Dr Matt Brennan, Chancellor’s Fellow and Programme Director of MA (Hons) Music, has been awarded a £234k grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a live music census of the UK.

Live music is popular across the UK, and has become increasingly important to the music industries, yet recent years have been difficult for venues. These challenges are felt particularly keenly by the smaller venues, clubs and pubs which provide for local musicians and audiences, and which serve as the training ground for future headline acts. There have been numerous media reports of British music venues closing as a result of property development and gentrification of once lively musical neighbourhoods. This is due not only to developers buying and converting former venues into flats, but also development around venues and the increasingly rigid noise regulations enforced by local authorities.

The UK Live Music Census project aims to address these issues and builds on a successful pilot census of live music in Edinburgh that informed a change in policy to better support live music culture in the city. Working with key personnel in the live music sector, the project team – led by Brennan and including Professor Martin Cloonan (University of Glasgow), Dr Adam Behr (University of Newcastle), and Dr Emma Webster (University of Edinburgh) – the project will provide the first account of live music in the UK that covers the full range of venues and that includes all types of musical activity – from amateur to top-flight professional.

The study will develop a toolkit for conducting a snapshot census of live music in three cities (Glasgow, Newcastle and Oxford) and share it with other institutions so that they can conduct parallel snapshots across the country. With project partners UK Music, the Musicians’ Union and the Music Venue Trust, the research team will also survey musicians, venues and audience members nationwide to provide the most comprehensive dataset yet of live music in the country.

By bringing together industry bodies, policymakers and academics to formulate the questions and promote the surveys, this project aims to assist researchers, policymakers and industry alike, providing consensus on an academically rigorous methodology and subsequent dataset for assessing the scope and value of live music in the UK. This will be a step forward for all concerned in working to safeguard and develop the cultural and economic wellbeing of this most valuable component of local character in cities and localities across the country.

This work follows on from previous research Matt has done which looks into the relationship between amateur, subsidized, and commercial spheres of music-making in cities. Matt is also a Co-Director of the Live Music Exchange, and has served as Chair of the UK and Ireland branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM).

The study began in September 2016 and will last for 18 months.