Continental Drift – video on Places and Events feat. Emma Webster

In July 2016, George McKay and Emma Webster both spoke at the Continental Drift: 50 Years of Jazz in Europe conference in Edinburgh.

This video features Emma talking about their research into jazz festivals in a panel about places and events, also featuring William Bares and José Diaz, and chaired by Tony Whyton.



The Signs of Festival – Emma Webster

Tomorrow (Friday 13th November) sees the start of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2015 (LJF), the biggest music festival in the UK’s biggest city.  I will be attending a variety of LJF events as part of a new project, The Impact of Festivals, led by Professor George McKay of the University of East Anglia (UEA).  In anticipation of what I hope will be an exciting ten days, today’s blog post considers the signs of festival – how we know a festival is on its way before it begins. Continue reading The Signs of Festival – Emma Webster

The Edinburgh Live Music Census Report Launched Today – Adam Behr and Emma Webster with Matt Brennan

Today sees the launch of the report from Edinburgh Live Music Census Pilot Study.

You can access the full report here.

In June of this year, researchers from the Live Music Exchange conducted the UK’s first live music census. Surveys of Edinburgh’s musicians, audiences and venues – in tandem with observational data collected across the city on June 6th ­– fed into the report we’re launching today.

We will be discussing findings at the City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Sport Committee on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday is the national Venues Day, organised by the Music Venue Trust, where some of the issues affecting Edinburgh and cities across the UK that are raised in our report – and by the Music Venue Trust’s work – will be discussed.

The key recommendations and findings from our research are below.

Details of the public meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council Culture and Sport Committee, including the Council’s ‘Encouraging Live Music in Edinburgh’ report to the committee and the meeting agenda for 20th October, can be accessed here.

There is more information about Venues Day at the Ministry of Sound, London, here.

Below are key recommendations and findings from our research that we will be discussing on Tuesday.

Key recommendations to Edinburgh City Council:

  • Change the licensing clause – stipulating that amplified music be ‘inaudible’ in neighbouring residential properties – to refer to ‘nuisance’ or decibel-level (through negotiation with Licensing Board).
  • Adopt the ‘agent of change’ principle as guidance for informing planning decisions around venues and advising residents, and work towards its enactment by the Scottish Parliament in law[1].
  • Ensure that the city council’s forthcoming refresh of its cultural policy recognises both the economic and cultural value of live music to the city, and promise to do what it can to protect small to medium capacity music venues in particular in this challenging climate.

Key findings

  • Edinburgh currently has a minimum of 267 venues offering live music including music played by DJs.
  • The most prevalent types of venue in Edinburgh are pubs/bars.
  • We estimate that on Saturday 6thJune there were approximately 11,500 people attending at least 86 live music events in Edinburgh.
  • The total average annual spend at live music per person for a typical live music fan is £1,120 (including tickets, food and drink, transport)
  • Approximately £170,000 was spent at venues with live music on the night of the Census (approximately £90,000 on ticket sales alone).
  • The total estimate of spend on live music in Edinburgh per year (including tickets, food/drink, and travel) is at least £40 million.
  • We estimate that musicians and DJs in Edinburgh are paid at least£2.9 million per year at the sub-set of venues visited on Census night.
  • Assuming minimum wage, we estimate that venue and production staff are paid at least£2.6 million per year at the sub-set of venues visited on Census night.
  • 44% of musicians reported that their gigs had been affected by noise restrictions (NB: These may have included noise restrictions imposed by venues).
  • The Census indicates that there is a high level of self-policing is taking place amongst Edinburgh venue operators with regard to noise issues.
  • Moreover, the city licensing regime’s ‘inaudibility clause’ frequently cropped up in the qualitative comments of the surveys, suggesting that it has a ‘chilling effect’ on venues’ preparedness to put on live music and the kind of music they will provide.

Work on the Edinburgh study was part of a much longer, and ongoing, conversation. It was initially inspired by work carried out in Melbourne and we’re grateful to Dobe Newton and the Melbourne team for sharing their observations.

The members of the Edinburgh Council ‘Music is Audible’ working group, the Music Venue Trust and the wider community of musicians in the city also provided vital insights. There is still a great deal of scope for improving the situation in Edinburgh – as elsewhere – but the kind of dialogue that has taken place over the last year is an important step in the right direction.

The Live Music Exchange team will be pursuing further research in this area so watch this space for more updates and get in touch to keep the dialogue going.

[Click here to read or download a full copy of our report]

[1] Agent of Change says that the person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change. This means that an apartment block to be built near an established live music venue would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in a residential area would be responsible for the costs.

Definition taken from:


The Edinburgh Live Music Census





Today’s post contains information about an important new research project in Edinburgh being run by the Live Music Exchange team. There are opportunities for live music practitioners and audiences across Edinburgh to get involved. Read on to find out more and do get in touch if you’re interested.


In the first weekend of June of this year, the Live Music Exchange will be conducting one of the first exercises of its kind – a live music census.

We’ll be surveying Edinburgh, to gather as much information as we can about the current state of play with live music venues in the city. The project, a pilot for what we hope will be a larger roll-out of the exercise, aligns with the current climate and needs of venues in Edinburgh and beyond.

Background to the census:

It’s not news to live music practitioners in Britain that, despite the growth of the sector in the past decade, the benefits are being felt unevenly.

Although there are a rich variety of different sizes and types of spaces across the musical ecology, barely a week goes by without a venue coming under threat of closure. The problems are particularly acute for smaller, independent venues.

The inherent precariousness of running a music venue – a difficult enterprise at the best of times – is exacerbated by external pressures from things like residential development and the ever-shifting nature of local politics.

But the issue is being paid more attention than ever before. The formation of the Music Venue Trust has provided for the first time a collective voice for operators who have long been subject to a geographic spread and different local conditions.

There is some common ground across the country. Not least, the Music Venue Trust and Musicians’ Union are supporting a campaign for the introduction of the ‘Agent of Change’ principle to protect established venues from complaints arising from new buildings in the area.

But the challenges and opportunities also vary from area to area. Any locality has a characteristic live music ‘ecology’ – a mix of venues of different capacities, demographic variations and the distinctive features of its local government and infrastructure.

One notable aspect of Edinburgh, of course, is the huge surge in cultural activity that takes place over the festival. But this has also led to questions about an imbalance between the summer surfeit and the city’s year round provision. It seems to struggle to maintain independent music venues, and closures over the last few years have seen mounting concerns.

Dedicated music venues and pubs alike have also mobilised in opposition to a clause in the local licensing policy stipulating that amplified music be ‘inaudible’ in neighbouring residential properties – a sledgehammer to crack a nut, say venues, that is not in operation anywhere else. The council, for its part, has undertaken to pay closer attention to the needs of venues across the city, setting up working groups to examine the inaudibility clause and its music strategy more widely.

The census:

These initiatives, local and national, require evidence to get a sense of the state of play and to illustrate the full range of musical activity. Taking inspiration from a live music census conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012, and which helped to drive the introduction of the Agent of Change principle there, the University of Edinburgh’s music department will be gathering information about the situation in Edinburgh.

We’ll be sending surveys out to every business that we can identify that hosts live music of any kind (from cafes, through pubs to concert halls).

From this we’ll get a sense of how often they put on live music, what kind of music they feature, their capacities, their staffing levels and how planning and licensing issues affect their work.

This will cover the city and provide an illustration of the city’s full capacity for live music provision, the challenges it faces and the potential for better supporting it.

We’ll also be placing surveys at gigs taking place on the first weekend of June to collect information from audience members and musicians. We’re recruiting volunteers and the team will visit as many gigs on that weekend as we can to speak to musicians, audiences and venue staff.

We’ll collate and analyse the information and place it into the context of wider research on live music in a report for the city council and for all the participants. This pilot study will provide a snapshot of Edinburgh’s live music activity as well up-to-date information about the full extent of the city’s musical life with indications about how Edinburgh and other cities can form a productive relationship between venues and their surroundings.

We’ll be sharing our information and co-operating with the city’s music scene and there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved.


There are details at the census website for anybody interested in taking part in the survey.

This is a chance for Edinburgh’s music scene to pull together to illustrate its value to the city.

If you’re hosting live music of any kind in Edinburgh over the weekend of 5th/6th June – whether you’re a dedicated music venue, a pub, a café or any other kind of space – please get in touch and let us know.

Likewise, if you’re going to a gig of any kind, or playing at one, on that weekend, please contact the census team and we’ll give you the tools you need to contribute to the project.


This is one step on the wider journey towards fostering a healthy and supportive nationwide environment for live music.