skip to main content

Bristol Live Music Census 2015

Live music generated £123 million for the local Bristol economy in 2015, but many venues are under threat.

Published: 07 March 2016 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:28 PM

Live music generated £123 million for the local Bristol economy in 2015, according to a new report. However, 50% of venues said they were threatened by development, noise or planning issues.

Concerns about the future of live music venues across the UK prompted Buckinghamshire New University and UK Music, of which the MU is a part, to research the impact of live music in Bristol, a city known for its vibrant and influential live music scene.

Most worryingly, the census revealed that 50% of the city’s music venues were affected by development, noise or planning issues, which poses a huge threat to the future of this vibrant ecosystem.

UK Music and the Musicians’ Union have campaigned heavily for an Agent of Change principle to included in planning laws. Agent of Change would prevent new developments sweeping our vital music infrastructure and incubating hubs for new talent out of existence.

Key report findings include:

  • Live music generated £123m of revenue for the Bristol economy last year (2015), equating £45m in GVA (Gross Value Added).
  • Live music supported 927 FTE jobs in Bristol in 2015.
  • 41% of the audience interviewed said that they attended 3 or more live music gigs per month.
  • 32% of the audience spent between £20 and £50 on tickets per month, and the audience spent an average £18 on merchandise inside the venue (on the night).
  • Nearly a quarter of the audience - 24% - come from outside of the Bristol area and travelled over 10 miles to a music event in Bristol.
  • 72% of musicians surveyed said they were playing more live gigs than the previous year.

Dave Webster, MU National Organiser for Live Performance, said: “We welcome this report but are concerned that 50% of grassroots venues in Bristol alone feel under threat of planning, development and noise issues. This represents further evidence of the need for the Agent of Change principle to be adopted across the UK.”

Jo Dipple, Chief Executive of UK Music said, “Government statistics revealed that the creative industries contributed £ to the UK economy in 2014. It takes considerable research to fully understand the contribution British music makes to this figure. Our project with Bucks New University delves for the first time into a local music ecosystem, Bristol. It reveals what we might all assume, that Bristol supports a sizeable music economy. For more than 40 years, Bristol has been home to some of the most influential and culturally relevant British musicians including Massive Attack, Robert Wyatt, Tricky, The Pop Group and two Mercury Music Prize winners in Portishead and Roni Size. Bristol’s vibrant grassroots live music scene has been a bedrock of a rich musical lineage. Our research, however, also shows that 50% of Bristol venues are threatened by development and planning issues. Given the contribution to the wider economy, it has never been more important to address such issues critical to grassroots music. The success of Bristol’s music scene is a barometer for the wider creative economy. We hope that the Bristol census conducted by Bucks New University will help form a blueprint for future studies of music cities and towns throughout the UK.”

Thangam Debbonaire MP for Bristol West said, “I’m a great fan of Bristol’s thriving music scene and it’s fantastic we have a great track record for nurturing home-grown talent. This report highlights the important contribution our music industry makes to the local economy. But it also shows how an increasing number of long-standing venues are under threat; and I’m committed to ensuring they can continue to operate in our changing city.”

Kerry McCarthy MP for Bristol East said, “As this report shows, the live music scene is a crucial part of Bristol cultural life, and makes a valuable economic contribution too. As someone who can quite often be seen at the smaller music venues in the city, I welcome the emphasis on those venues as incubators for musical talent. I am also pleased the report highlights the ‘Agent of Change’ campaign, which I have been campaigning on, with venues like the Fleece and the Exchange, for some time. There is an urgent need for new housing in Bristol, but we cannot allow new developments to destroy the venues that make our city centre such a vibrant place to live, work and play.”

This research is the first collaborative project to be published through the Music Academic Partnership, which was set up by UK Music to create a framework through which academic partner institutions could directly access music industry data and contacts, in order to help provide further research and analysis that will benefit the sector.

Continue reading