Live Music Exchange Blog

UK Live Music Census 2017 – update


As we announced back in November, the Live Music Exchange team are currently working on an exciting new project, the UK Live Music Census, the first exercise of its kind anywhere in the world to attempt to measure live music activity across an entire country.

Yesterday the University of Edinburgh published a press release about the Census and it has been very exciting to see the interest both from the media (BBC Online, BBC Radio Scotland – 2 hours 41 minutes in), Music Week, and CMU to name but a few), and also from live music lovers on social media via Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of people are signing up to volunteer and be kept up-to-date via a web form on the project’s website.

So why is the UK Live Music Census capturing people’s imaginations in this way?

As the BBC Radio Scotland piece highlights by speaking to live music fans at the University of Glasgow, live music is different to recorded music: live music is special, it is an experience, something people pay for rather than illegally downloading, and something they might remember for the rest of your life. And as Alex Mann from the Musicians’ Union (MU) explains, ‘Live performance is the one aspect of being a musician that you can’t replicate’.

The Census aims to capture qualitative data such as this, but to enrich it with quantitative data as well, something that the smaller end of the music industry spectrum in particular – the open mic gigs, folk sessions, and grassroots music venues – has previously been lacking. As Beverley Whitrick from the Music Venue Trust (MVT) explains in the same piece:-

“Data is really important to us because what we are doing is making a change from the sort of anecdotal evidence that we’ve used in the past and really trying to bolster our conversations with government, local authorities, and also with funding bodies, and with the music industry about the need for support for these venues.”

And, according to UK Music’s Tom Kiehl:-

“It’ll give us a greater understanding about what is going on in the cities and regions which are being covered by the Census, and I think it’ll be really important to have the findings so we can pinpoint areas where we can probably work with individual cities and councils, perhaps to develop music strategies and music city vision statements.”

As well as our partners, the MU, MVT and UK Music, we have also been in consultation with stakeholders like Attitude Is Everything, Julie’s Bicycle, Help Musicians UK, Making Music,  PRS for Music and the PRS for Music Foundation and are currently working on the wording of the final surveys, which will open on 9th March.

We want to understand why audience members value live music – why they go, what they spend, and how often they attend. For musicians, we want to know how often they perform, what they earn and what they spend, how far do they travel to perform, and which venues are important to them and why. And for venues and promoters, what do they earn and what they spend, what are the barriers and pathways to success, and how do they perceive the social and cultural value of what they do.

The Census will consist of:-

(1) snapshot censuses on Thursday 9 March 2017 of Birmingham, Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, Oxford and Southampton;

(2) nationwide online surveys targeted at musicians, venues, promoters, and audiences which will remain open for three months from 9 March to 8 May 2017.

With this data, we hope to be able to understand better why live music continues to be a vital part of people’s lives, and so help to protect it in the future.

To sign up to be kept informed about the Census and to get directly involved, please go to

Please note that this is a forum for discussion, dialogue, and debate, and posts and comments on this blog represent only the author, not Live Music Exchange as a whole, or any other hosting or associated institutions.


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