How many goths are there in the UK?

It’s one of those classic interview questions: “How many piano tuners are there in Seattle?” It’s all about reasonable estimates and back-of-a-fag-packet calculations to come up with a number that’s hopefully within an order of magnitude of the actual result. The trope codifier (warning: TV Tropes link!) is the Fermi Paradox, which asks the existential question: Where is everybody?

Whilst the question of intelligent extra-terrestrial life has some academic interest, of far more import is the question: Where are all the goths? This is of practical interest to all of us, particularly those working in the field of promotion. In the spirit of the original, I’ll take a few different runs at it and see where we get to ….

Firstly, we need to define terms. Particularly “goth”. I’m still not going to write the “What is Goth?” post, so I’ll have to conjure up some work-around. For the purpose of this post, a goth is someone who either self-identifies as a goth (we’ll ignore those who were misled by Kerrang!, as being both small in number and potential recruits anyway), or exhibits goth-like behaviour and is commonly identified as a goth by others (purely for the mischievous glee of including Von).

The WGW Calculation

People that go to Whitby Goth Weekend are goths.
About a quarter of UK goths go to WGW on any given event.
WGW has about 1000 capacity.
About three times that number go to the town for the weekend – about 3,000.
About 90% of them are from the UK.
So there are at least 2,700 UK goths at WGW.
Therefore there are around 11,000 goths in the UK.

The Small Town Goth Night Calculation

A typical UK conurbation, which is big enough for somebody to try running a goth night, has a population of around 300,000.
On a busy night, they might get 30 goths in.
On a busy night, they might get half the local goths in.
Sixty goths out of a population of 300,000 is 0.02% of the population.
Assuming a regular spread across the country, and a population of about 70 million, there are around 14,000 goths in the UK.

The Big City Goth Night Calculation

A big UK city has a ready catchment area of about 1.5 million people.
A busy goth night in said area might get around 150 people.
20% of them will be from out of town – bigger nights = bigger draw = more people travelling. So 120 local goths.
Because there are more events in a big city, we might only get a quarter of the local goths coming out to a busy night – so we’ve got around 480 goths in that catchment area. Call it 500 for simplicity, which comes out at 0.03% of our 80.
So, given the assumption of a 70 million population, that gives us around 23 thousand goths in the UK.

The Alt-Fest Calculation

There are about 200 goth bands booked for Alt-Fest.
Each goth band has an average of about 500 fans in the UK.
Therefore there about 100,000 goths in the UK.
Sorry. That was naughty.

Why does any of this matter?

  1. If you’re thinking of running an event, releasing a CD, getting a book published, or generally doing anything that involves getting a good idea of what your potential market might be, being able to come up with reasonable estimates like these matters.
  2. It’s just generally interesting. Something in the region on 10,000-30,000 goths in the UK puts us well below most accepted religions (indeed, we’re apparently outnumbered at least 10:1 by Jedi!), and about equivalent to druids. A sobering thought!
  3. If my numbers come anywhere near reflecting reality, it serves to remind us all to support the scene.

What do you get?

The calculations above are all genuine seat-of-the-pants stuff – I was surprised to see how close they all came out! I’d be fascinated to see your calculations, whether or not they resemble my own!

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