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Two of Belfast’s biggest outdoor music events generate over £30million for Northern Ireland economy

Published on 3 April 2024

The 2023 editions of Belsonic Festival at Ormeau Park and Emerge Music Festival in Boucher Fields generated £30.8million and created almost 6,000 paid employment opportunities.

According to an independent report, the two privately held and funded events attracted over 200,000 paid attendees, with substantial numbers of customers travelling from all over the world including Australia, USA and mainland Europe.Chris Carey, chief economist at LIVE, the trade body for the UK Live Music Industry, and a consultant to Sony Music, Spotify, and London’s O2 Arena, conducted the study alongside live entertainment consultant Tim Chambers, who has occupied senior roles at Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter, Ticketmaster, TicketWeb at the UK Academy music venues group.

In response, Economy Minister Conor Murphy, said: "Events such as Belsonic and Emerge are considerable economic drivers providing a much needed boost for our local tourism and hospitality industry. Employing thousands of people each year, they also engender a feel good factor and a sense of pride that shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, councillor Ryan Murphy also praised the events: “Belfast has been a city of music for hundreds of years – and currently we’re the only UNESCO city of music on the island of Ireland – so it’s fantastic to see events like Belsonic and Emerge as well as other home grown internationally renowned festivals such as Féile an Phobail, Belfast International, CQAF and East Side Arts Festivals making such strong contributions both to our city experience and our economy."

"Joe Dougan, director, TSW Management, The Limelight / Shine / Belsonic, along with fellow Belfast Music board members, has been contributing his expertise to our ‘Music Matters – a roadmap for Belfast’. That roadmap is all about building on our UNESCO City of Music designation, placing music at the heart of the city to make Belfast an even better place to live, work and visit – and supporting our musicians, our music infrastructure, our neighbourhoods and maximising Belfast’s vast music potential."

"Belsonic and Emerge have also engaged positively with elected members, residents and other stakeholders to enhance their offering. Music is such a key part of our cultural identity and expression, so it’s great to hear that there’s substantial growth planned for Emerge this year, during Belfast 2024, our city’s biggest ever cultural and creative celebration.”

Established in 2008, Belsonic has grown to occupy the position as Northern Ireland’s largest live music event, generating £20.4million of additional economic activity in 2023, owing to sold out headline shows from international artists.

The annual event returns to Ormeau Park in June 2024, with headliners such as Take That, Sting, Shania Twain, Becky Hill and Limp Bizkit.Launched in 2022, Emerge Music Festival has established itself as Ireland’s largest electronic music festival. The 2023 edition featured over 50 acts across four stages and two days. Headliners Carl Cox, Bicep, Camelphat and Charlotte deWitte played to sold out audiences, paving the way for a substantial expansion for this year’s event, scheduled for August 24/25.Festival director Alan Simms, also of The Limelight Belfast, CHSQ, Shine and many other local live music companies, explained: “These economic impact figures are startling, and clearly indicative of the broader and hugely positive economic benefit to Belfast and beyond.

"Hospitality businesses, private transport, public services and many other key areas of the local economy benefit on show nights, and the local tourism industry and hotel occupancy always see a strong boost, not to mention the thousands of staff and local suppliers employed at these and our other events. We are delighted to see our events contribute to the local economy in such a substantial fashion both with the large summer events and the many other concerts and event we produce throughout the rest of the year.”

Sian Mulholland MLA, chair of the NI Assembly’s All Party Group for Arts, continued: "The arts play a crucial role in promoting social cohesion and inclusion. They provide a platform for shared experience, and understanding. They bring people together across divides of culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. We know the value of the arts goes beyond mere entertainment; it extends to the very heart of our economy."

"The creative industries in Northern Ireland contribute a huge amount of money into our economy each year, providing employment opportunities for thousands of people and driving innovation across a wide range of sectors. Belsonic and Emerge are two great examples of that. If this is what the Arts can deliver with very little investment, imagine what could be achieved with a fully resourced sector. We need more investment. Not less."

Liam Hannaway, chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The arts have a unique ability to bring people and communities together in a positive and transformative way. Belsonic and, more recently the Emerge festival, have become summer staples, annually attracting large audiences, united by their love of music. The figures published today are to be welcomed and demonstrate the enormous contribution the arts and cultural scene make to society and the local economy. Congratulations to the Belsonic and Emerge teams on another successful year.”

Gerry Lennon, chief executive, Visit Belfast, also welcomed the figures: “Events play a pivotal part in driving tourism growth and generating revenue that supports thousands of jobs across the city and region, creating compelling opportunities to visit and enjoy a vibrant, thriving city that boasts festivals and events all year round. These two iconic music festivals have grown in strength and stature and help in showcasing Belfast as an outstanding, welcoming and exciting destination for local, national and international visitors and I congratulate everyone involved on this outstanding success.”

Source: Newsletter (link opens in new window)