15.16.17 SET‘21


Why we need to measure the value of live music cities in the cities

June 15, 2020 MIL URL talks


Live music spaces’ role in the cities is undeniable in supporting artists, fostering social cohesion, building creative communities and developing the larger music ecosystem.

But to what extent can we measure their impacts and how can we properly access their value to build a case of venues to the decision-makers?, asked Elise Phamgia, project coordinator of Liveurope, to open the talk that she moderated about the importance of data collection to measure the impact of live music spaces in the cities.

The panel was composed by Arne Dee, consultant for the European venues network Live DMA, Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of VibeLab and The Creative Footprint, Simon Bray, data analyst at Music Venue Trust, and Renata Gomes, consultant at Data SIM /SIM São Paulo. Gonçalo Riscado, managing director and co-founder of CTL – Cultural Trend Lisbon, Musicbox and MIL, presented a case-study to conclude and illustrate the main outcomes of the debate.


Data analysis, all the participants agree, is a fundamental tool to highlight and explain the importance of live music spaces not only artistic and culturally, but also economically. By collecting data, the venues can show their value in a methodology that everyone understands to establish a dialogue with the government and decision-makers. The mapping of these spaces and the gathering of detailed information of their activity helps to understand their main struggles, bringing them together in a collective share of solutions. The Brazilian context, Renata explains, never had a data-driven project so Data SIM came as a necessity to point out the importance of the cultural sector in order to empower its community.


The Creative Footprint, Lutz presents, measures the impact of nightlife and cultural activity on cities. It is a community-based and collaborative venue mapping that shows how music is one core activity that generates other related economic and social activities. Below is the set of data parameters that TCF begins to aggregate: around 25,000 items that, after analyzed, result in an index that, from 1 to 10, measures the cultural fabric of a city (Berlin 8.02, New York 7.29 and Tokyo (Berlin 8.02, New York 7.29 and Tokyo 6.51).

The methodology used by Vibe Lab’s Creative Footprint research / Source: Creative Footprint

With this information, TCF develops projects out of the data. Lutz uses Berlin as an example, where they implemented Club Radar, a tool based on the city data that identifies and alerts when new developments are being built too close to music venues.


Live DMA collects data in order to analyze the situation of live music venues and clubs in Europe. The Survey, the latest report, was written in 2019 and published in January 2020. Live DMA, as Arne describes, helps structuring data collection into their associations, making sure they start collecting data, they analyze it in the right way and then, most importantly, use it in the right way.

Data gathered by Live DMA

The median capacity of the live music venues is 375, Arne points out. Smaller spaces are crucial for artists to start a career by hosting their first experiences in playing live and their first connection with the audience: It’s basically the place where everything starts.

The Music Venue Trust, a registered charity for UK grassroots music venues and part of Live DMA, has been dealing, amongst other issues, with the (not so) recent trend of closing venues. Using the Live DMA’s Survey together with some of their own questions, the MVT has been able to start answering their main question: why? One of the reasons, Simon explains, is related to noise complaints and the difficulty to finance a legal team to answer that. Although there is a lack of government involvement and support to small music venues, The Agent of Change Principle was successfully implemented, which essentially declares that if you’re making the change, you’re responsible for the problems that that change causes.

When talking about the main findings of Data SIM, Renata states that what intrigued her the most was how the survey helped the venues to improve their work by searching and gathering information about their own spaces and work.


Data SIM is the SIM São Paulo’s center of research and organization of data and information about the music market in Brazil. It has been developing different researches:  the live music spaces in São Paulo, the women participation in the music industry and, most recently, the impact of COVID-19 in the Brazilian music market

Findings of DATA SIM’s research on the impact of COVID-19 / Source: DATA SIM 

One of the main conclusions of this last study is that in the music sector, most of the people are micro-entrepreneurs. This means that, as Arne also concludes, with the lockdown the private commercial venues, as the largest of the music industry, are remarkably affected by not having audience income nor public subsidies to support their fixed costs.

Lutz declares that, due to having the data collected before the pandemic crisis, it will be easier to measure its impact afterwards. Arne, through Live DMA, helps the members filling extra surveys and analyzing the damage: the lost turnover is simple to collect and to calculate but the damage that it has it’s more complicated because it totally differs [from venue to venue]. Arne adds that the main worry is the long-term sustainability of venues, as most cases had governmental emergency support for the last three months (March, April and May) and now will face a summer without artists tours and with a decrease on tickets selling due to social distancing.


As part of the Portuguese grassroots music venues circuit, Gonçalo presented a recent initiative that gathered 22 venues, mostly of small dimension, to answer this huge crisis we are all living. Given the lack of work in this area in Portugal, the group of spaces collected data about their audiences, live acts and reach on communication to show the relevance of their work with local artists and the size of this sector, which employs a large number of professionals.

The research showed that some venues have an annual audience similar to festivals but book 5 times more artists. Other data show that, together, the 22 venues have an annual audience that is close to the 1 million people. Gonçalo says that this work will help promote the sector to the decision-makers, guarantee its protection and get financial support. But more importantly, it helped build a network that, by sharing similar experiences and goals, was brought together


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