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Boost for Inverness pub thanks to live music videos

By Gregor White

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Live traditional music at MacGregor's Bar has been pulling in a worldwide audience thanks to streaming.
Live traditional music at MacGregor's Bar has been pulling in a worldwide audience thanks to streaming.

MacGregor’s Bar in Inverness says it has experienced a major boost to visitor numbers thanks to its social media following.

The bar in Academy Street has built up a strong international following since it started live streaming traditional music sessions during the pandemic in 2020.

As a result, owners say, the bar has seen a huge rise in visitors this year, especially those travelling from North America.

Bruce MacGregor and Jo De Sylva started the online ‘Live at 5’ show from the bar during lockdown.

Continuing to attract a worldwide audience it has even led to a successful line of merchandise.

Mr MacGregor said: “Every Friday at 5pm we broadcast the show from our bar.

"We have a real community out there of 3000 to 6000 people watching from South Africa, Australia, France, New Zealand, the US and Canada.

“We started our ‘Live at 5’ music sessions during lockdown. We had just been named best music bar in Scotland and then two months later we went into a national lockdown.

"They have kept going ever since – very ad hoc and interactive – and with a huge local and international following.

“I would say that 80 per cent of our guests this summer have been North American. We’re also seeing visitors from Europe, but we have been especially popular with visitors from the US and Canada.

“It really is quite incredible how popular the show has become.

"Music is a very important part of it, but our customers are also interested in the history and culture of Scotland.

"We have a cocktail menu with drinks named after and dedicated to famous Scots. It’s the history, culture and music – all of it – that our customers want to be a part of.

“We have also started a new merchandise line which has proved popular with this market.

"All of our sessions are broadcast on Facebook Live and we use technology that allows us to stream live on two to three pages, such as the hugely popular Music from Scotland page, as well as at live events such as Stonehaven Folk Festival and Piping Live.

“It has been amazing, the best thing we have ever done.

"My wife Jo and I quite enjoy the filming side of it and have learned new skills, which is an added bonus. We also feel an immense loyalty to those who have joined us from day one. Many people who can’t make it outside of their home, look forward to it and tune in every week. What we want to make sure is that our bar is accessible to everyone and portrays a realistic versions of Scotland life.

"The show is interactive, ad hoc and people are fond of making a fool of themselves! This all adds to its appeal!”

The International Passenger Survey figures show that Scotland was a top choice for international visitors between January and June this year.

A total of 572,000 international visitors were made to Scotland during the first quarter of the year, an increase of 29 per cent on the same period in 2019. And, between April and June 2023 there was a total of 1,163,000 visits to Scotland from international visitors, an increase of 50 per cent on the same period in 2022, and a rise of more than a quarter (27 per cent) on quarter two in 2019.

VisitScotland director of marketing and digital, Vicki Miller, said: “It is fantastic to see tourism businesses demonstrate real creativity and innovation in bringing to life some of the unique aspects of life in Scotland.

"Social media plays a significant role in inspiring new and return visitors to Scotland.

"These videos help capture some of the many reasons that visitors from across the world travel here – our vibrant culture, friendly people, unmissable experiences and, of course, our sense of humour.”

VisitScotland offers a range of advice and support for tourism businesses to help support digital skills and online performance. See here for more details.

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