Live Music Contents


1.In 2017, 29.1 million people attended concerts and festivals in the UK, a c.17% increase on the previous year.1 Moreover, the live music industry generated almost £1 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) for the UK economy and employed more than 28,000 people.2 The UK is home to festivals with six-figure attendances, such as Glastonbury; networks of smaller venues in cities such as Glasgow and Sheffield; and the record-breaking artist behind 2018’s highest-grossing tour—Ed Sheeran.3 However, the industry faces challenges that could undermine those levels of success in the future. They include ongoing controversy surrounding ticket resale platforms; music venue closures; the uncertainty of Britain’s future relationship with the EU; and threats to the talent pipeline caused by changes to music education and funding for musicians. It was in this context that we launched our inquiry into the economic, cultural and social benefits of live music in January 2018.

2.‘Live music’ encompasses many different genres, performance spaces and audiences. At points our inquiry has focused on specific parts of the sector, such as the challenges facing unsubsidised, small and medium-scale venues that predominantly host contemporary music; however, other aspects of the inquiry, such as the importance of music education or the potential impact of Brexit on musicians’ ability to tour, apply across the industry and could be as relevant to a solo singer-songwriter as they are to a symphony orchestra.

3.This inquiry has built on our predecessor Committees’ work into ‘Ticket Abuse’ in 2016–17, which was unfinished owing to the 2017 general election, and ‘Ticket Touting’ in 2007. It also followed our inquiry into the ‘Impact of Brexit on UK creative industries, tourism and the Single Digital Market’, which we concluded in January 2018. This inquiry sought to examine what had changed since the earlier inquiries, as well as taking a more holistic look at the live music sector.

4.We received more than 80 submissions of written evidence, almost two-thirds of which addressed the subject of ticket abuse, and took oral evidence from artists, promoters, venue operators and industry bodies all of whom encounter these issues in their work. We supplemented that evidence with visits to the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Opera House, where we heard about the challenges of running internationally renowned venues. During the inquiry we visited the Sunderland Empire theatre and the city’s Music, Arts and Culture Quarter, where we heard about plans for a new performance hub. We thank all those who contributed to the inquiry for sharing their expertise and dedication with us.

5.We also considered the oral evidence given to the unfinished inquiry into ‘Ticket Abuse’. In November 2016 and March 2017, our predecessor Committee heard from about the scale of the problem associated with ticket touting and secondary selling. We thank all those who gave evidence to that inquiry for clearly communicating the detrimental impact of the secondary ticketing market on consumers, artists and the industry. We would also like to thank our parliamentary colleagues, Sharon Hodgson MP, Nigel Adams MP, and the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse for their longstanding campaigning on this important issue.

6.Given the centrality of the secondary ticket market to our inquiry and previous work, we were frustrated that viagogo yet again proved unwilling to engage meaningfully with Parliament.4 Having refused to give oral evidence to the 2016–17 inquiry, viagogo then withdrew at short notice from our September 2018 evidence session. The company cited ongoing legal action as its reason not to appear; however, we advised that this did not invoke the House’s sub judice resolution as the case was not before the courts at that time, and therefore there was no barrier to a representative of the company giving oral evidence. We believe that the company’s repeated refusals to answer our questions demonstrates its disdain to not only the legislative process but, more importantly, its customers—many of whom wrote to us expressing anger at the business practices they had experienced, as we will explore in more detail in Chapter 2.


2 UK Music, Measuring Music 2018, (1 November 2018), p 8–9

4 This report uses viagogo’s own lowercase formatting for references to the company’s name, except when quoting directly from evidence or campaign groups that have styled the word differently.

Published: 19 March 2019