How big is Scotland's music industry?

SCOTLAND'S music industry is one of the country's most thriving and dynamic creative sectors.

T in the Park is one of the industry's biggest events. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
T in the Park is one of the industry's biggest events. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

It has contributed greatly to the country’s cultural identity and attracts visitors from around the world. But how big actually is it? How many people dedicate their lives to maintaining its survival and how has it fared in the face of recession and a shift in the way we buy and listen to music?

According to Creative Scotland, there are over 10,000 people employed in music in Scotland. Over 40 per cent are freelancers or working in approximately 400 relatively small businesses. Employment opportunities involve the planning and organising of festivals, producers and engineers.

Despite the fact that Scotland continues to produce widely popular and best-selling artists, the number of Scottish record labels are few and far between with the majority of labels based in London. Nonetheless, labels including Chemikal Underground, Electric Honey and Lost Map have been involved in the production of some of the best Scottish albums of the last ten years.

Scottish Album of the Year award nominees, Young Fathers. Picture: John Devlin

Increased competition from large multinational companies and the lack of artists being signed by major record labels is threatening to the growth of the industry. In the 1980s there were around 45 Scottish acts signed to major labels. Today this is far from the truth. In this year’s Scottish Album of the Year shortlist, Paolo Nutini was alone in his major record deal with many independent labels being responsible for the talent coming out of the country.

Demand for Scottish music is still evident but sales for actual records continues to fall, a trend that is likely to continue. Streaming has contributed to the rise of the overall “consumption” of recorded music according to the British Phonographic Industry - it rose by four per cent in the first half of 2015. Last year, audio streaming went up 82 per cent with digital formats now accounting for 54 per cent of all UK music consumption. CD sales on the other hand fell 10.4 per cent in 2014 and 4.4 per cent in 2015. Average consumer spending in Scotland on recorded music remains strong above the UK average at £53.75 compared with £45.32, as stated in the Creative Scotland Music Sector Review.


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The area of the industry which shows particular strength is live performance. Scotland accounts for 11 per cent of the UK’s live music revenue with its live ticketing sector in growing by 25 per cent in the last five years.

Scottish Album of the Year award nominees, Young Fathers. Picture: John Devlin

Music tourism brings in around £280 million a year to Scotland and secures more than 2,000 full-time jobs. In 2015, 720,000 foreign and domestic visitors came to the country for festivals and major concerts. During their visit, the average visitor spent £724 a head, according to research commissioned by the industry body UK Music.

Since its opening in 2013, Glasgow’s SSE Hydro has continued to attract fans from across the country, giving the number of music tourists in Scotland a boost to 520,000 in 2014. Pollstar figures showed that the SSE Hydro reached ticket sales of 1,021,038 in the 2015 year.

However, even more valuable was the country’s music festivals which generated £155 million of the overall total income and supported over 1,000 jobs last year. Across the country, 160 dedicated music festivals are held every year catering to various music tastes. The number and variation of which expands every year.