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volume 2
july 1999

The economic importance of music in the European Union


  3. Concerts and other live performances
  by Dave Laing
  In September 1996 the European Music Office published its report on "Music in Europe". The first part of this study, written by Dave Laing, describes the economic importance of music in the European Union. This is the third chapter of his study about concerts and other live performances.

1 Musical performances. Unlike the soundcarrier sales and performance rights sectors of the music industry, there is no single source of data about musical performance itself. This description of the concert and live performance industry uses information from a range of sources to provide estimates of the economic importance of the sector. These include:
  • government statistics on the arts and on the employment of musicians;
  • market research on concert audiences;
  • membership and other data from musicians' and organizations;
  • information about concert revenues and audiences supplied by authors societies concert industry organizations and national music information centres.
Table 3.1: Concerts and other live performances (classical) 1994-'95 (sources: EMO, government statistics, authors societies)
  Concerts Audiences
(in millions)
Orchestras Opera / ballets Choirs Revenues
(in millions
of ECU)
Austria# 5,629 4.3 n/a n/a n/a n/a 4,952*
Belgium n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,000
Denmark 100* 0.9* 6 11 1,200 n/a 750
Finland 1,600 2.1 28 21 500 3.0 1,300
France 1,300 1.1 84 15 n/a n/a 2, 800
Germany 19,100 12.2 151 n/a 20,513 370.0 11,216
Greece 34 0.1 3 1 4 1.3 600
Ireland 280 n/a 5 n/a 3 1.8 400
Italy 20,000 4.9 300 300 n/a 54.3 10,000
Netherlands 8,440 4.5 11 40 4,500 n/a 1,500
Portugal 2,107 n/a 12 49 n/a 1.3 500
Spain 4,772 5.6 224 68 1,687 20.0 7,000
Sweden 15,000 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,400
United Kingdom 2,200 13 130 n/a n/a n/a 3,000
(#) 1993-'94; (*) ballet and opera only
2 Classical music concerts. The contrasting national statistics in table 2.1 illustrate the difficulties of gathering comparable data from all European Union countries about classical music performances. For example, the figures for the numbers of choirs include only professional choirs in such countries as Greece and Ireland but include both amateur and professional ensembles in Germany and Spain.
Despite the incomplete data, however, some broad conclusions about the sector can be made. Firstly, in most countries the amount of money generated by classical music is a small proportion of all consumer spending on live music. In Ireland, the Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO) calculated that the 280 classical concerts given in 1994 had revenues of 1.82 million ECU's. According to one recent survey, the gross value of the whole Irish music performance sector is 69.8 million ECU's, of which the reported ticket sales for classical music is less than 3%. [21]
The average box office revenue per concert In Ireland was 6,250 ECU's compared with an average of 10,150 ECU's for symphony concerts in Germany where 3,646 symphony concerts had revenues of 37 million ECU's. The total classical music revenues for Germany is an estimate based on market research carried out in 1995 for the concert industry association IDVK. [22] This survey found that 35% of the population over the age of 10 had attended some kind of classical music performance in the previous year although one-third of these had not paid for admission. Other national surveys have found that 15% of Danish adults and 12% in Sweden had attended a classical music event in the previous 12 months. [23]
  In Italy, the box office total for classical music and ballet in 1995 was 53.5 million ECU's which was paid by 4,931,922 spectators. According to the authors society SIAE, classical music accounted for over 40% of all ticket sales for concerts of popular and classical music. This relatively high figure for classical music may be due to the exclusion of smaller events in clubs or dance halls from the popular music category.
For Spain, there are two sources for the size of the market for live music. Authors' society SGAE collected 6 million ECU's in royalties for all types of musical performances in 1995. At a rate of 10% of ticket sales this would place the size of the market at 60 million ECU's. However, the government's statistics for household spending found that in 1993 Spanish consumers spent almost 1.5 billion ECU's on all types of entertainment including cinema, theatre and discotheques as well as concerts and flamenco events. [24] In tables 3.1 and 3.2 the 80 million ECU's total for spending on musical performance has been estimated to be slightly higher than that suggested by the SGAE figure.
One important feature of musical performance is the growing number of music festivals featuring all genres. According to the Ministry of Culture, Spain has 686 festivals of classical music, flamenco or jazz each year. In France, the leading 30 music festivals in 1993 attracted almost 700,000 spectators. [25] Almost all of these featured classical music. Some of Europe's largest music festivals present pop and rock music. In Denmark, the Roskilde Festival attracts crowds of 90,000 while in the UK, the 1995 Glastonbury Festival had revenues of over 2.4 million ECU's from sales to audiences of 120,000.
3 Musicians employed in the classical sector. The figures given in the final column of table 3.1 are estimates of the numbers of professional musicians employed to perform classical music. They are based on EMO data, government statistics and on estimates derived from the numbers of orchestras and other ensembles.
In addition to these performers, Europe has a very large number of amateur musicians and singers. Germany has over 20,000 choirs with a combined membership of up to 500,000, almost all of whom are unpaid. In Spain there are over 1,600 choirs, 200 chamber orchestras and almost 1,000 bands of various kinds with a total membership of up to 50,000. In Finland there are at least 500 choirs, 200 workers' music organizations and over 30 big bands. [26]
4 Value of live popular music. Because of the informal character of the market in most countries and the fact that it is not often assisted by public subsidy, statistics for the live performance of popular music of all types are even more difficult to collect than those for classical music. However, there are detailed statistics for the sector where concert revenues are subject to a special tax (France and Italy) or where a representative industry body has collected information from its members (UK). Other statistics are derived from market research surveys on leisure activities while in some countries it is also possible to calculate the size of the live music sector from the performance royalties collected by the national authors society.
In France, pop concerts are subject to a 3% "parafiscal" levy which is returned to the music industry in the form of support for various projects. [27] In 1994-5, the levy was taken from concert and venue revenues equivalent to 116 million ECU's and industry experts estimated that the levy was applied to only half the revenues from all forms of music performance. The performers' and producers' society SPRE estimates that there are 150,000 "occasional" music events each year in France such as fetes and weddings. The authors society AEPI says that in Greece there were 142,000 occasional events in hotels, lounges etc.
Table 3.2: Concerts and other live performances (popular) 1994-'95 (sources: EMO, government statistics, various)
  Perfor- mances Venues
(in millions)
(in millions of ECU)
Ancillary companies Ancillary staff Musicians
Austria n/a 20 n/a n/a 100 600 n/a
Belgium n/a 20 n/a n/a 135 1,000 n/a
Denmark 30,000 24 n/a n/a 85 500 15,000
Finland n/a 7 n/a n/a 20 120 3,000
France 200,000 94 8.0 233.0 260 1,500 20,000
Germany n/a 200 n/a 445.0 1,200 8,400 40,000
Greece 15,000 22 11.8 n/a 50 300 8,000
Ireland 548 32 0.3 4.1 114 500 5,100
Italy 16,600 n/a 5.8 64.3 145 900 20,000
Netherlands 10,750* 70 6.1 n/a 315 1,900 22,000
Portugal 15,200 11 2.2 n/a 40 250 n/a
Spain 13,100 n/a n/a 60.0 97 600 17,000
Sweden n/a 29 3.0 n/a 60 360 n/a
United Kingdom n/a 260 n/a 305.0 1,000 6,000 35,000
(*) venues holding over 1,000 people
  The revenue figure for Italy is supplied by authors society SIAE which is responsible for collecting a 5% entertainment tax on behalf of the state. SIAE reported that in Italy there were 16,612 popular concerts in 1995 attended by 5,522,430 spectators who paid 64.3 million ECU's. A further 0.54 million ECU's was paid at smaller events.
  The UK revenue total is based on figures supplied by the Concert Promoters Association whose 26 members organize some 80% of the major concerts in the UK. In 1994 these companies promoted almost 5,000 concerts attended by total audiences of 9.92 million who paid 204.8 million ECU's. The average attendance at these concerts was almost 2,000 and the average ticket price was 20.75 ECU's.
The only official statistics from which the number of people attending popular music events can be calculated are interview-based surveys which measure the proportion of the population which attended such events at least once in the past year. The results of such surveys during recent years show that as many as 23% of those over the age of 12 in such countries as Sweden and the Netherlands have attended at least one performance. [28] The 1995 German survey carried out for IDKV questioned a representative sample of 2,000 people. It found that 26% had attended at least one rock or pop concert in the previous 18 months and that 38% had attended live performances of popular music as a whole. The survey also found that over half those attending popular music events had spent less than 27 ECU's on live entertainment. The revenue figure of 445 million ECU's shown in table 3.2 is based on these statistics. This figure seems relatively high compared with those for other European countries and it may be that the results of this market research are less reliable than figures derived from industry organizations. However, the German research included a very wide range of music events including musical theatre, music clubs and "oldies" concerts.
  If the German figures were taken as a guide to the popular music concert business in the whole of the European Union, the total revenues could be as high as 2 billion ECU's. But using the revenue figures in table 3.2 for France, Italy and the UK as well as Germany as a base, the total for the European Union can be estimated to be 1.4 billion ECU's.
5 Merchandising. The sale of clothing (T-shirts, caps) and other products is an increasingly important part of the pop concert business. In 20 UK shows by the group Take That in 1995, 270,000 people spent an average of 18.3 ECU's on such merchandise, a total of almost 5 million ECU. [29] The performers receive a royalty of between 12% and 20% from merchandising companies. Industry experts believe that the world market for music merchandising is now over 800 million ECU's a year. Sales in the EU countries account for about 150 million ECU's of this.
6 Employment of musicians. With the exception of Ireland, the statistics in the column "Musicians" includes both fully employed and part-time performers in the popular music sector. A survey by Coopers & Lybrand estimated that there were 11,500 Irish musicians but most worked only part-time as performers and therefore the FTE for all performers in Ireland was 5,500. [30] According to an analysis of national census results, in 1990 France had 16,164 full-time musicians and singers (all sectors) and 18,145 part-time performers who worked an average of 50 days a year. [31] This is equivalent to about 20,000 full time equivalents (FTE). In Finland, the 1991 census showed 4,200 people working as musicians, of which 1,200 were in the classical sector. [32] However, industry experts in Finland believe that the FTE of the 3,000 popular musicians is probably less than 1,000. A similar analysis carried out in the UK found that 21,700 people had identified themselves as musicians at the 1990 census. [33] The authors of this report also commented on the problems of the classifications of professions used in the UK census. This could have led to an underestimation of the numbers of people working part-time as musicians.
  In some cases these figures are based on the total membership of musicians and singers' trade unions. Based on these national totals, the number of musicians in the general popular music sector in the EU is close to 150,000. If all part-time performers of popular music were included, this total would probably be much greater since in many countries there are numerous young pop or rock groups which do not yet earn enough from performing to qualify for union membership or which have not joined a musicians' union.
This situation of younger musicians was described in a Council of Europe report on cultural policy in Finland. The report stated of rock groups in Finland that: "only half a dozen or so, i.e. 20 or 30 people, actually make a living out of their performances or the records they make. The others lead a more marginal life, as amateurs ..." [34] One of the few attempts to study the full range of popular music activity in a single city was made by British researcher Ruth Finnegan in the late 1980's. She found that in a city of 120,000 people there were 100 pop and rock bands, of which only a few worked full-time as musicians. [35] A group of Swedish researchers has estimated that there were 1,000 pop and rock bands in a population of 8.7 million in the early 1990's. [36]
There are few statistics for the earnings of musicians. However, a Finnish survey in 1989 found that one-third of musicians earned less than the national average wage. [37] A report on jazz in England quoted the example of a musician who gave almost 200 performances in 1991 from which he received fees totalling 6,560 ECU's. The report stated that fees for jazz musicians in the Netherlands were often more than double those paid in England. [38]
7 Ancillary employment in popular and classical music. In addition to the performers, the live music sector provides employment for significant numbers of technical and support staff as well as those involved in organizing concerts or assisting the careers of performers — the managers, concert agents and promoters. There is also a third sector of persons employed by the concert halls, clubs and other venues where music is performed. However, only some of these can be regarded as owing their employment directly to music — others are employed in catering, security etc.
  The statistics in table 3.2 for the numbers of ancillary firms come from EMO data and from music industry directories such as the pan-European listings published by the magazine Music & Media. The majority of these companies are small — a typical European artist management company handling several artists may employ five or even less people In the Netherlands, for example, 120 management companies employ 270 people. In Germany, the IDKV, the professional organization for the concert industry, has 1,225 member companies. A survey of 20% of the IDVK membership carried out in 1995 by the GfK research company found that 20% of concert promotion companies had an annual turnover of more than 2.8 million ECU while most companies in the artist agent and artist management sectors had a turnover of between 11,000 ECU's and 280,000 ECU's.
Firms providing physical services such as lighting rigs or transportation may employ slightly greater numbers, sometimes through hiring freelance staff for specific concerts or tours. The Irish figures in table 3.2 (from EMO data) show an average staff of only four, but a 1991 survey of the London cultural industries found that some 2,635 music companies had an average workforce of 11. [39] However, this included all the major UK record companies which employ very much larger numbers. Unless precise numbers have been supplied, the employment figures for the ancillary companies in table 3.2 assume six as an average number of employees.
8 Music venues. Although the figures in table 3.3 are incomplete, the available statistics show that well over one million premises in the European Union provide music for audiences and customers. The figures given for live music venues in some countries include only those which are used solely for concerts and other performances. The UK figure uses information from a forthcoming report which found that the London area with a population of 8 million has 400 venues regularly used for performances of popular music. These exclude bars and other places which sometimes provide live music.
  However, it is clear that the number of places where live music is performed represents only a small percentage of the total number of premises which provide music of all kinds. The largest category of premises are those which use music as a "background" feature, such as shops and workplaces.
Table 3.3: Public performance venues (sources: EMO, authors societies)
  Live music Disco
Shops Cinemas** Other Total
Austria 50 1,500 8,000 384 23,500 33,434
Belgium 60 1,000 37,549 513 69,290 108,412
Denmark 75 n/a n/a n/a n/a 42,600
Finland 20 n/a 8,414 n/a 14,500 n/a
France 6,500 3,800 104,111 4,397 131,192 250,000
Germany 1,050 3,421 n/a 3,900 92,000 n/a
Greece 40 700 n/a n/a n/a 110,000
Ireland 650 1,360 n/a 191 13,700 n/a
Italy n/a 5,000 n/a 3,617 n/a n/a
Netherlands 300 45,670 30,917 n/a n/a 120,157
Portugal 385 2,250 n/a 175 3,900 n/a
Spain 43 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Sweden 47 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
United Kingdom 2,500 n/a n/a n/a n/a 240,000
(*) includes dance halls in some countries; (**) cinema — total number of screens
9 Employment at music venues. The numbers employed at the main venues where music is performed in Ireland is 2,000. In addition there are 623 dance halls and cabarets which employ 6,230. A further 66,000 staff work in the pub, restaurants and hotel sector which uses both live music and recorded music. In Greece EMO data shows that ancillary employment at venues is 155 for classical music venues and 50,000 in the popular sector, a figure which undoubtedly includes a proportion of the 285,000 total employed in the restaurant, bar and hotel sector.
  Discotheques and clubs featuring disc-jockeys attract very large audiences to dance to popular music and some experts believe that the number of young music consumers who attend these venues is greater than those who attend concerts by pop and rock groups and singers. The 1995 IDVK survey in Germany found that 27% of respondents visited discotheques and that the average number of visits was 15 per year. This would suggest a total attendance at discotheques in Germany of 200 million per year. Many of the disc jockeys have extended their activity to become record producers and record company executives. Discotheques also provide employment for considerable numbers of staff. The average workforce of each of the 200 discotheques in Greece and the 737 in Ireland was ten.
21. IBEC Music Industry Group, Striking The Right Note. Dublin, 1995. Return to text
22. GfK, Studie zum Verhalten von Konzert — und Veranstatungsbesuchern. Starnberg, 1995. Return to text
23. Ahlin, Torbjorn (n.d.), Kulturvanor I Norden (Culture Activity in the Nordic Countries). Nordic Statistical Secretariat, no date. Return to text
24. Cultura en cifras. op.cit. Return to text
25. Cardona, Janine, and Chantal Lacroix, Chiffres clés 1995 Statistiques de la Culture,. Paris: Ministère de la Culture. Return to text
26. Renard, Jacques (1995), National Cultural Policy in Finland. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1995. Return to text
27. Fonds de Soutien, Rapport d'Activite, Paris, 1995. Return to text
28. Myerscough, John (1994), Cultural Policy in the Netherlands. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1994. Return to text
29. Music Business International. June 1996, London. Return to text
30. Striking The Right Note. op.cit. Return to text
31. Les professions culturelles et les salariés des activities culturelles. Paris: Ministère de la Culture, 1993. Return to text
32. Survey On the Economic Situation And Social Status Of The Artist In Finland. Helsinki: Finnish Arts Council, 1992. Return to text
33. O'Brien, Jane, and Andy Feist, Employment in the arts and cultural industries: an analysis of the 1991 census. Arts Council of England, 1995. Return to text
34. Renard, Jacques. op. cit. Return to text
35. Finnegan, Ruth (1989), The Hidden Musicians. Cambridge, 1989. Return to text
36. Fornas, John, et al. (1995), In Garageland. London, 1995. Return to text
37. Survey On The Economic Situation And Social Status Of the Artist In Finland. op.cit. Return to text
38. Arts Council of England, Review of Jazz in England. London, 1995. Return to text
39. Cultural Industries in London. London: Comedia, 1995. Return to text
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