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Live music is back – but some fans will need a nudge

By Chris Carey | Research director

Opinium

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August 3, 2022 | 5 min read

The live music industry was one most hit by the pandemic, but has it returned to where it was pre-Covid? Chris Carey, research director, and Georgia Deegan, research executive, Opinium consider how this sector – and its consumers – have changed throughout the lockdown, and whether the effects will be here to stay.

It’s been a tough time for everyone

The pandemic was not easy on anyone, and getting back to some kind of normal is going to take a while. Over half (55%) of UK adults’ attitude toward attending events has changed since before the pandemic. One-fifth (20%) of people are attending fewer events, while others feel they don’t have as much energy to go out (15%) and some are not thinking about going to live music at all (also 15%). For over one in eight (13%), traveling to events now feels like a lot of effort.

It is interesting to compare differences between pre-and post-lockdown habits. We looked at those who attended a range of social opportunities at least once a year and asked whether they have been back since things reopened. Unsurprisingly, the pub has seen the most returning punters, given it offers low-cost socialization, typically in a local environment with little to no prior planning required. However, nearly one in five people (18%) who went to the pub pre-pandemic have not been back since. That’s a great – and slightly concerning – insight into how people are changing their habits after a couple of years of being encouraged to stay at home. Interestingly, 12% of the total population still believe staying home is the right thing to do.

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Opinium question the impact that the pandemic had on the live music industry. Image: Magnus Lunay/Unsplash

Opinium questions the impact that the pandemic has had on the live music industry / Magnus Lunay via Unsplash

It’s been a tough time for music fans

The consumer picture is starker for live music events, where mid-sized music venues (500-5000 capacity), particularly, are struggling to bring people back, with two in five (40%) previous attendees not returning. The picture for grassroots music venues (down 33%) and large concerts (down 32%) is marginally better, but far from ideal, with one in three fans yet to come back.

This is not necessarily a bad news statistic for the live music industry, which is selling lots of tickets this summer, but it does highlight the need to bring a wide range of people back in to return the sector to full strength.

Fans are buying later

One trend is that people are waiting until the event is closer before buying tickets. While one in eight (12%) of the general population are waiting longer than before to buy tickets, that jumps to 19% when looking at the heaviest music fans. That might change as people get used to being active again, but it is something to manage in the medium term. It doesn’t help that over a quarter (28%) of adults still have tickets for shows from before the pandemic.

And the economy isn’t helping

There are macro challenges facing the economy, not least the rising cost of living, with 21% of people cutting back expenditure. This is along with the additional challenges of people going out less (20%), not having the energy for going out (15%) and feeling travel is a lot of effort (13%) – which is, we feel, exacerbated by people working from home.

With a proportion of consumers out of the habit of attending gigs and facing a squeeze on their disposable income, the live music industry needs to work hard to maximize attendance. It would, no doubt, appreciate support from the government on both fronts.

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