The Live Music Forum

Letter to UK Statistics Authority


Here is our letter to the UK Statistics Authority asking that they investigate repeated use of inaccurate statistics by the Department of Culture.


Sir Michael Scholar, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA)

cc Roger Jowell, Vice Chair UKSA
Andrew Dilnot, Chair, Royal Statistical Society Statistics Users Forum
Richard Alldritt, Head of Assessment UKSA;
Richard Laux, Director Assessment Programme (UKSA);
Ross Young, Head of Communications (UKSA)

18th June 2010

Dear Sir Michael Scholar

We are very concerned that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport persists in making the misleading claim that 'overall live music is thriving' on the basis of wholly inadequate statistical evidence. The claim is made in the report 'Live music: An analysis of the Sector', also known as 'Changes in Live Music between 2005 and 2009'. The report was removed from the Department's website when the new government was elected, but has since been reinstated:

We strongly reject the opening DCMS statement that it collects 'a range of high quality data on live music'. It has not measured actual performances since 2007, and has no current data on the number of performances per year; it has no reliable data on the number of musicians for whom live performance is the main source of income, the extent of paid and unpaid activity by other musicians nor on numbers of performances in schools, hospitals, pubs, community halls or other venues whose primary purpose is other than as an entertainments venue.

Without such measures, taken over a significant period of time, it is in our view impossible to make any credible claim about the overall state of live music in the UK. We do not accept the DCMS argument that indirect measures of public attendance at performances, such as the self-reporting 'Taking Part' survey, tell anything meaningful about the overall state of live music and it tells us nothing about local variations. The DCMS cites the 'burden of form filling' as a reason for its failure to collect adequate data, but gives no indication that it has considered an approach based on sampling.

The DCMS view of live music has nonethless already exerted a powerful influence on organisations like the Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Both agencies suggested in their responses to the DCMS public consultation on a new entertainment licensing exemption, that as live music is thriving, on the basis of the DCMS position, there is no reason to create any such exemption.

We therefore call on the UK Statistics Authority as a matter of urgency to make a full and public assessment of the statistics on which the DCMS bases its claim.

Yours sincerely

Hamish Birchall, musician, live music campaigner
Phil Little, founder, Live Music Forum -
Professor Simon Frith, School of Arts, Culture and the Environment, University of Edinburgh
Professor Martin Cloonan, Convener of Postgraduate Studies, Department of Music, University of Glasgow
Professor Alison Macfarlane, healthcare statistician, Dept of Midwifery and Child Health, City University London
John King and Charlotte Collingwood, Welwyn Live Music Forum


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Welwyn Hatfield Live Music Forum Statistics Report - Webpage - Download