Investigating the Live Music Industry in Wales: A Critical Analysis

Abstract

This report is the result of a grant application awarded by The Welsh Music Foundation, who were given the money by The Welsh Assembly Government. Its purpose was to investigate pertinent issues of the live music industry that resonate within Wales. Research methodology included the implementation of an online questionnaire targeted toward the Welsh music industry, closely followed by a range of face to face interviews with key industry personnel.

This report is the result of a grant application awarded by The Welsh Music Foundation, who were given the money by The Welsh Assembly Government. Its purpose was to investigate pertinent issues of the live music industry that resonate within Wales. Research methodology included the implementation of an online questionnaire targeted toward the Welsh music industry, closely followed by a range of face to face interviews with key industry personnel. The key findings were then taken to a number of forum meetings in the south, west and north of the country, where the industry at large were given the opportunity to discuss preliminary issues. Themes highlighted at the start of the research included: inward investment, training provision needs, examples of best practice, sales and marketing issues, Welsh language issues.

As a means of summarising the current position of the Welsh live music industry, a SWOT Analysis of the report can be outlined as follows.

Strengths

  • Wales has successfully produced many internationally acclaimed artists over a number of decades.
  • The country already has a small number of excellent venues in various parts of the country.
  • There are already a range of good infrastructural and business support mechanisms in place.
  • Many Welsh artists have a strong national identity which assist the publicity of the nation to the world.

Weaknesses

  • Wales as a whole has a limited array of specialist music venues, in particular outside of the South.
  • There is a perceived lack of infrastructure to assist the promotion of popular music activity throughout the country.
  • As outlined in by Owen and Rhisiart (2010), areas surrounding the exploitation and retention of copyrighted works within Wales is problematic.
  • There is a tendency for too many skilled workers being „imported‟ from England.
  • Unlike many other small nations, there has been no fully funded mapping exercise of the Welsh music industry.
  • Wales tends to be regarded as a „region" of the UK as opposed to a nation in its own right.

Opportunities

  • The development of similar Music Festivals to SWN, Green Man and Wakestock by working with organisations such as Welsh Assembly Government’s new Major Events Unit and the Arts Council of Wales’s new Festival Fund.
  • The new Cerdd Cymru (Music Wales) partnership is a chance to align partners, in addition to consolidating many of the recommendations in this report, especially with international projects.
  • The construction of an organisation similar to DF Concerts in Scotland (with WAG support) to ensure industry skills are nurtured, finance stays in Wales, and career aspirations are realised.
  • To ensure that more people take on the challenge of live music promotion.
  • For government to encourage more research and post graduate study into the Welsh music industry.
  • To explore the means through which it is possible to empower musicians and live music enterprises to take advantage of the „micro loans‟ outlined in the Hargreaves Report (2010) recommendations.
  • To develop a (potentially accredited) music promotion programme that teaches the necessary skill bases to promote music throughout Wales.
  • To explore the ways in which technologies such as Wolfgangs Vault and promotional tools such as Songkick, Band Metrics, Music Glue and My Band can be used to monetize live music within Wales.
  • To develop alternative funding models for promoting music in Wales, such as the profit share scheme being developed by The Absurd Festival.
  • To nurture future live music audiences by encouraging alcohol free venues for young people.
  • There is a large media base in Wales, and if more welsh music was used, has the potential to positively impact the live sector.

Threats

  • Various parts of Wales suffer from close proximity to English towns such as Bristol, London and Liverpool.
  • Many participants in the Welsh industry give the impression that they reach a plateau in their career, after which they either change career or move out of Wales.
  • The variance in local council infrastructures that encourage „night time economies'.
  • The practice of buying in technical skills for some music festivals.
  • The shortfall in technical skills forecast by Creative and Cultural Skills (CCS).
  • Depending on the local council and size of the band – the 2003 Licensing Act.
  • Too much competition in small venues in Cardiff.
  • Poor transport infrastructure in some parts of Wales.

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