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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
'Golden age' for live music scene
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Sweaty rock gigs and hippy festivals have given way to a golden age of live music in the UK. Two heavyweights of the UK music industry explain why.

"The UK live music scene is more buoyant now than I can ever remember it."

That is the view of Stuart Galbraith, the UK managing director of live entertainment company Live Nation and someone who has been working in the music industry for nearly 30 years.

Stuart Galbraith
Galbraith says musical talent in the UK has never been stronger

He believes the reason behind the current live music renaissance is a simple one.

"I think there are generally more people interested in music full stop and I think that the breadth and depth of talent in the UK is unprecedented," he says.

"Live music is the ultimate experience. It's not bootleggable, you can't replicate it, you can't steal it, and you can't mimic that experience of actually standing at a gig - the roar of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint."

Many believe new technology - in the shape of MySpace and music forums - has boosted the scene.

"Computers, e-mail, texts and mobile phones mean people have much more access to information than they did five or six years ago," says Charlie Presburg of concert information service Pollstar.

U2 or the Rolling Stones can make a lot of money, especially when they are charging a lot of money for tickets
Charlie Presburg, Pollstar

"MySpace, YouTube, and artists' websites have influenced things massively because it puts them more in contact with the fans, and the fans want to be part of it."

Those fans are not necessarily the stereotypical beered-up students or pre-pubescent girls.

"Take That last year, Duran Duran a couple of years ago, The Police this year - all age brackets seem to want to be able consume live music," explains Mr Galbraith.

"Your age range literally runs from eight to 88, and there is an active market in every single one of those age brackets."

Ticket prices are just about fair... until you add the booking fee
Ted, Stamford

In the face of falling physical music sales, it is those willing markets that also provides another reason why the live scene is booming - money.

"A lot of these artists can make a decent revenue touring," says Mr Presburg.

"U2 or the Rolling Stones can make a lot of money, especially when they are charging a lot of money for tickets.

"You get people in their 50s and 60s going to gigs because they want to see them, and they have got the disposable income.

"But the bottom line is that this is what these guys do. It's a compulsion. What else are the Rolling Stones going to do?

The Rolling Stones
The Stones' Bigger Bang World Tour started two years ago

"They will probably tour until they drop down dead, and I mean that in a very positive way, because we need artists like that. That's what they do best."

But while stars like the Rolling Stones and The Police lead the way in terms of touring, it is the music festivals that have everyone talking.

Glastonbury has grown to be 30 times its original size, and with Reading, Leeds, and T in the Park booming, it is perhaps no surprise that more festivals are being added to the summer line-up every year.

New boys on the block like Connect, Fflam and Latitude may not be as well known as Glastonbury or T in the Park, but they still offer top class performers in the shape of Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers and Arcade Fire.

"Festivals give people the ability to see so many bands over the course of one weekend, so it represents good value for money," says Mr Galbraith, whose festival offerings include Download and the Wireless Festival.

'Hippy behemoths'

"In the last five or six years festival tickets have gone through the roof, they are selling out more quickly and there are more festivals in the UK and Europe," says Mr Presburg.

"Also festivals are no longer these hippy behemoths that they used to be. The facilities are better, they are more comfortable, and they have been cleaned up a lot."

While the festival scene is booming, it must be careful not to go too far, Mr Presburg warns.

"The festival market is going to get very, very busy. There is hardly a weekend goes by in the UK from June to August where there is no festivals happening," he says.

"You could literally leapfrog from one festival to another for like four months solidly. I think that could be an issue in the future. It's just getting a little too crowded."

It is not just big festivals and big names that are booming - smaller venues around the country are also getting a boost.

"I was at a very small venue in Birmingham last Sunday night and it was absolutely rammed to the rafters, charging a quid to get in," says Presburg.

"It's great. That's what the industry was built on. It's what keeps the music alive."

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