The Live Music Sector

Resources about the live music sector


The live music sector is the strand of the wider music industry that stages shows, tours and festivals; runs venues; sells tickets; and works with frontline artists on monetising their live performances.

Promoters are the primary risk takers in live music. The promoter guarantees the artist a fee, books the venue, hires the tech crew, puts the tickets on sale and – in partnership with the artist – publicises the show. If not enough tickets are sold, it is usually the promoter that takes the financial hit.

Some promoters are linked to specific venues, and some promote shows in one city or region, although plenty of promoters operate nationally or multi-nationally. A promoter may work with an artist on a single headline show or a whole tour. And, of course, some promoters put on festivals.

The booking agent sits between an artist and the promoters they work with, looking for opportunities for the artist to play live and negotiating the deals for each show. An agent understands how any one artist’s live career will evolve, has contacts with all the key venues and promoters, and usually brings other expertise around tour planning, visas and possibly brand partnerships.

Whereas artists usually work with one label, publisher and merchandiser at a time, they will commonly work with multiple promoters, because many promoters focus on one region, and even when artists mainly work with one promoter on their own headline concerts, they will also want to play other shows, festivals and private events. Hence the need for the agent.

Ticket agents sell tickets, obviously, usually via a website and app. However they can play an important marketing role too. Ticket agents have databases of everyone who has bought tickets via their platforms in the past, meaning they can help artists and promoters target their marketing towards consumers in any one region that are fans of certain genres of music.

Ticket agents can also help with cash flow. A promoter often wants access to ticket money as soon as possible to cover upfront costs. However, in many countries consumer rights law says that if a show is cancelled the ticket agent must refund the ticket buyer. But the ticket agent may nevertheless advance the promoter money, risking being out of pocket if there’s a cancellation.

In addition to the primary ticket agents – who work directly with promoters – you have the secondary ticketing sector. These are brokers and touts who buy tickets from the primary agents and then resell them, often at a mark-up, usually via a ticket-resale website. The secondary ticketing market – both the touts and the resale websites they use – is controversial within the music community, with many calling for tougher regulation.

Obviously venues play an important role in the live music sector, including those venues that predominantly host gigs, concerts and/or club nights, and those which also host other kinds of culture and events.

An artist’s live career usually involves working their way up the ‘live music ladder’ – which is basically a hierarchy of venues with ever increasing capacities, starting with pubs and cafes that host music, through grassroots venues, art centres, clubs, theatres and concert halls, to arenas and stadiums.

These are all the people who work on the logistics and production of the show, including lights and sound. The number of people working on the production side – and the kinds of production jobs that need to be done – obviously varies greatly depending on the scale of the show.

In terms of production and logistics, artist and promoter need to agree who takes responsibility for what. A common system is that the artist and their management team are responsible for getting to the venue and for everything that happens on stage, while the promoter handles everything else.

The most obvious revenue on the live side is ticket income, and for artists that is often the most important revenue stream. The artist may be paid a split of that income – and even when they are paid a set fee, that fee will be based on how much ticket revenue the show will make.

Though artists also make money at shows by selling merchandise and – if they perform their own songs – getting performance royalties through the collective licensing system. Those are both technically intellectual property revenue streams, but the show creates a forum where they can be utilised.

Live music is a top-heavy industry because of economies of scale. As you play bigger venues you make much more money from ticket sales. Your production costs will likely go up as the show gets bigger, but not to the same extent ticket income goes up, greatly increasing the profit margins. So much so, with small shows it can be hard to make a profit on ticket sales alone, making merchandise sales and performance royalties key for the artist.

Promoters and venues have other revenue streams beyond ticket sales too. In particular they sell food, drink and other services to the audience once they are in the building. Some brands also spend money on the live side, wanting access to tickets or ticket discounts for their customers, or to get their names and logos onto venues, stages, festivals and tour posters.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a catastrophic impact on the live music sector, it putting the entire live entertainment industry into something nearing complete shutdown for more than eighteen months.

Although most COVID-caused restrictions had been lifted by mid-2022, the live sector is still very much in recovery mode after such a long-time out of action with plenty of challenges still to tackle, including rising costs and a saturated post-pandemic market, as well as gaps in the workforce and some consumers still nervous about returning to live events.

It remains to be seen just how long that extended shutdown will continue to impact on the live sector and everyone who works in it.

You will find coverage of all the key developments in and announcements from the live music sector in the Live Business section of CMU.


LIVE brings together organisations representing everyone involved in live music in the UK including promoters, agents, venues and festivals.

CPA is the UK trade body for promoters.

AIP is the UK trade body for independent promoters.

AIF is the UK trade body for independent festival promoters.

Yourope is the pan-European trade body for festival promoters.

FAC is the organisation for frontline artists in the UK.

Musicians Union is the trade union for musicians in the UK.

ISM is an organisation for musicians in the UK.

MMF is the trade body for artist, writer and producer managers in the UK.

TEAA is the UK trade body for booking agents.

MVT is the UK trade body for grassroots music venues.

NAA is the UK trade body for arena venues.

PSA is the UK trade body for people involved in live event production.

AGF is a programme that supports environmentally sustainable festivals.

STAR is the UK trade body for ticket sellers and agents.

FanFair is the UK campaign against for-profit ticket-touting

FEAT is the pan-European campaign against for-profit ticket-touting.