What If I Told You the Concert Industry Is Now Bigger Than the Recording Industry

Want to make it in the new music industry?

Then make sure you have the chops to play in front of a crowd. According to the latest estimates from University of Liverpool researcher Dave Laing, the global touring industry has probably grown larger than the global recording industry.

And if 2012 is roughly the breakpoint, the broader trend is fairly obvious.  “The first indications of the market last year (such as Pollstar’s 4 percent increase in North American ticket sales) suggest that the live business worldwide may have returned to growth and may have definitively overtaken the record industry in revenue terms,” Laing described in an overview recently published by Live Music Exchange.

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Laing is wading in a difficult swamp of data, and playing the role of cautious researcher well.  Concert-related figures are fairly scattered and incomplete, and global estimates quite difficult to concoct.  On the recording side, the data is far more robust, but routinely skewed by the recording-focused organizations that track and publish this data (ie, the IFPI, RIAA, BPI, etc.)

All of which makes Laing’s data compilation all the more impressive – and convincing of a broader trend.  Here’s the breakdown of concert receipts for some of the largest worldwide markets, cobbled from a variety of regional authorities (values ultimately translated into US$)…

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In most countries, the touring market is rebounding, and in some countries, the data tells a very clear story.  “Both the Italian and British research can be used to make a direct comparison,” Laing details.  “In Italy, live music was reported to be worth €781 million and recorded music €419 million.  The UK research states that ‘business to consumer’ totals were £1.24 billion (recorded music) and £1.48 billion (live music).”

See where this is going?  In 2010, the IFPI estimated (er, inflated) the global recording market at $25.8 billion, which beats the higher-end concert industry estimate of $25 billion that Laing created for that year.  That said, 2010 was an implosive year for live concerts – especially in the US – and the humble beginnings of a recovery.  The recording industry, however, has continued to lose ground – with revenues, not units, taking a substantial hit.

8 Responses

  1. QSDC

    Also–make sure you don’t have any children. They’re mighty inconvenient when you’re touring in a van. Also, make sure that you don’t have any health problems or disabilities. And don’t expect to maintain any kind of decent career to support you while you’re not making money on music–kind of hard to move up the corporate ladder when you need a 4-6 sabbatical every year.

    Get ready for the age when music is written primarily by affluent dilettantes with discretionary income and free time.

    • radio & records vet

      Spoken like a truly non-touring musician LOL.

      Seriously though – touring is not for the faint in heart, stomach, or wallet. Having done a few, I can say it’s a grueling job – not at all the glamourous hells belles lifestyle portrayed on tv or in movies.

      I now have a handful of clients who currently do and/or have toured successfully. They all now know the perils that touring offers – and the fact that without touring they’re not moving inventory. That is where the bottom line is drawn, IMO.

      Unless you’re an urban-pop or metro-country star radio does not move product for you. It’s all about the touring today – and that mostly festivals. I now work with a handful of small venues and regional/local festivals (muni-fests).

      I don’t see the traffic in the small venue side for local bands. It’s there, but it’s too scattered and dispersed across too many rooms and too many bands for it to be economically viable.

      I have seen growth in attendance at smaller muni-fests … local city run type events that typically support several local bands with perhaps a semi-national type of headliner (or a band touring on the successes of the past). I’ve also seen an increase in funding for these type of events in the markets I work.

      Touring is a job. It should not be construed as anything else. It requires a capital investment that most new bands never calculate in their business plan. It entails having multiple skill sets present to insure reasonable success in that “job market.” It is not much different than having a business with multiple business partners … all of whom are individually responsible for building the business 😉 j/

  2. @L4M

    Concerts bring in more than the entire recording industry. Yikes.

  3. Ally Ears

    Is the combined US/Canada total really less than Germany’s?

  4. dang

    All I gotta say is move to Europe and start a live band. Distances are smaller, countries are safer, though just as much or more theft, and the women are hotter and skinnier.

    I mean Germany has a bigger market than all the US? Then you just cross the border into France and you’re still selling, not to mention all the other little countries? Cmon now…time to rock it like a hurricane.