Playing Out

Exploring How Liverpool’s Live Music Sector Adapted to Survive the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Mathew Flynn University of Liverpool
  • Richard Anderson University of Liverpool



Liverpool, music, uncertainty, pandemic, recovery


Drawing on the findings of practitioner group consultations (n=49) and an online survey of music makers (n=37), this article illustrates the devastating impact of 18 months without full-capacity live events on the financial, musical and social wellbeing of the Liverpool City Region’s (LCR) music sector. The analysis shows how uncertainties concerning a return to normal operations, access to funding support, working within socially distanced limitations, and dealing with changing regulations have underlined the live music workers’ experience of the pandemic as well as how a sense of uncertainty persists despite a return to full-capacity events in July 2021. The findings show that digital alternatives partially helped alleviate lockdown’s detrimental effects but, overall, the sector viewed live-streaming as a “stop-gap” incomparable to the conventional concert experience. The research concludes by observing that, despite the numerous practical and economic adaptations and online advances that ensured the sector’s survival, the return to “business as usual” also means a return to pre-pandemic industry economics, which often function to the detriment of the musicians on whom the regional live sector’s operational and financial recovery depend.

Author Biographies

  • Mathew Flynn, University of Liverpool

    Mathew Flynn is a lecturer in Music Industry Studies at the University of Liverpool. His doctoral research modelled the everyday decision-making of music makers at different professional levels across the UK music industries. He has previously published on DIY musicians and entrepreneurship, coordinated part of the UK Live Music Census, and is a member of the Liverpool City Region Music Board.

  • Richard Anderson, University of Liverpool

    Richard Anderson is a University of Liverpool PhD candidate and MA graduate. His dissertation focused on aspiring musicians’ use of internet platforms for career development. His PhD investigates underground dance music scenes in the face of the threats of gentrification and COVID-19.


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How to Cite

Flynn, M., & Anderson, R. (2022). Playing Out: Exploring How Liverpool’s Live Music Sector Adapted to Survive the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of World Popular Music, 9(1-2), 49–76.