The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 16th February 2006 - Live music survey: integrity or reliability?

Licensing minister James Purnell has written to some MPs within the last few weeks claiming that the recent Market Research Society (MRS) enquiry 'upheld the integrity' of the DCMS/MORI live music survey.

However, the Market Research Society wrote yesterday to one musician specifically concerning this latest ministerial claim: 'MRS has no view on the statistical reliability of the MORI/DCMS survey.'

You will recall that last October MRS ruled that the original 1.7m live gig claim made by DCMS was misleading, and revised this estimate for 'bars, clubs and restaurants' down to 1.3m gigs a year. This called into question the use of the word 'flourishing' by the then licensing minister, Richard Caborn; a claim that was made specifically on the basis of the 1.7m estimate. Indeed, it is a claim which DCMS still makes.

Shortly after the MRS ruling, it emerged that on 21 October 2005 DCMS had covertly and retrospectively altered the disputed minister's quote in the original live music press release. The change made it look as if no misleading claim had ever been made; the altered document was passed off as the original. Two months later, on 22 December 2005, following a Parliamentary question, DCMS finally added a rider to the press release admitting that changes had been made. But the rider does not explain the significance of the changes, and curiously there is no sign of the downard revision by MRS of 1.3m live gigs for 'bars, clubs and restaurants'. 


If the original live music survey had integrity, you would expect it to be statistically reliable. Since the MRS has 'no view' on the survey's statistical reliability it looks as if, once again, Purnell is seriously misleading MPs and the public by implying that MRS endorsed the survey.

Hamish Birchall