This session discusses the context of, and presents interim findings from, a project that examines the live music sector in Birmingham against the backdrop of the broader socio-political factors that affect its potential sustainability, and link it to the global context. The project looks at the live music ecology of Birmingham – the interdependencies between the various musical and non-musical participants, such as policymakers – in the city’s various scenes and contexts. A vibrant, major city with a distinctive history of producing and consuming popular music (from reggae, through jazz to metal), Birmingham’s cultural economy serves as a useful case study for the upheavals surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU. With 40% of its population under 25 years old, two of the largest indoor venues in England, and due to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Birmingham’s sensitivity to the effects of Brexit on the ‘music tourism’ economy place it at the centre of the local and the global in the musical economy.
The project underpinning this panel involves the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods on the model of a live music census of the city. Mapping of venues and musical activity, alongside consultation with a range of (public and private) institutional stakeholders will be used to illuminate the ‘state of play’ on the ground in Birmingham, the concerns of its musical participants and, by extension, the challenges brought about by changes in the globalized music economy, and national policy for local cultural activity. The panel will outline the methodology, the context and the preliminary findings of the project to make suggestions about how an urban geographical area that is tied into national and international mechanisms can work to sustain its music ecology in the face of uncertainty in the surrounding political terrain.