The fifth annual PSNLive survey of the European live sound and performance sector depicts an industry regaining its lustre, writes David Davies. The new survey - which incorporates individual analyses of the manufacturing, rental, venue and sound engineer communities - is an integral part of the 2010 edition of PSNLive, an annual special publication from the PSNE team.
While an understandable air of uncertainty pervaded the 2009 report - which was undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis - there is a generally upbeat mood surrounding its successor. This is particularly apparent in the manufacturers' survey, with a remarkable 87% of participants expecting their sales to increase during 2010. A very healthy average growth forecast of +19% confirms the resilience of audio manufacturers, who have continued to bring significant new products and technologies to market despite the wider global turmoil.
Indeed, they will likely be further encouraged in their endeavours by the rental company overview, which reports a +9% shift in favour of expenditure on stock expansion following the emphasis on consolidation which characterised the 2009 overview. Once again, the overall outlook is positive - 56% of companies predict an increase in the overall value of their work in 2010.
An identical percentage of live sound engineers expect their workload to increase this year, although this part of the survey might be more notable for its evidence of a willingness to incorporate the latest technologies into event workflows. For example, 61% of live sound engineers consider themselves to be very up-to-date with technological developments in audio, while 67% think that networking will have a significant impact on their day-to-day working lives over the next 2-3 years.
No part of the survey is without its caveats, of course, and these are arguably most apparent in the venues section. While the largest single share of participants (45%) expect their live music income to increase this year, there are concerns about pricing structures and rising ticket prices.
"Once again, the PSNLive survey offers a fascinating snapshot of the live music sector throughout Europe," says PSNE/PSNLive editor Dave Robinson. "With income from recorded music in long-term decline, it's to be expected that an increasing emphasis is being placed on live performance - and as this survey indicates, that is highly unlikely to change any time soon. What will surprise some people is just how busy manufacturers and rental companies are right now. Yes, the studio market is suffering, but live audio is in robust health, and that's something we should all be celebrating."
PSNLive also incorporates the results of a separate online survey, which was aimed at the widest possible cross-section of industry stakeholders. More cautious in tone than the individual reports, results included an assessment of industry morale as good/reasonable by 57% of participants, and an expectation by 42% that the size of the worldwide live sound & performance industry would remain essentially unchanged over the next year. While 40% expect their own interests in the sector to neither increase or decrease over the next year, the second largest share (33%) are hopeful of modest growth between 0 and 10%.
Image: Ericcson Globe, Stockholm. Photographer: Sören Andersson