FEATURE: Live Music! A Homonym We Should Take to Heart



Live Music!


ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash 

A Homonym We Should Take to Heart


A recent Facebook post from a talented musician…


raised questions as to whether live music is still a divisive issue. Later today; I will look at sexualisation and a side of music we, luckily, are seeing less of. The post in question came about when an older – or middle-aged – gentlemen turned his nose up at the mere suggestion of paying a tenner to see a great duo play. The insinuation was, I assume, he should be getting it for free – why would he bother shelling out all that money for something he could see on the Internet?! The trouble is this: live performances are part of an artist’s life and, as they are giving you something quality and passionate; you should pay for the pleasure. Fortunately, the duo in question killed the gig and silenced the nagging and obnoxious dubious. (I am not surprised hearing people balk against paying for music). We have come to a point in life where everyone expects something for nothing. I am of the opposite assumption: there should be a cost involved with every piece of music we listen to. That might seem harsh but, considering musicians work hard and have little money to show for it – isn’t it only right we compensate them for their time?! Those who feel live music should be a costless right need to realise the realities of music...


Paying ten quid to see a duo tear up the place and playing a blinding set is hardly anything! People pay six or seven times that to see a bigger act somewhere less atmospheric and connected than a small venue. Those artists can command big prices: why can smaller artists not get something for playing?! I understand there is a small group who object to paying for any form of music – feeling that, if they are in a pub/venue and want an enjoyable evening; why do they have to pay anything?! Live music is a lifestyle for many. It is a tribal call and a way of being with like-minded people. We all work hard and it can be exhausting even contemplating seeing an artist play. Music is available online and so, for many, that is the way they digest it. Going out involves time and transport; paying for food/drink and getting home quite late. The same reality is true of musicians. They have to pay for fuel and get to gigs; they have to eat and often struggle to turn a profit when they play. Many are playing for free so they can get exposure and a chance to get their music heard. A recent Guardian article highlighted the problem:

The UK’s first live music census has found that a third of Britain’s small venues outside of London are fighting to survive in the face of high business rates and noise restrictions.

Of almost 200 small music venues (with a capacity of up to 350 people) surveyed, 33% reported that increases in business rates had an “extreme, strong or moderate” impact on their existence in the past 12 months. One medium-sized venue (351 – 650 capacity) reported their rateable value quadrupling from £17,500 to £72,000.


Some 29% of small venues, and 27% of all venues, reported experiencing problems with property development around their premises, which can provoke complaints from nearby residents. In response, the researchers recommended that the government continue to develop at a national level a legally binding “agent of change” principle, which would put the onus on developers to soundproof new-build properties, rather than placing restrictions on existing venues. Last month, ministers including housing secretary Sajid Javid committed to strengthening planning rules to protect grassroots venues…

The report also highlighted the difficulty of making a living as a musician in Britain: 68% said stagnating pay made it difficult to earn a viable income, with the figure rising to 80% for those identifying as professional musicians; 66% reported working unpaid for “exposure” that they believe had no positive effect on their career”.

Not only are musicians struggling to get paid: smaller venues, outside of London, are closing and discovering it hard to remain open. It is shocking seeing those figures and what they represent! I am sad to see the decline in venues and how factors – such as noise and lack of funding – means more and more doors are closing. Whilst there is little we can do to stem the flow of closures; I wonder why anyone would object to paying to see live music of any form. Few people are that hard up: most of us can stump up a few quid now and then to support musicians.



As I said earlier...live music is something we live and grow up on. Those who are serious about their sounds will go around the country/world and pay any money to see their favourite new acts. There is a huge discrepancy between underground artists trying to make a living and those established and famous. A couple of years ago; an article came out that highlighted how much we are paying to see big artists:

For Beyoncé’s Formation tour, it was in excess of £100. For Björk's recently announced Royal Albert Hall show in London, it's £99. At Radiohead’s three night run at north London’s Roundhouse, it was £70. As fans continue to count – and question – the cost of top level tickets to see their favourite artists live, it begs the question: are gigs getting too expensive?

“I think it’s fair to say inflation for ticket prices has been running above that of other things, especially other sectors of the industry,” says Mark Sutherland, editor of industry magazine Music Week. Statistics bear that out: between 1982 and 2012 the average cost of a gig ticket increased by 400 per cent, and according to Statista the worldwide average cost of a concert ticket now stands at $78.77 (£59.94)”.


Another article, a year later, showed how much money is being brought in because of live music:

More people than ever are flocking to watch live music, with attendance at concerts and festivals at an all-time high.

A new report found that there has been a 12% rise in audiences at live music events over the past 12 months, bringing £4bn in to the UK economy and providing a welcome boost for the music industry.

UK Music’s study, Wish You Were Here, found that audience numbers had hit 30.9 million, up from 27.7 million in 2015, with 4 million people attending the ever-growing number of British music festivals in 2016. It is further evidence that the live sector is one of the most vibrant and profitable parts of the music industry, and it is through ticket sales and merchandise that most musicians generate the majority of their revenue.

The research found that people were increasingly willing to travel from other parts of the UK, and even from abroad, to attend live music events. Music tourism rose by 20% in 2016, and almost 1 million people travelled to the UK from abroad specifically to attend concerts and festivals, spending an average of £850”.

It is clear there is an appetite for live music and going to festivals/venues! I wonder whether most people prefer to attend festivals – so they get to see more artists and enjoy the benefits of great sites and the (hopefully) good weather?


If it is a once/twice-a-year thing; the relative cost spreads out and is easier to manage. The past few months have shone a light on the split between smaller venues and bigger artists/festivals. We pay steep prices for bigger gigs because the artist has a larger set and more ambitious backdrop. I have paid a rich sum to see Queens of the Stone Age but I know, when I booked, they would have a lot of musicians on stage with them – and commanded those fees because, well…they could. There are articles advising how one can start their own music venue. It is easy to get the wheels turning – but how easy is it to keep them turning years from now?! There is never going to be an end to live music and venues: we will always get a fix and be able to see someone play somewhere. We all know the cracks are forming in the spine of live music right now. Until a remedy is formulated; those who have a justifiable reason to charge punters should be paid without grumbling and people questioning their motives. Too many are playing for little/no money and, when other costs are extracted, they are left with very little. The fact so many streaming sites offer music for nothing makes it even harder to turn music into a viable career.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Rews

I do not earn a lot – below the natural average, for sure – and have to make allowances and cuts here and there. My bank balance is in the black but I am still struggling to save a lot. The duo I was alluding to earlier is Rews. They have commanded air-time on BBC Radio 1 and played, among other festivals, Glastonbury. The pairing of Collette Williams and Shauna Tohill are being talked-up in impassioned tones. The duo is tipped to go all the way and make it in the business. Each new single brings buzz and electricity; it gets onto the radio and it shows they grow stronger with every movement. They are the archetype that highlights the issue: a great act who will make it big, starting their careers and trying to get their music out there. Even though they are making a little bit from online streaming/merchandise: there is not a lot of money coming in the Rews camp. They will continue to make music and tour, regardless of a few ignorant people and obstacles. The fact of the matter is, they shouldn’t have to! If we do not support new artists and smaller gigs; they will not get to the mainstream and play larger gigs – threatening the rigidity and lifespan of live music. The only reason we have big stars playing these awesome gigs is (the fact) they played smaller gigs – and got paid for it whilst they were at it!

It is shelling out money to see artists every week/month. Most of us, who love music, want to see as much as we can – often held back by demanding lives and a lack of energy. The cost has never really been an issue. Most new artists are not charging more than ten or twenty quid to see a full, expansive set. That is cheaper than seeing a film – in most parts of the world; for two people, perhaps – and a lot less expensive than seeing a big star miles away. The value for money one gets is exceptional. So many venues are platforming artists without charging any fee at all – finance is raised by promoters and labels paying the venue; extra food and drink takings add to the coffers. Let’s hope this ‘rough’ period for venues subsides and there is some form of stability and long-term prospect. Like it or not - to the doubters - there is an inherent truth: the only way live music will continue is if there is money to keep venues going. Music cannot exist, full-stop, if artists are unable to get their music out to people. Spotify and YouTube only do no much; radio can only reach a certain audience – live music is where you can see artists close and get a sensation like no other! So, the next time you see an artist advertised with an entry price next to their name…rather than have a hissy-fit and vomit in the toilet – the sheer audacity of a musician charging human beings to hear songs an artist paid money to make in the first place! – get your head out of the bowl, and your arse, and get some perspective! Music does not need those too tight and stupid to complain at everything in the world: it relies on the bloodstream of loyal gig-goers who want to ensure the forum of live music is not something, very soon…


WE will put to bed for good.