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Students and academics contribute to world’s first national live music census


A volunteer army of music lovers is being recruited to take part in the UK’s first ever live music census, with students and academics at Leeds Beckett coordinating results for the city of Leeds.

Cat Una performing

For one night in March, organisers aim to track live performances – including events with DJs - in cities across the country: from lone buskers to massed choirs, and from pub gigs to stadium concerts. 

They hope the survey – a world first – will help measure live music’s cultural and economic value, discover what challenges the industry is facing, and inform policy to help it flourish. 

There will be coordinated censuses in Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton and Brighton. 

The UK Live Music Census (UKLMC) – conducted by the universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow – will run for 24 hours from noon on Thursday 9 March. 

Volunteers will be asked to record aspects of the gig including the musical genre, the venue, door charge and audience demographic. 

A team of academics from music, entertainment management and events management at Leeds Beckett, led by Samuel Nicholls, Senior Lecturer in Music, will run the live music census for Leeds. As part of this, students will interview participants and observe live events throughout the city. 

Samuel said: “For Leeds to be one of the cities taking a specific snapshot as part of the UKLMC is a fantastic chance to take a look at the kind of events that occur in the city and the way in which audiences take part and support them. The experience for our students of being part of compiling a leading piece of national research, working with audiences and local venues, will be a great opportunity.” 

Lead organiser Dr Matt Brennan from the University of Edinburgh said: “This is like a Springwatch for live music. We want people to let us know everything about the music they see on this one day. 

“Live music in the UK – from the Beatles and the Sex Pistols to West End musicals and Glastonbury – has transformed our culture, yet it is constantly under pressure. This census will help give us an accurate snapshot of the scene’s health.” 

A nationwide online survey for musicians, venues, promoters and audiences will also go live on 9 March and will be open until 8 May. 

It will gather information about why people attend gigs, which venues are considered important, how much people spend and how far they will travel.  

The census is led by academics from the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music –  part of Edinburgh College of Art – in collaboration with Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies and the University of Glasgow’s School of Culture and Creative Arts. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Two years ago the project team ran a pilot live music census in Edinburgh. Its findings were used to inform the city council’s decision to change its policies about noise levels to the benefit of performers. 

People can sign up to take part and to be kept informed at the official UK Live Music Census website.

Image: Leeds Beckett BA (Hons) Music Production and Performance graduate, Cat-Una.

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