Fascinating music

Live music is back – but some fans will need a boost

The live music industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but has it returned to where it was before Covid? Chris Carey, Director of Research, and Georgia Deegan, Head of Research, Opinium examine how this sector – and its consumers – have changed throughout the lockdown, and whether the effects will be here to stay.

It’s been a tough time for everyone

The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, and it’s going to take some time to return to some sort of normality. More than half (55%) of UK adults’ attitudes towards attending events have changed since before the pandemic. A fifth (20%) of people attend fewer events, while others feel they don’t have as much energy to go out (15%) and some don’t think about going to music at all live (also 15%). For more than one in eight (13%), going to events is now a lot of effort.

It is interesting to compare the differences between habits before and after confinement. We looked at those who attended a range of social opportunities at least once a year and asked if they had returned since reopening. Unsurprisingly, the pub has seen the most returning punters, given that it offers low cost socialising, usually in a local environment with little or no advance planning required. However, almost one in five people (18%) who went to the pub before the pandemic have not returned since. It’s a great – and slightly disturbing – insight into how people are changing their habits after a few years of being encouraged to stay home. Interestingly, 12% of the total population still believe staying home is the right thing to do.

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Opinium questions the impact of the pandemic on the live music industry / Magnus Lunay via Unsplash

It was a tough time for music fans

The consumer picture is bleaker for live music events, where medium-sized concert halls (500-5,000 capacity), in particular, struggle to keep people coming back, with two in five previous attendees (40%) who do not return. The situation for popular music venues (down 33%) and major concerts (down 32%) is slightly better, but far from ideal, with one in three fans yet to return.

This isn’t necessarily bad news for the live music industry, which is selling out a lot of tickets this summer, but it highlights the need to bring in a wide range of people to bring the sector back to full strength.

Fans Buy Later

One trend is for people to wait until the event is closer before buying tickets. While one in eight (12%) of the general population is waiting longer than before to buy tickets, that figure jumps to 19% when looking at the biggest music fans. This might change as people get used to being active again, but it’s something to manage in the medium term. It doesn’t help that more than a quarter (28%) of adults still have tickets to pre-pandemic shows.

And the economy don’t help

The economy is facing macroeconomic challenges, including the rising cost of living, with 21% of people cutting back on spending. This is on top of the additional challenges of people going out less (20%), not having the energy to go out (15%) and feeling like traveling is a lot of effort (13%) – this which we believe is exacerbated by people working from home.

With a proportion of consumers no longer used to attending concerts and facing a squeeze on their disposable income, the live music industry must work hard to maximize attendance. He would no doubt appreciate government support on both fronts.