The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Monday 27th February 2006 - DCMS publish gig estimates - a new error - DJs

Under pressure from the Statistics Commission, DCMS has finally published a breakdown of the 1.7m estimate for live gigs in venues in England and Wales 'whose main business is not live music'.

In a footnote, the Department also reveals a new error. The original estimate of 58,000 as the total number of pubs in the MORI live music survey should be 53,000. The original figure was almost 10% too high. The gig estimate for pubs should fall by about the same proportion. DCMS avoids this calculation, however, on the basis that the overall figure 'remains in the order of 1.7m'.

Here then are the latest gig estimates, which DCMS rounded to the nearest 1,000. The pub estimate is mine, taking into account the new 53,000 sample size. The DCMS estimate relating to the incorrect 58,000 pub sample is in square brackets.

Pubs/Inns: 578,000 [unadjusted DCMS estimate 647,000] Hotels: 197,000 Restaurants:126,000 Small clubs: 58,000 Clubs & Associations: 468,000 Student Unions: 16,000 Church & Community Halls: 248,000

Estimated total = 1.7m approx


Click on 'Letter 293' which follows the heading '23 Feb 06 - DCMS/MORI Live Music Survey - response to Hamish Birchall'. The letter is a PDF file for which you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.  NB: DCMS do not mention that the gig averages in their table are rounded to the nearest whole number, nor do they mention that the majority of pubs, hotels, small clubs and restaurants had no live music at all. 53% of all venues in the survey reported no live music. We do not know the proportion of pub gigs that were 'two in a bar'. Originally, the 'two in a bar rule' and its effect on gigs was a high priority at DCMS. MORI's original Technical Proposal to DCMS in 2004 stated: 'One key issue... will be the investigation of the effect of the two-in-a-bar rule on the musical offering'. Curiously, this 'key issue' was barely discussed in the survey report, published by DCMS on 08 October 2004.

DJs vs live music - an evolving definition

Did ambiguous definition of live music in the DCMS/MORI survey lead to the inclusion of DJs as live music? DCMS refused to publish a note on the above document to this effect, despite the fact that last December DCMS statisticians admitted that interviewees may have been confused by the live music definition.

The argument that 'there is no robust evidence on this one way or the other' is weak, and somewhat misleading. DCMS should publicly acknowledge their own agreement that the live music definition may have been confusing, and then quantify the possible error. If they cannot quantify it, they should also say so publicly.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the preparation of the survey the definition of live music was problematic. An email from MORI to DCMS dated 23 April 2004 includes this action point:

'Provide a succinct definition of 'live music' for the purpose of the interview'.

On 24 May 2004, MORI sent DCMS the first draft of the survey questionnaire. The opening question was simple:

'Q1. Have you staged any live music in your venue in the last 12 months?'

But for reasons that are not yet clear, this wasn't satisfactory. Various consultations were held with DCMS and the Live Music Forum. On 09 June a third draft appeared, with this new definition:

'Q1. Has there been any live music played or performed in your venue over the course of the past 12 months? By live music we mean [Live Music = Music performed in public by at least one person in real time] '

But this was to change again. The final draft, produced by MORI on 15 June 2004, read:

'Q1. Has there been any live music played or performed in your venue over the course of the past 12 months? By live music we mean music performed in public by at least one person in real time, that is, not pre-recorded?'

It would seem that DCMS or the LMF, or both, intended that combinations of live performer with recorded music were to be counted as live music. Whether a 'performer' could be a DJ or not is unclear. However, the fact that the Musicians' Union has for some time accepted scratch DJs as members may be a clue.

Hamish Birchall