so proposed increases in rate-able values of up to 55% in some cases will have a significant impact. The UK Live Music Census will be very important in identifying challenges that the industry faces, such as rising rates and other issues. It will give us a detailed picture of what exactly it means to be a venue owner, a musician and a live music lover in 2017.”

The census also aims to capture other issues including the diversity of musical genres, audience demographics, ticket prices, live music’s economic and cultural value and attitudes towards the reselling of tickets.

The project – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – comes two years after the project team ran a pilot live music census in Edinburgh to inform the city council’s decision to change its policies about noise levels to the benefit of performers.

Jo Dipple, chief executive of UK Music – one of the partners of the census – said:

“The findings for each of the six cities will inform academics, entrepreneurs and music fans alike. It will help organisations like UK Music to understand better the pressures on music businesses and venues so we can lobby for the most effective policies in each area.”

An online survey for musicians, venues, promoters and audiences is now open until May 8 at

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