Belsonic and Emerge tickets and jobs lead to a summer of money for Belfast festivals

Economic impact report shows that Belsonic and Emerge created 6,000 jobs in 2023

Lionel Richie will play in Ormeau Park on Saturday, part of the Belsonic gigs
Lionel Richie will play in Ormeau Park on Saturday, part of the Belsonic gigs Lionel Richie on stage at the 2023 Belsonic festival at Ormeau Park

Two of Belfast’s biggest outdoor music events - Belsonic and Emerge - generated more than £30 million for the north’s economy in 2023 and created almost 6,000 jobs, a new report says.

The Belsonic Festival at Ormeau Park and the Emerge Music Festival in the city’s Boucher Fields, both privately run and funded, attracted more than 200,000 paying customers, with substantial numbers travelling from as far away as Australia, the USA and mainland Europe.

And according to Chris Carey, chief economist at LIVE, the trade body for the UK live music industry, those two gigs alone generated additional economic activity of £30.8 million last year.

Carey, who is 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.

Belsonic, which was established in 2008 and has steadily grown to occupy the position as Northern Ireland’s largest live music event, generated £20.4m of additional economic activity, thanks to sold-out headline shows from international artists such as Lizzo, Tom Jones, Lionel Richie, George Ezra, David Guetta & Florence & The Machine.

The event returns to Ormeau Park in June 2024, with headliners including Take That, Sting, Shania Twain, Becky Hill & Limp Bizkit.

The Emerge Music Festival, launched in 2022,has quickly established itself as Ireland’s largest electronic music festival. Its 2023 edition featured more than 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 the 2024 event, scheduled for August 24 &25.

Festival director Alan Simms (also of The Limelight, CHSQ, Shine and other live music companies in the city) said: “These economic impact figures are startling, and are clearly indicative of the broader and hugely positive economic benefit to Belfast and beyond.

Announcing that the two major Belfast summers festivals last year raked in more than £30m for the city are (from left) Deborah Collins (Visit Belfast), Alan Simms (Belsonic), Belfast lord mayor Ryan Murphy, economy minister Conor Murphy and Liam Hannaway (Arts Council Northern Ireland chair)

“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.”

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 under-estimated.”

Sian Mulholland, who chairs the Assembly’s all party group for arts, added: “The arts play a crucial role in promoting social cohesion and inclusion, and a platform for shared experience and understanding, bringing people together across divides of culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

“The value of the arts goes beyond mere entertainment; it extends to the very heart of our economy. The creative industries here 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.