By Rachael Morris, Music Editor
While music fans sing their hearts out to their favourite musicians and mud splatters up their wellies, they could be unwittingly boosting the economy of the whole nation.
Across the UK, roughly 9.5 million people travelled to music events in 2014, an increase of 34% since the previous year which only saw 7.1 million music tourists, according to UK Music’s 2015 report Wish You Were Here. The report claims that the total direct and indirect spend of music tourists in 2014 boosted the British economy by approximately £3.1bn, compared to just £2.5bn in 2011. This resulted in an average spend of £751 per music tourist going directly into UK businesses.
British musicians’ global popularity and significant contribution to international music could be considered one key factor in the increase of music tourists in Britain. One in seven of all artist albums sold worldwide in 2014 were by British artists, according to the 2015 Measuring Music report. A study from VisitBritain also found that 44% of tourists believed music was one of Britain’s key cultural activities.
Editor at the Creative Industries, Carlos Grande, said: “The UK has an unrivalled reputation for putting on a huge range of music festivals that combine top acts, great locations and accessible atmosphere. The Glastonbury, Reading and Isle of Wight festivals are reported by the international mainstream media, but there are also a vast number of smaller specialist events catering to all genres of music. And one advantage of being a relatively small island – compared to the US, for instance – is that you can get round several events relatively easily in one trip.”
Music tourism not only affects British economy fiscally, but also impacts on the job market. The Wish You Were Here report states that approximately 38,200 full time jobs were sustained by music tourism in the UK in 2014, a 56% increase from the 24,500 jobs which were sustained just two years earlier in 2012.
Richard Walsh from the Scottish government’s tourism team said: “The expectations are for further growth – although there is no way we can accurately predict the market share Scotland will secure in the future. As music is a truly universal language, we can see the potential for engagement with the 1.1 billion international tourist arrivals that took place in 2014 – plus the 1.8 billion by 2030 forecast in UNWTO ‘Tourism Towards 2030’ report.”
In addition to live music events and festivals, music heritage tourism plays a vital role. A relatively mundane pedestrian crossing in central London is now grade II listed and attracts over 300,000 tourists annually solely because it features on a Beatles album cover. Liverpool is considered one of the forerunners of music heritage tourism in Britain for successfully capitalising on their historical connection to the Beatles.
James Murtagh-Hopkins, director of communications at UK Music, explains: “Our Imagine report 2014 showed the massive value historical music tourism can bring to a city like Liverpool if it is properly nurtured, and throughout the UK there are many cities and towns where this could be encouraged and nurtured.”
UK Music’s Imagine report predicts music heritage tourism could add approximately £4bn annually to British economy if it is developed nationally to the same degree as in Liverpool. The organisation Music Heritage UK is currently developing an online popular music map of destinations of historical note for music enthusiasts.
James Ketchell, chief executive and founder of Music Heritage UK, said: “This could feed into greater activity ‘on the ground’ led by local groups and councils (for example, plaques, museums or exhibitions). All of this would encourage more tourists to visit our shores and explore the places which make up the stories behind their favourite acts and songs. By bringing together music tourism (visiting the UK to attend a gig or festival) and music heritage tourism, a compelling tourist offering based around music can be made to fans from around the globe.”
Both music festivals and music heritage tourism can prove fruitful in motivating Britain-wide travel by promoting tourism in relatively unknown and under-visited areas. The three day Looe Music Festival in Cornwall was developed as part of a 10- year plan to rejuvenate Looe’s tourism. The festival was awarded bronze for Tourism Event of the Year at the Cornwall Tourism Awards after statistics from the event showed an estimated consumer spend of £2.4 million this year alone.
Despite this, London remains the centre of music tourism in Britain with over 3.3 million music tourists visiting the city in 2014 to attend a concert or festival, according to the ‘Wish You Were Here’ report. However, cities can also prove fertile ground for capitalising on the economic benefits of music. As it stands, the only UNESCO accredited music city in Britain is Glasgow. The growth of music tourism in other British cities, such as London, could help to develop them into music cities too, and further reap the associated economic benefits of music. The ‘Mastering of a Music City’ report published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and Music Canada in 2015 demonstrates how cities worldwide can take simple steps to develop their music economies and capitalise on music’s potential to build, grow and strengthen their cities. This report listed music tourism as one of the key strategies for the development and maintenance of a music city.
Music tourism — through live events, festivals and music heritage — currently provides an unexpected origin for, but nonetheless substantial boost to, the national economy. The expansion of music heritage tourism and development of music cities, if harnessed, appear to be ripe territories for furthering the already significant economic gains music tourism provides for Britain.