Friday 22 September 2017

Ireland's live entertainment scene is one of the most vibrant in Europe - and a big ticket item for the economy too

Facts and figures: reports turn up volume on economic benefits of entertainment industry
Facts and figures: reports turn up volume on economic benefits of entertainment industry

Simon Rowe

Ireland's live entertainment scene is one of the most vibrant in Europe, with tickets for top-selling artists and festivals selling out in minutes. Now the industry's big hitters have taken to the political stage to show that the live events business is a big ticket item for the economy too.

Leading figures such as former U2 manager Paul McGuinness and promoter Denis Desmond have backed new research highlighting the scale of the live entertainment's financial impact here.

According to the study, the Irish economy profits to the tune of €1.3bn from live entertainment, supporting over 8,700 jobs. In addition it estimates that an extra 3.1 million bed nights are generated from these events.

The independent research, by London-based consultants BOP, was commissioned by former MCD promotions executive Justin Green in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland and Irish music rights body IMRO.

It quantifies how much revenue is generated directly by people attending live events including music, theatre and exhibitions across the island of Ireland, and the wider economic benefits from indirect spending on accommodation, restaurants and pubs.

The findings in 'Let's Celebrate 2017' reveal that live entertainment events, north and south of the Border - including music, theatre, comedy, family attractions and exhibitions - generated €1.7bn of additional revenue over a 12-month period, excluding actual ticket purchases.

A total of 3.7 million people attended live entertainment across the island of Ireland in this period and a further 280,000 came from overseas.

The report also estimates that every €1 spent on a ticket is worth an additional €6.06 of revenue to the wider economy in the Republic.

All the big hitters of Ireland's live entertainment industry have welcomed the new report, with many saying it's time for the industry to blow its own trumpet for once

Former U2 manager McGuinness is among those who say that the arts and entertainment sector has been playing second fiddle for too long when it comes to the allocation of state funding.

In a foreword to the report, McGuinness is damning in his assessment of government support for the arts.

"It's a regular disappointment when politicians, as they do routinely, pay lip service to the importance of the arts in our culture and then continue the steady reduction of funding to music, film, theatre and the visual arts," he wrote.

"Everyone in the arts dreads those encounters with politicians. The casual downgrading of the arts portfolio and the subsequent attempts to say it hadn't really been downgraded were sadly typical."

Denis Desmond, of MCD Productions, said he was keen to see the industry get more recognition for the 11,500 jobs it supports island-wide. "The entertainment industry employs as many people in Ireland as Google, Apple, Yahoo and Twitter combined. While events are sometimes an inconvenience for a short period, what's often underestimated are the benefits to our economy."

Green said the initiative "emerged from a belief that the entertainment industry is frequently overlooked and not always respected as the viable and tangible professional industry that it is. This is considered particularly disappointing by everyone in the industry".

BOP Consulting, which has conducted similar economic impact studies for the London Games 2012 and Edinburgh Festival, was given access to Ticketmaster Ireland sales figures over a 12-months up to February 2016.

The number of tickets sold by Ticketmaster and audited in the report represent only a small fraction of the overall value and importance of the live entertainment events that took place during the relevant period as Ticketmaster supply less than 50pc of tickets that are captured within the report. Neither does the report take into consideration the economic impact of the 100,000-plus people who attend free music sessions across the island.

With 3.4m tickets sold in the Republic over the period under review by BOP, the report does show that music events were the biggest draw with 2.2 million attendees, followed by arts/comedy/theatre drawing more than 860,000, and attractions and exhibitions drawing 293,000.

Figures for the North show that 473,719 attended music events, 61,675 attended arts/theatre/comedy events, and attractions and exhibitions drew 93,966.

Consumer spend on food and drink at live music gigs amounted to €81m, the biggest figure for indirect spending. This was followed by an estimated €38m spent by gig-goers on merchandise.

The BOP study also involved a detailed survey of over 5,700 ticket attendees across relevant events.

As well as established festivals such as Cat Laughs in Kilkenny, Cork Jazz, Electric Picnic in Laois, world-class venues such as Vicar Street, the 3Arena and the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, stadiums such as Croke Park and the Aviva host regular big-name acts every summer in the capital.

As a result, festivals and events have been identified as being an important component of the Irish tourism product offering in the year ahead.

Fáilte Ireland invested €3.5m in 246 festivals in 2016, meanwhile, the Arts Minister Heather Humphreys hit the right note last year when she announced increases in funding for a range of arts and cultural bodies.

Overall arts funding was up by €18m in last year's Budget and was increased across all the main agencies and cultural institutions, including an additional €5m provided to the Arts Council.

However, McGuinness and others clearly feel this is not enough. Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Business Studies at Trinity College, said one of the reasons why the live entertainment sector in Ireland was overlooked in the past was probably due to a lack of hard economic data.

"There is a saying in economics that, 'if it is not measurable then it does not exist'.

"Economists need numbers and as a result, industries without data just get ignored. It is like they don't exist or are not important," he said.

"This has been the main reason why live performances in music and the arts have been so overlooked when it comes to industries that count - or can be counted."

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business