UK Report: Live Music Attracted 14.4M Tourists In 2022

Tourists walk past the Music Wall of Fame in Mathew Street, Liverpool, a city that’s getting a boost from its most famous sons, The Beatles. The city has two museums dedicated to the band and countless restaurants, bars plus souvenir shops paying homage, all generating large sums for the local economy. Beatles-related tourism is worth about £120 million ($152 million) per year and supports some 2,500 jobs, according to local government data. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

A new report released by trade body UK Music contains a few key figures, including one that shows how many national and international tourists attended live music events in 2022, and how much they spent on them.

The report, dubbed “Here, There and Everywhere,” finds that the total number of music tourists attending live music events across the UK in 2022 was 14.4 million. Of those tourists, 1.1 million came from abroad, while 13.3 came from the UK.

A domestic tourist, according to UK Music’s methodology, is defined as someone traveling from within the UK to see live music events if they travelled more than three times an average commute.

UK Music estimates the overall concert and festival attendance in 2022 at 37.1 million (30.6 million at concerts, 6.5 million at festivals), which means music tourism accounts for 39% of overall concert and festival attendance.

The total music tourism spending in 2022 was £6.6 billion ($8.6 billion), according to the report, which includes both direct and indirect spending: ticket sales, food and beverage spend, merchandise, venue parking, camping fees, accommodation, travel,
and additional spending outside the venues while visiting the UK for a live music event.

Compared to 2016, the last times Pollstar reported on UK Music’s figures (those from 2015), the increase is significant. Back in 2015, 27.7 million people attended live music events in the UK, of which 38%, or 10.5 million, were tourists, who generated £3.7 billion direct and indirect spend. The numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, as UK Music has changed its methodology in recent years, Pollstar was told, which didn’t change the fact that the numbers were definitely up on before.

Employment from music tourism hit 56,000 in 2022, “highlighting the key contribution the sector adds to the workforce,” the report states. “The numbers,” UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin writes, “show in certain terms what we all felt in 2022: the excitement for live music to come back for the first full year since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That didn’t change the fact, however, that the country’s (live) music infrastructure was still facing huge challenges. The reports cites Music Venue Trust data indicating that, in 2023, one UK grassroots music venue was forced to close every week on average, as well as Association of Independent Festivals data indicating that one in six festivals was not returning post-pandemic. “It’s vital that we protect the musical infrastructure that does so much for our towns and cities,” Njoku-Goodwin commented. The infrastructure is also a prerequisite for the UK’s long and rich legacy of musical talent, without whom none of the above-mentioned events would attract as many visitors.

Looking ahead, the report therefore concludes, “Increasing costs, supply chain issues, and lingering losses caused by COVID-19 are likely to make things tough for artists, venues, festivals and studios for the foreseeable future. It is clear that continuous attention and proactive strategies are needed to maintain and enhance the appeal of music tourism in the UK. As the industry evolves over the next decade, it is crucial for local authorities and regional leaders to collaborate and innovate.”

To help them do that, UK Music collaborated with the non-profit organization Center for Music Ecosystems, which conducts research and publishes findings on how music can be a catalyst for social change and community support. They came up with the so-called Music Powerhouse Toolkit, which comprises four core lessons for local governments, split into policy areas.

A reports like “Here, There and Everywhere” relies on a lot of estimations, and assumptions, of course. The exact methodology can be found on UK Music’s website. The lack of a single source for festivals meant “that gathering data for festivals with capacity below 1,500 was not feasible.” It was assumed that festivals with a capacity greater than 30,000 sold-out, while all other events in the report’s scope (1,500 to 29,999) are assumed to have had an attendance of 90% of the venue’s capacity.

The flow of foreign and domestic tourists to these events was estimated using “a large sample of ticket data sourced from a variety of agents. Included in the data were details on the number of tickets purchased, the value of the transaction, the first
half of the customer postcode and details on the name of the event and venue,” as is stated in the report’s methodology. All of this needs to be taken into account, as does the fact that exchange rates may have changed since press time.

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