The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 19th February 2010 - More dodgy DCMS music stats

Questions have been raised in Parliament about the latest DCMS live music statistics: [search on page for 'Clement-Jones']

The questions came in response to a new DCMS report 'Changes in live music between 2005 and 2009' published on 28 January (link to PDF file 254kb):

The report's headline claim is that 'Overall live music is thriving'. Although it acknowledges a fall in attendance at smaller venues, entertainment licensing is ruled out as a contributory factor.

There are apparently three reasons for DCMS optimism: the number of live music licences has increased; more adults are going to gigs; and a large increase in the number of professional musicians.

But doubts are growing about these claims.

Live music licences:
The Licensing Act 2003, not to be confused with copyright licensing, came into force on 24 November 2005. It extended the scope of entertainment licensing, capturing large categories of event and venue that did not previously require authorisation for live music. This included performances by one or two musicians in bars, private concerts raising money for good causes, and performances on public land. It is therefore not surprising that the new regime generated more licence applications. The government has already conceded that it does not know what proportion of the claimed 10% rise in live music licences between 2007 and 2009 is accounted for by premises or events that would not have needed a licence under the old regime.

Increase in adults attending live gigs:
The report suggests that over the period in question, based on the DCMS 'Taking Part' survey, there has been an increase of about 3% of those attending at least one live music event a year (excluding classical performances). But their analysis does not seem to take into account the appearance in 2007 of the O2 and Wembley Stadium venues. The series of 21 concerts given by Prince in 2007, for example, was attended by over 400,000 people. In the same year, nearly 500,000 attended concerts at Wembley Stadium. The combined attendance at these two venues in one year alone account for more than half the DCMS estimate of 1.64 million more adults going to gigs between 2005 and 2009.

Number of professional musicians:
The report claims that: 'In professional live music, the Creative and Cultural Skills Council counted 42,800 employed in live music performance in 2006, and 50,780 in 2008, a near 20% increase in employment over 2 years.'

But this is simply wrong. John King, co-founder of the Welwyn and Hatfield Live Music Forum, explained why in a comment posted yesterday beneath Music Week coverage about Lord Clement-Jones' questions:

'... DCMS 'statisticians' cherry-picked their live music sector employment statistics from a statistically unreliable survey - 'Music Impact and Footprint' published by the Creative Skills Council. The 50,780 'professional live music musicians' are nothing of the sort, and include 41% part-time musicians and a further 30% employed in ancillary activities (e.g. sound engineers, roadies). But - fatally for the DCMS's argument that this is evidence of a 'thriving' live music sector - this 20% increase in professional employment (even if true) actually relates to the period 2004 to 2006. It appears that DCMS civil servants have misled their own ministers. '


Link to Creative & Cultural Skills Council research page (Links to their two reports under 'Sector', 'Music' 06-07 and 08-09):

The CCSC has confirmed that about 30% of the 'live performance' category within these reports represent people who are not musicians, but are in occupations associated with putting on live performance.


Hamish Birchall