Since the comeback of the live music and travel industries post-pandemic, music tourism has seen a huge increase in the UK. Scotland reportedly brought in 1.5 million music tourists in 2022 who attended live music events. Events ranging from festivals such as TRNSMT and Celtic Connections and arena tours like Harry Styles and Dua Lipa have attracted record numbers of fans traveling to attend shows after years of cancellations and reschedules. This increase from previous years marks significant growth in the live music sector but also highlights the importance among music fans of live show attendance.
It seems that music fans value live music experiences more than ever. This value is not only reflected in higher concert ticket prices, even allowing for inflation, but also in the rise of fans traveling to see their favorite artists for the first time in years. A new record of 1.1 million foreign music tourists and 13.3 million domestic tourists are traveling to see live music in the UK.
A Statista Research study showed an increase of over 40% in UK music tourism since 2019. Outside of just live music event ticket sales, spending on hotels, transportation, and restaurants have all increased and helped boost local economies, specifically Scotland. UK Music’s Here, There, and Everywhere report found that music tourism generated £581 million in spending for local economies across Scotland in 2022.
This economic bump comes after a full year free from live event COVID restrictions but also a 2022 campaign from Glasgow Life launched to help fight numerous venue closures and profit losses in Glasgow. This effort included marketing material directed towards music fans as well as workshops and resources made available to local businesses.
Despite the clear economic success of these measures, music tourism has not been free of concerns of negative cultural ramifications. In 2019, Simone Krüger Bridge wrote about the history of music tourism and its previous associations with “commodification, cultural loss, staged authenticity” and its characterization as disruptive to local traditions.
Ethnomusicologists have questioned in previous studies the potential harm of tourism on the cultural authenticity of music scenes after catering to tourist consumer needs.
However, in the case of rebuilding an ecosystem post-COVID, using the culturally rich music history of Scotland to draw in more tourists has proven economically essential to the survival of these culturally significant sites, and arguably overshadowed such concerns.
Reflecting on the economic growth of music tourism reported in the Here, There, and Everywhere report, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin remarked on the need of tourism to protect Scotland’s musical ecosystem. He said:
“Post-pandemic, the role of music in transformative placemaking is more important than ever – and this report provides a valuable toolkit for local authorities to help them seize the benefits of being a “music city.” By harnessing the power of music, Scotland can generate thousands more jobs, boost economic growth and attract even more visitors to the local area. This report shows how to turn that potential into reality.”
Not only does music tourism benefit the live music industry locally, but music tourism’s growth is in part due to its increased appeal to concert goers both local and foreign. With an existing desire to travel more in general post-restrictions, the reason more people are traveling specifically for music events and local music scenes is based in their desire for an authentic music cultural experience.
A 2014 case study of the Queen’s Hall music venue in Edinburgh surveyed live music goers and established that audience members seek out live music for reasons such as the “unique atmosphere and character” of venues, the experience of being in a crowd, and bonding with fellow audience members. A common theme of all concert goers surveyed was a consensus that the value of live music was something not based on the monetary cost of the experience, including travel and accommodation.
Based on these values, music tourism is more appealing now than before COVID-19 for concert goers due to the prolonged abstinence from experiencing live music spaces. In the book Remaking Culture and Music Spaces, Ian Taylor, Sarah Raine and Craig Hamilton write about the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the UK live music industry as a crisis of spatiality. Remarking on live music spaces as an “interconnected relationship between place, music, and human activity in the creation of valued (or “authentic” or “real”) musical events”.
The inherent spatial value of historically significant music cities has not been diminished by the pandemic but emphasized by this recent resurgence. This uptick in consumers’ need to physically be in the space to “authentically” experience a performance, is evidenced in their increase in spending on tickets and highlights the marketable value of these spaces. This demonstrates a clear desire of consumers to not only reconnect with their communities but the importance of physical places as a way of reconnection. Traveling to culturally rich music cities, like Glasgow, is a major way the such reconnection can take place.
The current economic climate shows that local music scenes in the UK may not be able to fully recover from the pandemic’s economic impact without money spent by music tourists. The subsequent increase in music tourism highlights the cultural importance of cities like Glasgow to the global (music) community but also signifies the importance of funding and marketing investment to ensure economic sustainability and maintain local music culture. When the live music industry was first hit by mass cancellations and restrictions, it was unclear how long it would take to get the industry back to where it had been in 2019. It is now clear that music tourism has helped Glasgow’s live music’s recovery and shown a path to continued growth.