To better understand the reasons people participate in live music, we asked producers and consumers why they hosted and attended live music, and what impact they believed live music attendance had on the wider community. Both groups attributed improvements to health, wellbeing and social capital, as well as commercial and cultural benefits, to their live music engagement. Unsurprisingly, most consumers also reported enjoyment as an important motivator for attending live performances.
Improved social capital was, by a large margin, the most commonly identified impact that live music had on the wider community. Consumers expressed feeling more personally connected, happy and engaged as a result of attending live music, and suggested that live music encouraged and enabled a sense of community.
“Live music is the best community engagement tool. It promotes health & wellbeing, participation & collaboration, plus access & equality.” (Survey Respondent 532)
“[Live Music] creates wellbeing, goodwill, excitement, aesthetic, intellectual and emotional stimulation… Time set aside purely for focussed, extended listening in company of others creates social cohesion.” (Survey Respondent 1483)
“Live music adds to the fabric of our community. People form groups, friendships, do things together. Relationships are built through making and listening to music.” (Survey Respondent 1383)
Venues also observed that live music served as a focal point for communities and that they could foster this by providing a safe environment.
One venue owner observed,
“Live music is the community, we just provide the space.” (Venue Owner 3)
In addition to improved social capital, consumers also associated improved physical and psychological welfare as a result of experiencing live music, which was also described as a distinct benefit. Respondents reported, for example, that attending live music made them feel healthy; optimistic; inspired and enabled to achieve goals (improved self-efficacy); and helped them manage anxiety and depression.
“Music gives me a reason to live, makes me think, makes me feel, inspires and challenges me to keep singing my own song.” (Survey Respondent 1441)
“It is uplifting to get away from the work sleep work sleep cycle. Great mental health benefits for me and my friends who struggle with anxiety and depression.” (Survey Respondent 986)
“It keeps me healthy, if it weren’t for music I would be a recluse.” (Survey Respondent 1021)
The commercial benefits associated with live music included acknowledgement of the obvious profit motive of venues; although interestingly, less than half of the producers interviewed identified commercial benefit as their motivation for hosting live music.
When asked what constituted a successful event, the ‘vibe’ of the show was mentioned almost as many times as turnover from bar or ticket sales. Vibe might appear an ambiguous term, but it is in fact quite clearly explained in research, particularly in relation to dance music audiences. In this context vibe refers to interaction within and between audiences and performers associated with feelings of collective experience (Fikentscher, 2000). Vibe may help explain why increased social capital was mentioned so frequently as a benefit of live music attendance. Among the producers interviewed, vibe was often cited as more important than audience size or profit. Describing vibe, one venue owner explained:
“…if the band was great and the audience loved it then we consider we have had a good night. [It c]an be a small audience, but a cracker of an evening.” (Venue Operator 32)
Both producers and consumers also believed live music had an impact on local and national economies through jobs creation, sales and tourism. A number of consumers further reported benefitting professionally from their attendance at live music events. Although this may reflect the number of performing musicians and industry professionals who took part in the survey, it was typically associated with increased social capital, as well as gains in what might have been described in literature as ‘knowledge capital’ (Hiser, 1998).
Cultural benefits associated with live music were primarily described in terms of the exposure and promotion. Producers and consumers both identified venues’ roles in nurturing and breaking new talent as well as providing access to established and acclaimed performers.