We partnered with Levi’s Music Project to speak to 2,000 16- to 34-year-old musicians and music heads in six cities in Ireland and the UK. They told us about the state of their local music scenes, discrimination on nights out, venue closures, mentorship in the industry, and the past, present and future of music in their cities. Here's some of what we found out.
London, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Dublin. Let’s be real: some cities on that list have a more illustrious musical past (and present) than others – you know the ones we mean. But should your location really determine your access to music – whether education, live shows and more? Probably not. So that’s where the Levi’s Music Project comes in, by helping young people gain access to music education programs, community resources and industry mentors.
After previous iterations in Tottenham (check their event at the V&A with Skepta), this year's iteration sees the Music Project head to Liverpool, where they're collaborating with Loyle Carner. We'll be in the city too, co-hosting a Liverpool Sound City festival afterparty with Levi's on Sunday 5 May too, which follows a couple of days of programming from the Levi's Music Project – they're setting up a hub there, with performances and panel discussions going on on the Friday and Saturday. But before all that, and your link on where to get tickets: some expert and educational research!
A couple of months ago we sent out a 20-question survey to people in the above six cities, featuring stuff like ‘How proud are you of your city’s music scene?’, ‘What are the main barriers to entering the industry?’, and a whole load of questions around diversity and representation.
Then we spent hours looking at Excel spreadsheets – trust us, collecting data isn’t pretty – and came back with the following results. For maximum drama, we’ve pitted city against city, young against old(ish), men against women, musicians against music fans, and punk against grime enthusiasts. So, come: roll up, roll up – these are our findings.
People in Cardiff feel less hyped about music and nightlife in their city than in the other five cities :(
Okay, so: if you live in Cardiff (or read Noisey), you’ll know the great city’s been plagued with venue closures. In 2018, the brightly painted beating heart of its indie scene, music venue Gwdihw, closed down shortly after its tenth birthday when the landlords decided to demolish the block it was housed in; and this year, Buffalo, another iconic music bar closed down due to the ‘massive increases in business rates’.
It’s not surprising then to see that over half of the Welsh correspondents said there are no music venues that represent their taste, the worst result of all six cities in the survey. In comparison, 70% of Liverpudlians feel the opposite.
The repercussions of this are massive. Consider this: Cardiff is the city in which most respondents reported to have suffered a mental health problem at 53%, and similarly, where the highest number of people in our survey said music is essential to their mental health at 61%.
Young people (16-18) are less optimistic about the future of music, and are less likely to think music today is better than it was in the past
Youngers (more specifically, those aged between 16-18) are a tough crowd. Basically, they’re convinced that music in the past was better than it is today, with a huge 69% of them responding in such a manner.
Who’s to blame? Money? Austerity? Brexit? 84% of them think that the current socio-economic climate is not good for making music, which makes sense when you consider everything. On top of that, there’s nowhere for them to rehearse either: another stat from the survey says younger people are less likely to have access to venues that allow them to rehearse, produce and perform music. Only 19% of them say they have this versus 41% of those aged 30-34.
One thing they have on their elders however is confidence; 30-34 year olds are 14% more likely to say they want they ‘want to get involved in making music but find it daunting’. They’re also into a completely different scene, 48% of them think the most influential scenes in their cities are either rap or grime vs 19% of 30-34 year olds.
In our six cities men feel more insecure than women, despite them reporting to have greater access to mentors, and music spaces
As part of the survey we also asked aspiring musicians what was holding them back. And when we looked at data from people who identify as male and those who identify as female, side-by-side, it turned out that men feel more insecure about things than women – from their accent (27% feel discriminated against v 17% women) to their class (23% v 19%) and where they grew up (34% v 30%).
If there’s anything surprising about the above findings, it’s that more men report to have access to mentors than women, 39% versus 28%, and are more likely to say they have access to spaces where they can record, rehearse and play their music than women, 44% versus 32%. This then ties into another stat, where women are way more likely to say they’ve been discriminated against on the basis of their gender 23% versus 9%, and their weight, 19% versus 11%.
It seems the challenges facing men and women are quite different. Men feel self-conscious about their status, even though they also report being given greater access to resources; women about their bodies. Nothing new here. But maybe giving everyone more access and more of a chance to mess around with instruments, write a verse, and perform to a supportive audience is the answer to both of these problems. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
That said, 72% of all musicians say they face discrimination in the music industry
Just look at the above infographic, displaying how respondents feel they are discriminated against, with 25% saying that age is a big factor!
And finally: here's who feels unsafe on a night out
That's punk fans coming in first place there, for feeling unsafe on a night out, with grime fans coming in at a close second. Of course, not all of the above issues can be solved in an instant. But what this research has helped identify is the most vulnerable groups – people who live in Cardiff and under 18s. It's also helped us understand the differences in the challenges faced by those who identify as male and female, namely, boosting confidence and broadening access. There aren't easy solutions here, but dealing with the interests of the country's young musicians and fans will take cross-sector investments. That could mean more support from brands, as Levi's have always done with their Levi's Music Project. It could mean real investment from the state (though, since they're still slashing and burning most budgets in the name of austerity, that might be more of a pipe dream. What fun!). But as we've learned from past pieces on the therapeutic power of music – and what we all know from how good a sweaty, mash-up gig can make you feel, regardless of the science – there's plenty to look into. Next stop: more funding!
Tickets to Sound City and the Levi’s x Noisey Sound City Afterparty are now on sale here.
The research was carried out by Censuswide, an independent market research consultancy. Conducted with 2004 music enthusiasts, 1501 of whom identified as “music fans” and 503 of whom identified as “musicians”, in the UK and Ireland between the ages of 16 and 34. The research ran between 20.03.19 – 28.03.19 and employed an online quantitative methodology. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
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