Live music census strikes note of caution over future of venues in Liverpool

A new report, produced by a collaboration of national researchers, including three local universities, suggests small live music venues are facing a number of threats that could affect their long-term future.

Results of the UK’s first live music census announced today show that increasing tax rates and noise level restrictions are affecting smaller venues.

One third of the nearly 200 music venues surveyed nationally reported that increases in business rates were having a negative impact.

One in three of the small live music venues surveyed – which often give up-and-coming acts their first big break – have experienced problems with property development around the venue, which can cause noise complaints from people living nearby.


The UK Live Music Census took place between March and June 2017 in cities including Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle-Gateshead, Oxford, Brighton, Leeds, and Southampton. The results provide an evaluation of the current state of the live music industry.

During two 24 hour periods in that time volunteers collected data to assess different sectors of the live music industry in the city – from buskers to pub gigs and theatres. Additionally, a nationwide online survey was made available for musicians, venues, promoters, and audiences.

As part of the Liverpool census, conducted by the University of Liverpool in collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a total of 297 audience participants from varied age groups and of different musical tastes shared their experiences and practices of attending live music events in the city.

According to the results the city has a significant audience engaging in live music, with an average 48% of Census participants attending at least one live music event per month, and spending an average of £60 on an event.


However, venues unfortunately face threats from displacement, unfavourable area development and lack of investment, and struggle to see opportunities for growth and expansion. With 64% of the participating venues being bars, pubs and small music venues, these threats may potentially have a bigger impact on venues of this size. Measurements need to be taken to avoid risk of stagnation or decline of economic value in cultural areas.

This analysis reveals that the prospects of the Liverpool live music sector are inclined towards a position that calls for better cooperation between the public and private sectors to attempt economic value growth. Additionally, further qualitative findings draw attention to smaller venues struggling to expand with increasing tensions related to public investment shortage, and residential development that constrains the development of cultural areas in the city.

The Liverpool report can be found here and the full UK wide report can be found here.


Mat Flynn, Department of Music, University of Liverpool, said: “Hopefully the report will help realise the value of live music and its need to be supported, as well as motivate further research to continue gathering more data that will drive well-informed decisions in the future.

“Liverpool has potential to remain and grow as a prosperous city for live music, but this research suggests it needs contributions, better coordination from public and private sectors, and bigger initiatives to help it flourish.”

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