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‘Clear and present danger’: UK Music boss says live biz ‘cannot be complacent’ despite buoyant market figures

In a Pro Sound News Europe exclusive, UK Music chief executive and former Labour MP Michael Dugher has warned that the live music sector “cannot be complacent”, after the trade body yesterday issued a new report claiming that audiences at live music events have increased by 76% since 2011 and were up year-on-year in 2016 by 12%.

The Wish You Were Here report, which details the vast contribution that the live music sector offers the UK economy, suggests that large scale concerts and festivals are in rude health, with audiences increasing significantly each year over the past five years. However, the figures paint a rather bleaker picture for small gigs and venues, with attendances from overseas visitors to venues of 1,500 capacity and below sliding 22%. And with Brexit on the horizon, there is, says Dugher, lots of work to be done in order to ensure the buoyant state of the doesn’t suffer.

“The most important thing is there must be no room for complacency,” Dugher told PSNE. “UK Music will continue to work with all parts of the industry and the Government to try to ensure that live music in the UK keeps on growing. That means working with the Government to put the music industry at the heart of its industrial strategy. That also involves working with local authorities, the elected mayors and devolved governments.

“One of the big challenges we must resolve is the clear and present danger facing many smaller venues that are struggling to survive. That’s why we need urgent action now on a range of issues from business rates, to licensing laws and planning rules – the introduction of a statutory “agent of change” that means planners must take into account existing music venues when considering new developments.”

As for Brexit, Dugher insists the industry must be ready for anything.

“We cannot yet know how big a threat Brexit poses to the UK’s music industry,” he continued. “But there is always a risk from the unknown and we must not allow the great success story of live music and the music business in the UK to be put at risk.

“We will be pressing the Government to make sure that the music industry’s buoyant export trade is not threatened and we look forward to working with them on any fresh opportunities that any future trade deals may bring. We will also campaigning hard to make sure that Brexit does not make it harder for UK artists to tour abroad or make it more difficult for overseas acts to come here.”

You can read more on UK Music’s Wish You Were Here report here.