Music Industry, Music Tourism and Music Heritage in Liverpool

Research into the cultural legacy of the Beatles has consolidated Liverpool’s status as a world-famous music tourism destination and led to the creation of the Beatles Legacy Group: a working partnership between the university, the city council, cultural institutions, and the tourism industry.

The Challenge

The immediate research which underpins the creation of the Beatles Legacy Group was commissioned by Liverpool City Council, which sought to establish the economic value of Beatles tourism to Liverpool’s economy. The research was conducted by staff from three institutes – the Institute of Popular Music, the Institute of Cultural Capital (joint University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University), and the European Institute for Urban Affairs (JMU).

In its way, the challenge represented to the researchers was two-fold: firstly, to generate reliable numerical data on the annual amount spent by Beatles tourists in the city; and, secondly, to tackle the complexities associated with what is offered to tourists, and why. The development of the latter, undertaken in this instance by Dr Michael Jones, built on the historic efforts of the Institute of Popular Music (IPM) in this regard. The IPM has generated research work over a lengthy period by a number of current and former members, among them Prof. Sara Cohen, Dr. Michael Jones, Dr. Holly Tessler, Dr. Marion Leonard, Dr. Robert Strachan and Dr. Mike Brocken.

The development of Beatles tourism provision in Liverpool has a chequered history and, in its way, the publication of Beatles Heritage in Liverpool and its Economic and Cultural Sector Impact is a landmark event, an official ‘sealing’ of the recognition of the worth of the Beatles to the city of Liverpool. It may seem counter-intuitive to imagine that it could ever have been any other way, but a forthcoming article by Dr Michael Jones explores previous tensions, and this builds on earlier published work by Cohen and by Brocken and the unpublished work of Tessler.

Research Action

The research effort was divided between the IPM and the EIUA with the ICC as managers of the project. The EIUA conducted the numerical data analysis. In this the team encountered a number of practical and methodological challenges that needed to be addressed and resolved. Broadly, this involved analysing data derived from 42 Beatles-related businesses that comprise the ‘Beatles Economy’. At the same time, Jones (IPM) and Yates (ICC) conducted semi-structured interviews with a wide-range of stakeholders, among them the directors of Cavern City Tours (owners of the main Beatles tourism attraction, the Cavern, and operators of the Magical Mystery Tour bus service); the National Trust (owners of two of the Beatles’ childhood homes); and Apple Corps, the Beatles own holding company. This mixture of quantitative and qualitative data allowed Jones to identify the report’s recommendations. These were divided into ‘immediately realisable’ and ‘Medium and longer term’ recommendations. At the report’s press launch, the Mayor of Liverpool, councillor Joe Anderson announced that the first of the ‘immediately realisable’ recommendations – the creation of a Beatles Legacy Group (BLG) – would be enacted immediately. Jones was appointed a member of the BLG and has acted in that capacity ever since.

Working in partnership

The BLG is a working partnership between the city council, the university, the Liverpool Business Improvement District (BID), National Museums Liverpool, the newly-created Liverpool Music Office, and Marketing Liverpool. The group has helped drive the introduction of a Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) for Mathew Street (location of the Cavern and several other Beatles-related businesses and sites) and is working towards the identification of Penny Lane/Smithdown Place as a second Beatles-related SRF. As a BLG member, Jones was used extensively by the city council in the creation of the £750,000 ACE-funded 50th anniversary celebration of the release of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in 2017. This involved speaking engagements at Woolton Church Hall to international press; the Philharmonic Hall (a Q&A with Roger McGough); St. George’s Hall (a presentation on the Beatles and Indian Music in conjunction with Indian Arts organisation, Milapfest); the Liverpool Tate (chairing a session on the creative processes involved in the production of the album) as well as an appearance on BBC Breakfast Time to discuss a track from the album (With a Little Help from My Friends). 

Outputs and outcomes

Outputs and outcomes are various and still in train: the BLG, itself, is an output; its place in the creation of the Mathew Street-Williamson Square SRF is a key output. The Beatles Report is a research output, and Jones has two Beatles-related articles forthcoming in a journal (Global Media and China) and an edited collection, Music Cities, due for publication in 2019 and 2020, respectively.  

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