Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University
Lecturer in Contemporary and Popular Music at the University of Newcastle
Postdoctoral Researcher at Birmingham City University
This paper explores, through a local lens and a focus on Birmingham, the challenges stakeholders across the live music sector have faced in recent years.
In 2019, the UK’s live music sector was valued at over £1.3 billion. After almost a decade of strong growth the sector helped push the UK music’s overall GVA from £3.5 billion in 2012 to £5.8 billion in 2019, the outbreak of the global pandemic brought it to a near standstill.
There are a number of issues to consider in the broader process of recovering from the pandemic shutdown. Live music remains heavily impacted by the developing situation around Brexit, where further reciprocal engagement to facilitate touring will be productive. There is also a need for consideration of the long-term effects of national policies around matters like planning on local, small-scale cultural operators (grassroots venues and others).
Measures to tackle Covid-19 also obviously affected venues in Birmingham, as elsewhere. The main argument here focuses on recognising the importance of the live music ecosystem to the broader night-time economy, and the value of communication channels between musical stakeholders, local authorities and regional – as well as national – policymakers. The role of existing music representative bodies, and the emergence of new ones, was an important factor in the necessary work of trying to align top-down approaches, like the disbursement of national funds, and grassroots initiatives.
The authors conclude that a healthy live music ecology needs policymakers to take account of factors like planning and development, the spread of venues in different neighbourhoods – as well as within the city as a whole – and the effect of national policy on local provision. This points towards an important role for representative music bodies and emerging regional music boards in establishing impact assessments and serving as a forum for the development of a strategic approach that considers the musical economy in local, regional and national policies.