Mapping Report

November 18, 2014 in featured, Jo Buckley by Jo Buckley

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 20.37.06Earlier this year, the RCS and NMS were fortunate to receive an Innovation Voucher from SFC Interface Scotland to fund a mapping project for new music activity in Scotland. The aims were simple: find out where new music is taking place – and also where it isn’t – and collate the results on an accessible, digital map. The hope was that this map would become an invaluable resource for anyone looking to find out about Scotland’s new music sector, and that the report it generated would answer some key questions: Which venues are programming it? Who is commissioning it? Which organisations are struggling with it? Who is simply not interested?

New Music Map

Mapping Report

Mapping Survey Details

The project was not designed to be an exhaustive study in the first instance, but the hope was that the research would be substantive enough to give an accurate picture of the scale and scope of Scotland’s new music sector, and to pinpoint areas for growth and development. As the researcher commissioned to undertake this piece of research, I had the unenviable the task of finding every group, venue, festival and promoter currently involved in new music activity in some way – and there are many ways you can be involved. The survey was not just about listing contemporary music groups and concert halls. From the tiny city art gallery who occasionally host sound art installations, to the rural book festival with a late night music programme, and the dance company who commission new music to accompany their productions, the aim was to capture as many of these new music ‘pins’ as possible. And, perhaps more importantly, we also hoped to track down the organisations who had an interest in becoming involved with new music, but who perhaps faced barriers to doing so.

Drawing up the list was just one of the challenges of this ambitious project – and it relied on the assistance of many other organisations for their input, particularly in areas outside NMS’s usual remit, such as theatre, dance and visual art. We know that, for now at least, not everyone is yet represented on the map, but we have done our best to identify as many organisations as possible within the timescale of the project. And the hope is that as awareness of the digital map grows, people will be encouraged to submit new additions to this ‘living resource’. Defining ‘new music’ was another thorny issue, and one which saw us reluctantly excluding traditional and pop music from the survey, simply because the project’s resources could not extend to that amount of data (the report, however, recommends that further surveys could be carried out for these genres). Even the simple task of ringing round every organisation on the list to gather information about their own programming became a daunting task when faced with over 150 different places to call and document.

But the map helps to give a picture of the scale of new music activity across Scotland, and the results are encouraging. Almost every organisation we spoke to is working with new music in some shape of form – and this is true across the country, from the dense cultural hubs of Scotland’s biggest cities, to the rural towns and villages across the Highlands. There are pockets of intensity and areas of low activity too, but the simple fact that almost all organisations are engaging with music in some way is tremendously heartening. The breadth of new music activity is also remarkable. It is not just contemporary classical music that is being created and performed, but improvisation, experimental and electroacoustic music, jazz, sound art, and much more besides. And in many cases, there is a real willingness for people to step outside their comfort zones and experiment – the survey reveals that many ‘non-music’ organisations are engaging with music in a variety of ways in order to expand their programming and diversify their market.

While the digital map offers a summary of every organisation we contacted, so that groups/promoters/producers can easily identify those working with new music and very quickly have a way of contacting them, the report gives greater insight into the results of the research. Where there are successes, the report helps to show how these are being achieved. And where there are barriers to participation or difficulties gaining audiences, the report also offers recommendations. There are warnings, too, about the dangers of funding cuts from major Scottish arts organisations – particularly those, such as sound, who have been playing such a key part in Scotland’s contemporary music scene for many years. Above all, it is hoped that the report will demonstrate the great richness and diversity in Scotland’s new music sector and the huge potential it has – with the right support – to expand and develop in years to come.

To contribute your own addition to the map, please simply complete the submission form here. And to send comments, recommendations or suggestions about the report, please email