Building sustainable regional music industry clusters

11 January 2023

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Dr Allan Watson

Dr Allan Watson

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University

In 2019, the music industry contributed £5.8bn to the UK economy, of which £2.9bn were exports. The North of England, especially Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, has been a key region for the emergence of trends in popular music since the 1960s. They continue to be important to their regional economies but suffer from challenges in terms of access to global networks.

This report looks at the role the creative industries can play for the Levelling Up agenda, as well as the challenges the sector faces outside London and the greater South East. It focuses specifically on regional music industry clusters in UK cities outside the London ‘hub’, in this case in North West England and West Yorkshire.

It finds that, despite its past strengths, the music industry in North West England and Yorkshire is in a particularly precarious position. The local music economy in these places remains informal, based on local social networks and communities of practice. These local scenes are insular and less well connected than the main hub of the UK music industry in London.

As a result, localised networks of trust remain crucial for access to the sector. Even in an age of digital intermediation, geography matters.

This report suggests a number of programmes and policy initiatives that could solve some of these challenges. For example, the creation of regional music business mentorship schemes, a regional music industry business specific loan scheme, improving networking opportunities, the formation of a regional music export office and developing the regional music infrastructure, particularly live music venues.


Image by Old Youth on Unsplash