Purpose – This paper sets out to compare different methodologies for measuring the value(s) of live popular music and to explore the different motivations amongst a range of organisations engaged in that work. Design/methodology/approach – The authors analyse how the values of live music are measured, who does it and why. Based on this analysis the authors present a model that visualises the myriad of organisations, methods, aims and objectives involved. Findings – The authors identify three approaches to measuring the impact of live music (economic impact studies, mapping and censuses and social sciences and humanities) and three types of actors (industry, policy and academia). The analysis of these demonstrates that measuring live music is not a neutral activity, but itself constructs a vision on how live music ecologies function. Practical implications – For cultural organisations, demonstrating the outcomes of their work is important in acquiring various forms of support. The model presented in this paper helps them to select adequate methodologies and to reflect on the consequences of particular approaches to measuring live music activities. Originality/value – While the number of studies measuring live music’s impact is growing, theoretical and methodological reflection on these activities is missing. The authors compare the different methodologies by discussing strengths and weaknesses. This results in a model that identifies gaps in existing studies and explores new directions for future live music research. It enhances understanding of how different ways of measuring live music affect policymaking and conceptions of what live music is and should be.