A unique British institution, “the Proms”, is in full swing, a feast of music that runs from 12 July to 8 September.
The last night of the Proms, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, is world-famous. This year’s finale will include music by Hubert Parry, Richard Rodgers and, of course, Edward Elgar.
Short for “promenade concerts”, the Proms are more than 100 years old and, as the name suggests, they came into being to provide standing-only accommodation at great musical events for people who could not afford ticket prices for conventional concerts.
A £4.1 billion industry
But away from the excitement of the Proms, how much does the music industry really matter in the wider sense, and what are the music industry’s economics?
In broad terms, however, there are 44,000 people working as musicians, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Within this figure, it would seem 4,000 are employed full-time and 5,000 part-time. Self-employed musicians total 35,000, made up of 18,000 working full-time and 17,000 part-time.
This compares quite well with figures for other arts-related occupations. In the category “actors, entertainers and presenters”, the total is 45,000, with 3,000 apparently employed full-time and 5,000 part-time, while the self-employed comprise 16,000 full-time and 20,000 part-time.
For dancers and choreographers, of whom there are 21,000 in total, no figures are available for those who are employed, but in the self-employed category 10,000 are part-time and 7,000 part-time workers.
What of the wider impact on the UK economy? It became fashionable around the Millennium to talk of Britain’s “creative industries” and to suggest that these could replace the heavy industries that the country had, largely, lost. Since then, a more sceptical note has been heard in such discussions.
Welcomed by Britain’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the report put total contribution to gross value added (GVA) at £4.1 billion. GVA is a measure similar to gross domestic product (GDP) but ignores the effect of both taxes and subsidiaries, thus is a useful measure of economic activity within a country.
Soft power of music
Within that figure, the largest contribution, £2 billion, was made by musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists, followed by “live music”, at £904 million. Recorded music accounted for £610 million, followed by music publishing at £412 million, “music producers, recording studios and staff” at £119 million and music representatives, worth £92 million.
Total export revenue, according to the report, was £2.2 billion, of which musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists accounted for £946 million, music publishing for £520 million, recorded music £360 million, music representatives £268 million, live music £57 million and music producers, recording studios and staff £24 million.
In fairness, a GVA of £4.1 billion, while impressive, is not going to support the economy single-handed. Total UK GVA is £1.7 trillion, and the GVA of the financial services industry is £119.1 billion.
She added: “The soft power created by British music is a global force. Our export profile is way above average. Music is intrinsic to the creative sector.”
Using what seem to be broader definitions than the ONS, UK Music calculates that 70,700 people work as musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists, 25,150 in live music, 11,100 as music producers and recording studio staff, 8,600 in recorded music, 2,320 as music representatives and 1,150 work in music publishing, a total of 119,020.
It may be objected that this sort of music industry news is greatly inflated by the popular music business and take us some way from the sort of music played at the Proms. Quite apart from the fact that the Proms this year will include folk songs, electronic music, disco punk and feminist rap, alongside Bach, Bernstein and Beethoven, there are specific numbers available for the orchestral sector.
Mixture of funding
The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) is the representative body for orchestras, that are defined by the ABO as a body of at least 12 musicians. A recent achievement of the ABO was to persuade the Government to introduce Orchestra Tax Relief in 2016.
This allows companies putting on orchestral concerts to get Corporation Tax relief equivalent to 25% of the cost of a production.
It added: “Orchestras continue to employ significant numbers of musicians. In 2016, there were over 2,400 musicians employed full-time or holding regular ‘member’ status in our orchestras, and over 10,000 opportunities for additional freelance musicians.”
“In addition, there are upwards of 2,000 employed as management or technical staff.”
Paying for all this involves a mixture of earnings from ticket sales, touring and recording, contributions from fund-raising, and public subsidy. Out of the total income of £117.5 million in 2016, 48% was earned by the orchestras, 17% was contributed and the balance was made up by public funding.
To end where we began, with the Proms. In 2017, 322,000 attended Proms concerts. Whatever the effect of music on the UK economy, there must be some uplift for London’s café owners, hoteliers, restaurateurs and taxi drivers from so many visitors.