Music Tourists of the World Unite

When I was sixteen, I hatched (what I thought was) an unbeatable, brilliant plan for my future. “Ah, yes!” I thought, “I will study the sciences meticulously for the next decade and become a master of medicine! I shall cure incurable diseases help thousands and become economically secure in the process!”  Foolproof, I’m sure you’ll agree.

However, I have the (mis)fortune of being a bit of a fool. Though this was plan I should have been hatching… I wasn’t. My brain, which is far more inclined towards similes than scalpels, does not will such valuable, organised life-strategies. I wasn’t thinking about university, a career, future prospects – only that if I had but one duty on this Earth, it was to embark on a pilgrimage, to go where no Fordham had ever gone before… to the glorious, gold-paved market town of Macclesfield.

I’ve been waiting for a (tour) guide to come and take me by the hand for a long time now. Since I was an impressionable teenager, in fact, in unadulterated love with the Ian Curtis I felt “spiritually attuned” to as a result of the albums I had listened to solidly throughout my late teens, from the spouse-written biography I read, but mostly the coaster I had of him and Peter Hook looking glum and Joy Division-y together which – of course – I never used. It was a treasured coaster. But how could I truly “feel connected” to a band I loved that I could never ever see perform live? To go to the town most of them grew up in, to visit their local haunts, and buy another coaster to add to the collection? WAS THERE ANY PROBLEM A JOY DIVISION WALKING TOUR COULDN’T SOLVE?

Apparently, it’s quite a done thing. And it’s big business. Music tourism makes a significant economic contribution to towns and cities all over the UK through heritage sites, festivals and gigs and tends to employ a higher percentage of young people. Branding a region as a place of musical significance increases visitor count and exponentially heightens profit; according to a report by UK Music, 6.5 million music tourists generated £2.2 billion last year in this country. But take Austin, Texas, for example. Ever heard of SXSW? Even though the music scene in London is much bigger than in Austin, by branding itself as the ‘live music capital of the world’ and vigorously marketing its annual festivals, the city has accumulated around 1.6 billion dollars in annual revenue from tourism – music tourism accounting for 50% of this. I’m not a numbers kind of girl, but that’s not half bad, is it?

While it’s not all about profit, it is worth recognising music for the potent industry it’s often forgotten to be and it is entirely possible to expand the rich musical culture we have here without exploiting it. Whether you want to make your way to Manchester’s Whitworth Street, go down the road to Bethnal Green and find the Up the Bracket alleyway, or hold a candle-lit vigil outside Peter Andre’s and Katie Price’s ex-marital abode, it all adds up – with or without a gift shop. So the next time you spend 200 quid and travel 200 miles for a muddy summer weekend of music just remember – you’re doing it for the country.

Read UK Music’s report here: http://www.ukmusic.org/research/wish-you-were-here-2013/

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