Music tourism benefits cities to the tune of billions of dollars each year. Tourism assets include a city’s year-round live music scene, music festivals and historical music landmarks. A few cities have developed comprehensive music tourism strategies that involve music-based branding, promotional campaigns, way-finding apps and other social media strategies, investment in music infrastructure and signage, and programming. Accurate measurement of music tourism is a common gap since it is normally grouped with cultural tourism.
For cities looking to generate economic benefits from live music, tourist spending is a key part of the equation. Not only does tourist spending represent “new” money to a city, but it also generates additional spending beyond music. When tourists travel to experience live music, whether a concert, music festival or a favourite band in a basement venue, they will spend significantly more on hotels, restaurant meals, bars and other local attractions.
As Lutz Leichsenring of Clubcommission Berlin e.V. notes, “Tourists aren’t coming (to Berlin) because there are hotels and hostels, but because there is CONTENT.”
The economic impact of music tourism is well documented in Austin, Texas. Music tourism accounted for almost half of the US$1.6bn of economic output and US$38bn in tax revenue attributed to music there in 2010 SXSW, the city’s iconic annual music festival, is a magnet for tourists and music industry professionals from all over the world. A study commissioned by the festival found that its economic impact in 2014 was an impressive US$315mn.
As reported by Texas Monthly, “To put it in perspective, SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest told the Austin Business Journal that the figure is roughly 65 percent of the impact that a city like New Orleans sees from hosting the Super Bowl. It’s nearly a third of the net impact that the 2012 Olympics had on London. And, as the report is keen to point out, those events are fleeting: the Super Bowl isn’t in New Orleans every year, and the Olympics move on pretty quickly, too. SXSW happens in Austin every year, which means that both the economic impact and the cultural cachet that the festival brings to the city are permanent fixtures.”
Austin’s music scene draws tourists in other ways as well. The city’s successful drive to host Formula 1 racing, which in itself attracts thousands of tourists, has been attributed directly to its strong music scene.
Music tourism is big business in the UK. According to the UK study “Wish You Were Here: Music Tourism’s Contribution to the UK Economy,” approximately £2.2bn in direct and indirect spending was generated by 6.5mn music tourists across the UK in 2012, generating the equivalent of 24,251 jobs. The study found that 41 percent of live music audiences are music tourists, and that overseas music tourists spent an average of £657 while visiting the UK. London, identified as the UK’s music tourism capital, attracted one million music tourists during 2012. Manchester and Scotland were also popular with overseas fans: concerts and festivals in those places attracted 45,000 and 26,000 overseas visitors respectively.
Just about everyone knows that The Beatles hail from Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, the Fab Four are the city’s number one tourist attraction, contributing more than £70mn to the local economy. Liverpool is the fifth most visited city in the UK. In 2013, tourists spent £3.64bn there, generating 49,000 jobs. Visitors cite The Beatles as one of the main reasons for visiting the city.
Nashville, famous as “Music City”, in 2014 welcomed approximately 13 million visitors who contributed over US$5bn in revenue, creating 50,000 jobs. While the contribution of music to that figure is not broken down, attractions like the Grand Ole Opry almost certainly make music the city’s main tourist draw. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the iconic venue every year for live performances, backstage tours and as part of music tourism packages. On top of this, over 900K people visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and many more attended other music attractions including the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum.
In Music City, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation puts music at the core of its brand promise. According to Butch Spyridon, President and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, “Nashville is a city with great musical offerings, a plethora of talent where songs are written and recorded, and an infrastructure of talent liaising with businesses and creatives. Music IS the brand; Music City is the brand name.”
Also in Tennessee, Memphis draws more than 10mn visitors per year and tourism spending of US$3.1bn annually. As the home of music heritage sites such as Beale Street and Graceland, Memphis’s rich music history is its biggest tourism draw. Graceland attracts more than 500,000 visitors per year and generates more than US$32mn in annual revenues from visits, merchandise and branding.
Sun Studio, famous as the recording studio of Elvis, Johnny Cash and other iconic artists, attracts 200,000 visitors annually. Of the approximately 9mn tourists who visited Melbourne, Australia in 2013, nearly 2mn of them were international tourists.
International tourist spending was estimated at Australia (dollar)$4.5bn in a city where music is a top attraction.