One of the key messages Attitude is Everything always aims to convey to festivals and venues is that better access equals better business.
According to Government estimations, the so-called “Purple Pound” (the spending power of disabled people in the UK and their families) is worth an extraordinary £212bn. We all know that live music is a tight margins business, but barriers that would discourage disabled audiences effectively means turning away custom from one in five of the population. Providing an all-round audience experience, as well as respecting and valuing your disabled fans, has the potential to open up a new and loyal customer base.
Live music businesses that partner with Attitude is Everything send out a clear message that they take access provision seriously and that they will deliver facilities to a high standard. It is a real beacon of confidence to those thinking about attending an event. As a result, those signing up to our Charter of Best Practice have always – without fail – seen a boost in attendance from disabled fans, their friends and families.
The most tangible evidence we have of this cause and effect is our annual ticketing survey, where we speak to all of the venues and festivals signed up to our Charter, from the biggest to the smallest, and ask them how many accessible tickets they sold to disabled fans in the last calendar year.
Last week we unveiled 2015’s results, which revealed sales up 26 per cent year-on-year – the equivalent of £7.5m injected into the UK’s music economy. While partly attributed to a surge in new Charter sign-ups (14 came on board last year, ranging from Pride Cymru to Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena), the pre-existing 89 Charter venues and festivals still increased their combined disabled audience by 19,000 (13 per cent), generating an additional £1.5m.
Clearly, the data shows the importance of Attitude is Everything continuing to establish new partnerships – something never far from our radar!
However, between the numbers, the results also bear testament to some of the groundbreaking and forward-thinking practices being implemented by live music businesses – whether that’s the Barbican’s pioneering ‘relaxed performances’ aimed at fans who may have an Autism spectrum condition or learning disability, or the focus at a medium-sized venue like Cambridge Junction on fans who are visually impaired or hearing impaired.
This too is absolutely vital. It is crucial that we do not sit still.
Going beyond the expected and delivering access facilities to the widest audience possible is something we’re really keen to celebrate – and over recent weeks the Attitude is Everything website has paid particular focus to how some of the UK’s biggest live events have implemented recommendations to become more deaf-friendly – incorporating everything from hearing loops and PA tickets for communication support, to BSL (British Sign Language) interpretation during performances.
With one in six people in the UK have some form of hearing loss, and an estimated 900,000 severely or profoundly deaf, such inclusivity is key to achieving Music Without Barriers. It shows that live music is for everyone, whatever his or her circumstances. And with such genuine innovation in evidence, I am sure we will look towards another leap in ticket sales in 12 months’ time.