Starting Point: 2015

The starting point had to be defined to lend substance to the Australian music scenarios. The concluding section of the main paper defining the situation in 2015 (Music Sector Structure for Scenarios#Music_Sector_2015) contains details. It has four main headings and a conclusion:

  • External economic and political influences
  • Impact on Australia
  • Australian demographic trends
  • Music drivers 2015.

In summary, 2015 started on the back foot. Global economic forecasts have been repeatedly cut back as the impact of the Global Financial Crisis lingers on, and more disappointing statistics emerge. In early/mid-2015, the global economy appears to be working below its medium-term trend, which in itself could be a reason for pessimism about future prospects. The one bright point in the IMF’s assessment in January 2015 was a revival of the American economy, sparked by a burst of consumer optimism based on plummeting gasoline prices. However, the US gasoline price increased from 58.3¢ per litre in January to 77.1¢ on 15 June (still much lower than the peak 99.5¢ in June 2014).1 The US consumer confidence index declined from a January peak of 103.8 to 94.3 in April but recovered to 95.4 in May (still significantly above 82.2 in May 2014, one year earlier). The jury is still out on US confidence, but the signs are better than a year ago, and the IMF is among the world’s best economic forecasters.

Most of the European Union remain troubled though currently subjected to a massive monthly injection of “quantitative easing” from the European Central Bank, and the global locomotive, China, has slowed down. India, on the other hand, is being more favourably regarded, and is in some ways as dark horse among the world’s major nations — quite apart from being on track to become the most populous country.

Australia remains in the doldrums, partly as a result of its iron ore exports to China declining since 2011, though this has a potentially important medium-term upside if it leads to a restructuring of the Australian economy towards service and non-mining commodity exports. That would reduce the impact of the “dual economy” which boosted the Australian dollar so much that it had a serious effect on the competitiveness of non-mining export industries, and local Australian production. Music is part of the Australian economy, and depends on general economic conditions both as a significant commercial industry and because of the impact of the federal budget process on the status of culturally related policies.2

This adds to the impact of the specific influences on music which are of a medium-term rather than short-term nature. The music sector has some great strengths, which is a mixture of commercial and community influences — popular music performances have attracted growing audiences (whereas orchestral and operatic music and ballet have not) and community music and festivals appear to be strengths rather than weaknesses. Australia also has a fine international reputation for the quality of its art music and how it is performed (demonstrated in Australian Classical Musicians Successful Abroad at a High Level), backed by some excellent music education especially in its private schools, some opportunities for children to start music in early childhood, and nurturing over many years in its music conservatoriums. The flipside, however, is substantial inequality probably leading to lost opportunities for other talented people.

Many strengths are potentially threatened, and it is a main function of scenario planning to demonstrate threats. There has been a general decline in public funding of both tertiary music education per student and musical activities generally (especially creative innovative projects). This was exacerbated by severe cutbacks in the 2014-15 federal budget, projected in the accompanying budget papers to be continued over the following three years. A generally more expansionary 2015-16 budget, announced in May 2015, did nothing to change the impression as far as the arts are concerned, and contained a severe change in the role of the main funding body, the Australia Council. According to its chair, Rupert Myer AM, the budget “included measures which will significantly impact the work of the Australia Council on behalf of the arts sector.” School music education, especially at primary level, is by most standards (including international comparisons) inadequate. At another level, the digital revolution has done little if anything to stem the flow of imported popular music, especially from America, though the flow can go both ways. It has occasionally gone at least partly Australia’s way, depending on the success of major groups such as INXS and AD/DC, but the annual fluctuations are large.

On balance, the weaknesses currently outweigh the strengths of the Australian music sector — the threats appear to overshadow the opportunities.

The scenarios that follow are based on the four stories which were told in global and general Australian terms in Four Global Scenarios Set the Stage. Each music sector story below is prefaced by a summary based on that source.

A final reminder that any scenario exercise is to some extent speculative. It must rely on assertions that are not all based on hard data. A previous paper in the series, Valuing the Invaluable, shows why economic analysis of cultural and environmental matters can only hope to capture part of the real value associated with cultural and natural capital. These scenarios make plausible assertions about, say, the connection between the exposure of young children to music and their subsequent development. Plausibility goes beyond statistics. The government’s existing cultural and environmental policies were not numerically based, and changes to these policies won’t be either. The role of the scenarios is to tell credible stories of how government and community may act in different circumstances outlined by the critical uncertainties described in Music Sector Structure for Scenarios — how these uncertainties help determine the range from best-case to worst-case versions.

Music Sector Scenarios 2015-2035

Each of the four scenario stories is organised similarly. The sections headed “General” are summaries from Four Global Scenarios Set the Stage. An initial “one-liner” shows how the two critical uncertainties combine (“progressive” versus “reactionary” world, and “strong” versus “weak” culturally related policies in Australia, depending on the priority these policies are given). It is followed in turn by brief notes on global and Australian economic growth; impact of finite global resources on long-term global growth; inequality; international disharmony; climate change; status of science and technology; and recognition of cultural capital and the cultural value of the arts.

Each general section also shows a graph, showing estimates of total economic growth in Australia from 2010 to 2035, and a preliminary estimate of music sector value-added. Given that we have not yet compiled a comprehensive set of data on music, the latter should be regarded as informed guesses only. We guess, for instance, that the total music sector probably grew slightly more slowly than the total economy from 2005 to 2015. The best-case scenario, Culture Reigns, suggests that music will catch up with the growth in total GDP during the current decade, and will then exceed GDP growth from about 2020. By 2035, Australia’s GDP is projected to be almost 90% higher than in 2010, but the tentative estimate for the total music product is a 101% increase over the same period. The projections are quite different for the three other scenarios as outlined in the descriptions that follow.

The music sector scenarios follow each general section. The best-case story is told in detail, with an added section providing guidance for the three other scenario stories in the interest of analytic consistency. The presentations are determined by the section headed “Music Drivers 2015” in Music Sector Structure for Scenarios. Tables 6 to 9 in that paper show current strengths and weaknesses arranged under each of the four sets of music driving forces — Culture, Education, Infrastructure, and Innovation. 1 The four scenario stories are arranged in the same sequence and each identified with its own image.

Importantly, these scenarios are stories about what might happen if no corrective or mitigating action is taken. This is particularly relevant in the worst case, “Sliding inexorably”. It identifies the ingredients of a world where the main global driving forces are reactionary, and in addition Australia places a low priority on arts and related policies including education and the environment. The worst-case scenario is a warning of what might happen without corrective action, but such action is almost bound to happen if the warning signs are identified in advance for all to see.

Best Case: Culture Reigns


  • The world is progressive. Australia’s main trading partners recognise the importance of a balanced education including both technical subjects and the arts. Australia itself introduces a stronger suite of culturally related policies.
  • “Big” trends in climate change control significantly delaying a growth ceiling (see Paper #10) will be working positively in this scenario, as will global higher education reform.
  • After a slow start in 2015 and 2016, the global economy recovers to above-trend growth in most countries and regions, led by China. Global GDP grows at 4.5% per annum to 2025 and then at 4.2% with an increasing share to the emerging and newly industrialised economies. The advanced economies of the European Community, North America, Japan and Australasia average 3%; Australia grows slightly faster at 3.2%, increasing its GDP by 89.6% in 20 years (from $1.616 trillion in 2015 to $3.063 trillion in 2035).
  • The Australian economy benefits from the improving international environment, especially its proximity to Asia. Mineral exports remain important but other exports get more of a look-in. Immigration remains high — the population grows from 24m in 2015, to 32m. GDP per head rises by 42.2% over 20 years (1.77% per annum).
  • Tentatively, awaiting the planned statistical analysis, the growth in the music sector is expected to outperform the general economy from about 2020. For now, its value-added is expected to be 101% higher in 2035 than in 2015.
  • By 2035, the world has moved perceptibly closer to a ceiling preventing future growth based on physical output. Growth in knowledge, however, has no such barriers, including how to minimise the damage through innovative technology. As discussed in paper #10, ways are being found to overcome the barriers to economic growth set by the climate threat. Economic growth provides better opportunity to plan ahead and apply damage control to postpone the time when economic theory and policy will need basic modification. A paradigm shift in business and political thinking about growth and the environment is a requirement in this best-case scenario.
  • Inequality between regions and countries is reduced. The wealth distribution within many countries including Australia becomes more equitable, assisted by more efficient tax laws and other measures such as subsidies to lower income earners and higher government pensions to all but the richest 20% of the ageing population.
  • The social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many others) continue to play a positive role worldwide and in Australia, providing access to participation in public issues centred on social justice and equity.
  • The world continues to have its major trouble spots, but there is a trend towards reconciliation within nations and regions supported by increasing and gradually more equitable wealth and more democratic governments. International organisations play a stronger role.
  • Climate control finally becomes a key concern in all but a handful of nations. In Australia, major renewable energy projects becomes a top priority, especially solar which benefits from the abundant inland supply of sunshine. The competitiveness of renewable energy is improved through technological development and because coal finally gets taxed at a rate compensating for its atmospheric pollution.
  • Science is at the apex of academic prestige. Technology continues to accelerate across a broad front. Innovative technology is a major contributor to growth and to people’s wellbeing. It is controlled to avoid major misuse by monopolistic organisations and antisocial users.
  • Cultural capital becomes a valid input into economic analysis, and a higher GDP is no longer a synonym for happiness and wellbeing in a complex society. A more equitable distribution of wealth in Australia has more effect than a rising GDP on people’s feeling of wellbeing.
  • The cultural value of the arts including music is accepted, including their long-term positive benefits for national income.

Music Sector

CULTURE  gets into the high seat in Australia by 2020 as public opinion moves in favour of better cultural protection, but the start is slow due to the adverse global economy and domestic budgetary issues, coupled with the recent lack of priority given to culturally related policies which takes time to overcome. Australia is in a good position to benefit from the global economic recovery in 2017, and the 2017-18 Budget contains the first moves towards a proactive cultural policy. It is still not easy; many hangovers linger from the protracted impact of the global financial crisis. But by 2020 a more general understanding has developed that Culture, with a capital C, is a macroeconomic asset with long-term benefits for national income and quicker benefits for national wellbeing (as provisionally illustrated by the chart opening the description of “Culture Reigns”).3

There were other reasons for the slow start in 2015. The research leading up to the music scenarios revealed significant interactions between the four sets of driving forces, illustrated by Chart 2 in Music Sector Structure for Scenarios 2. It showed strong mutual interaction between Culture and Education and significant links between Innovation and Culture. Both Education and Innovation started on a weak footing from 2015, as described under the appropriate headings below — negative influences on the initial status of the set of driving forces captured by the Culture label.

We were halfway through the first decade of the 20-year scenario before any sort of victory could be seen in what was quite literally 2020 vision. Even in a best-case scenario the process requires persistent effort to influence general public opinion and government policy. The music sector itself had to adapt to many changes, such as the changing perceptions of what constitutes culture. The underlying Australian culture, as defined here, is strong but it is not immutable.

Australia’s strong sense of its own culture since the time of the First Fleet widened to incorporate other cultures acquired from ever more diverse migrant groups, and from the nation’s proximity to Asian countries from India to China, Korea and Japan to Southeast Asia. Australian Indigenous culture, underestimated for many years when top politicians could still be heard uttering that all Australian culture dates from 1788, also became much more visible and accepted — with music continuing to play a major role in this process of familiarisation and acceptance.

Public and private funding remained crucially important for the survival of the more arts-related genres, as ever. The bias against public funding of small innovative ventures that have the potential to punch above their weight in terms of creativity had been a perpetual weakness aggravated by the need to support Australia’s great orchestras and opera companies within the same inflexible budget allocations. The realisation gathered strength among policymakers (finally being persuaded by arts administrators and the arts communities generally) that there are two distinct issues which cannot both be met within the same limited budget. They are horses of different colours that should not be run in the same race:4

  • Innovative and creative projects need support, and their risk of failure justifies such support — but the required support is relatively modest. Projects classified as “other music” only received 15% of the Australia Council’s total music funding in 2012-13 ($12.9m), and less than that in the 2014-15 budget when these projects bore the brunt of the cut while the funding of orchestras and opera companies was left almost unchanged.
  • Orchestras and opera companies accounted for 85% of the Australia Council’s funding of music in 2012-13 ($74.4m). Audiences failed to grow or went backwards for a decade up to 2015. Their needs are those of big businesses based on fine music performances, which sometimes stuck unduly with well-known traditional operas and classical compositions rather than taking initiatives to innovate these fine genres. They continued to produce superb internationally recognised art, justifying their expanded support which should be arguably in exchange for requests for greater variety of repertoire.

From 2020, the Australia Council’s budget is split, removing the restriction on innovative projects resulting from the need to share with the orchestras and opera companies.5 Both categories, but especially what was known as the Australia Council’s “other music” category in 2015, receive substantially increased funding above the rate of economic growth over the next five years and beyond. The orchestras and opera companies benefit from renewed support from corporations and private families, the traditional mainstay of their American counterparts. They also introduce more innovative repertoires, which are appreciated by larger and better-informed audiences who increasingly accept that fine music continued to develop into the 20th and 21st centuries.

Cultural policy was greatly revived and rejuvenated. Public funding increased substantially in 2018-25 and beyond. The cultural planning process that was abandoned in 2013 was resurrected in 2017 with great inputs from a broad range of independent advisers leading to a revised national cultural plan that was influential in setting the course into the 2020s and 2030s. In 2019 it replaced Creative Nation, Australia’s first national cultural plan by now a quarter century old. The plan created a new faith in the future of Australia’s artistic and cultural life, with music in a central position.

Australia’s population grew by 25% between 2015 and 2035 with an annual net migration of 280,000 persons, many of whom were born in eighteen East, Southeast and South Asian countries with China and India the main contributors to an increasingly Asian-born population. Between 2001 and 2015, an annual average of 90,000 was added to the Australian population from these sources. Almost 2.3m of the total Australian population of 24m were from these countries in 2015 (9.5%). While there were many “push-and-pull” factors determining migration flows, ranging from relative income levels to coping with environmental issues but also benefiting from ever more effective digital communications about conditions elsewhere, the annual average increase went from 90,000 to 125,000, resulting in 15% of the 32m people (4.8m) resident in Australia in 2035 being born in these countries.3

This demographic trend continued to support a growing understanding of other musical expressions — in short, world music.

Popular music performance was already one of the strengths of the music sector in 2015, responsible for the growth of most large musical activities as well as giving joy to young people playing their music for little money in venues from garages to pubs and clubs. Despite a growing presence of talented local songwriters the flipside was a continued threat to the diversity of popular music because of the dominance of American music, modern digital technology, and the power of international intellectual property agreements (notwithstanding their importance in protecting against piracy). Mainstream popular music genres changed globally rather than taking on a range of local varieties. This was recognised in Australia and partially remedied through increased contributions from multicultural and Indigenous music-makers, which began to make a commercial impact building up through the second half of the scenario period. The greater publicity given to other musical cultures led to increasing interest in untraditional musical instruments and an understanding of their potential to enrich the better-known genres. Funding of these musical genres was much increased, recognising their contribution as genuine art.

Maintaining and policing Australian content rules in commercial and community broadcasts also assisted to reach an improved position for several genres of Australian popular music, including multicultural expressions. Encouraging local songwriters and successful international touring of popular bands helped preserve or build Australian content, assisted by better music education, especially from 2025 onwards. It all took time, but the groundwork was laid long before 2015 with the success of Australian bands like AC/DC and INXS, greatly supported by innovative artistic managers.

Community music and music and multi-arts festivals were other relative strengths in Australian musical culture from the outset. Both in different ways span a wider range of genres than either the large popular or classical music concerts, and they provided additional venues for both. Similarly, opera benefited from an exposure to music theatre which was already being encouraged by the opera companies, though opera in the classical sense remained intact. Both festivals and community music continue to play an essential role in bringing music to the grassroots of local Australian society, from choirs and local chamber music and orchestral groups to folk, country and popular music genres. Jazz music flourishes in mainly small venues, and becomes more generally recognised as art music, worthy of higher funding support. One of the results was a continued move into rural and provincial Australia which even embraced opera — in 2015 opera performances in country towns were still at an embryonic stage but from 2020 more opera was brought to the larger country towns by touring companies. Some of the smaller metropolitan opera companies that existed in 2015 helped fuel that development.

Innovation and technology have hardly been touched upon in the above description except as a supporter in a cultural context. They are of obvious importance there and illustrates the interrelationships between the four sets of driving forces influencing the music sector which are basic in these scenarios. Other innovative influences, potentially positive although this was not always the case in 2015, are described in the appropriate section below, following Education and Infrastructure.

EDUCATION: 6. Most early childhood and primary school systems did not offer music education, most primary music classroom teachers received only a token music education that was obviously insufficient to enable them to deliver a music curriculum, and conservatoriums did not provide an amount of music education that equalled that of high-standard overseas music schools. Stronger points included:

  • The private primary and secondary schools in Australia were good at discovering musically talented children and providing their education, which has helped to maintain the excellent reputation of Australian professional musicians, singers and composers.
  • Conservatoriums catered well for the best talents, striving to continue to do so despite inadequate funding forcing some unwanted changes on their operations, extending right up to the late 2010s.
  • Community music events and music festivals, as noted under Culture, were and are active forces. Community music organisations are essential at the grass roots and increasingly support local schools.
  • The rapid computerisation of Australian schools is a net benefit for students from an early age and for the many generalist primary teachers with a willingness to use what musical skills they had to help fill the gap in primary school music teaching.

The most serious flaw was the status of primary state and Catholic school music education, most of which was either not subject to formal teaching or left to a large extent to generalists — as just noted, computers are helpful here by providing interactive music education packages for both children and teachers (providing the latter with a means of self-instruction). The exceptions tended to be in affluent urban communities with strong and active parental support, in areas with active musical communities often called upon to help fill the gaps, and in Queensland where the policy for some decades was to employ specialist music teachers in state schools at all levels. The net overall result was that the quality of secondary school music education was adversely affected by the lack of primary school music teaching, a problem made worse because of the enormous variability in the early-years music preparation of children, depending at the top end mostly upon whether parents paid for music programs in schools and/or private lessons. Secondary school music teachers faced incoming classes where students brought a very wide variation in musical competencies, a problem not faced by the teachers of subjects like mathematics in which all students were more consistently educated throughout the primary school years and emerged with roughly comparable skills.

The number of hours devoted to school music as late as 2020 was low compared to some other countries with higher “PISA” scores, which rate the maths, science and reading skills of 15-year-old girls and boys. Australia had slipped back in the ranking and absolute level of PISA scores since these were first measured in 2000, and since then every three years. There was some levelling out in this trend in the triennial survey in 2018, attributable in part to the generally rising student computer skills.7 As the decade went on, the evidence from neuroscience began to convince more observers that inadequate exposure to music from an early age might have some influence on the PISA scores.

We have already touched upon the inequality and difference in opportunity depending on whether the education was in a private or state school, and whether families can afford paying for private music teachers and material resources such as instruments.

Furthermore, tertiary music education was increasingly starved of public funding, forcing a reduction in vital one-to-one teaching of talented singers and instrumentalists.

Finally, there was a call for improved training in business skills of musicians for a professional life, in an industry increasingly depending on managerial ability.

So how did education succeed in providing better support to the music sector in this scenario?

The process was slow because it takes years to build a qualified music staff virtually from the ground up. In 2015, previous single courses in education with a specialist subject were being superseded by a three-year bachelor’s course followed by a two-year teaching qualification resulting in a Master’s degree in education. The problem then was that these degrees did not offer a specialty in primary school music education.

The first steps were taken in 2017-18 in parallel with the work on the new national cultural plan that was introduced in 2019 — quality arts teaching incorporating primary school music as a necessary component. The first additions of qualified staff to fill the gaps were from people with bachelor degrees in music who could qualify as specialist primary music teachers in only two years (rather than the five years for a Master’s degree as a specialist music teacher). Continued improvement of digital teaching devices and how to use them as teaching aids was another important factor.

Even with the sustained effort from 2018 to improve the qualifications of primary music teachers it took until 2025 before any really significant improvement was evident, though the first additions of qualified music specialists happened in 2021. The continued lack of qualified teachers also prevented other reforms, such as increasing the time devoted to music teaching, long recognised as inadequate and putting Australia at a disadvantage internationally.

Other factors progressively reduced this handicap from 2018, as described elsewhere in this story, but most of the impact of improving teaching quality became visible in the second decade of the scenario.

Meanwhile, music education in private schools took up some of the slack, aided by increasing economic prosperity which also allowed more families to seek alternative ways of acquiring musical skills through private tuition and even digital means. The economic growth also enabled the Australian government to adopt more effective income redistribution policies. The way to go was to bring public school teaching up to scratch.

Early childhood music was supported by the achievement in 2020 of goals set in 2008 to employ early-childhood teachers with a minimum of four years of university training in every pre-school establishment. Music was a natural ingredient in that teaching, but it remained in the hands of generalist pre-school teachers receiving an average of only 10 hours of mandatory music instruction in 2015 in their pre-service degrees. As the educational goals were being reached for these teachers, and the importance of early childhood music became more universally accepted, the pre-service music element was strengthened.

Tertiary music institutions became much more diverse and specialised, with effects that gathered strength especially after 2025. Without jeopardising the proven, though in the early 2000s temporarily challenged, ability of conservatoriums to support the continued supply of internationally qualified classical musicians, singers and composers, they and other tertiary music establishments expanded the range of genres beyond traditional art music, helping to achieve a broader spectrum of high-quality genres and performers. Art music in 2015 was a term used to define traditional and contemporary classical music, indigenous music from other cultures and Australia, and to an increasing extent jazz music — as time went on other genres, some in fusion with others, began knocking on the door of the art music temple, thanks at least in part to the education system. Developing business and technological as well as new musical skills became the task of all types of post-secondary establishments, from the conservatoriums to institutions specialising in particular genres, to private ventures teaching supplementary management and technical skills.

After 2025, there were welcome signs that Australia’s tertiary music institutions were no longer lagging behind Europe and were continuing to coordinate with one another. Most importantly, in particular in the art music area, better funding based on the realisation that the principle had been based unfairly on an inappropriate “funding cluster” helped reverse the trend away from individual tuition. The value of studio music teaching continued to be recognised as an important part of music education. Accreditation schemes became an important means of improving quality and in the process did much to increase the often abysmally low income levels of qualified teachers.

INFRASTRUCTURE:  Chart 8 in Music Sector Structure for Scenarios 4 presented an assessment of the 2015 music sector infrastructure, which in the absence of hard data had to be deemed subjective. Contrary to the other charts in that paper it had no “red alerts” — the foundation for building better policies was reasonably firm. There were two “slightly negative” points: a generally lacking involvement of non-arts government departments where a whole-of-government policy would have been more desirable, and a missed opportunity to regulate for minimum Australian content during the transfer to digital broadcasting in the early 2010s. In 2018 the Australian government acknowledged that music and the other arts would benefit from access to the expertise that any department might have to offer — its stated objective was to add the arts as a tool to achieve government policies in non-arts portfolios like health and social welfare, and in the process integrating the arts more broadly into public affairs. The missed opportunity was remedied by adding Australian content to digital radio licences.

Another possible weakness was associated with the differing roles of the three levels of government. The net influence of any potential conflict was seen as neutral in 2015, and there were no moves to change the basic intergovernmental financial setup which would indeed be very difficult, and possibly counterproductive. But the issue was recognised sufficiently to lead to more transparent cooperation by 2018 between the three levels of government and formally involving the peak music and other arts organisations.

The role of these organisations was seen as a positive force in 2015 and they were gradually given more adequate government funding from 2017-18, in recognition of their role in informing and assisting governments and acting as a facilitating influence in the intergovernmental/arts industry/arts sector relationships.8

The development of universally accessible broadband infrastructure through the National Broadband Network (NBN) proceeds towards the target set in the 2014-17 NBN corporate plan. It meets the goal that by 2020 all homes, businesses and communities across Australia can access high-speed broadband — over eight million premises serving a population by then nudging 27m.

Other positive factors noted in 2015 were the general adequacy of concert halls for art music and of popular music venues from major entertainment centres to pubs. There was still room for improvement, but a good basis had been laid. A few iconic buildings led by the Sydney Opera House have changed the face of art music in Australia, but it is also realised that a structure can be “iconic” to local people in a smaller setting — even former art deco cinemas from the 1930s of which there are several examples in country towns. Large new projects included performing arts centres in rapidly growing metropolitan suburbs and some provincial cities. Most of these doubled as venues for popular music performances which kept attracting large audiences. With the economy and general feeling of prosperity and wellbeing improving at a faster pace from 2017, this had a positive impact on art music audience numbers, which had long been static or falling. By 2018, other states had also followed Sydney and NSW’s lead to ease the noise restrictions on popular pub bands in agreement with local residents and police.

The major opera companies and symphony orchestras — cultural infrastructure within the confines of the prevailing socioeconomic and political framework — continued their searches for renewal by presenting more adventurous repertoires, and performing in more adventurous venues where opera perhaps had an advantage as the more “visual” art form. Opera took an innovative lead in all the existing companies, perhaps further pushed by its past failure to maintain its audiences.9 Smaller opera companies were a positive force in spreading the acceptance of this art form, partly by combining it with more popular music theatre performances. The main limitation of this growth was opera’s need for specially constructed venues, whereas orchestral music is more flexible in this respect.

The symphony orchestras’ and major opera companies’ financial situations were strengthened by development of a capital fund. The Commonwealth offered to match dollar-for-dollar capital funds raised by each company up to a specified limit. The income above inflation earned from each of these funds stabilised the companies financially and enabled them to risk more adventurous programming, especially in the presentation of new repertoire. Normal subsidy levels were also sustained, with increases to cover inflation. Commonwealth subsidies were provided to enable establishment of small permanent orchestras in cities reaching a population of 350,000 provided that meaningful support was available from the respective state governments.

The number of professional orchestras was constant for a long time. From 2020 several new ventures joined the list, up to then mainly represented by the state-based symphony orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the pit orchestras for the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia, plus two handfuls of part-time professional and “pro-am” orchestras, some doubling as pit orchestras for a range of smaller opera companies, and some making the switch to a full-time basis. The youth orchestra organisations in every state and territory continued to provide splendid training for professional careers, and expanded their services. The best orchestras in these organisations were considered of very high standard in 2015, and this quality was maintained and deepened during the next 20 years.

Community music and festivals were listed again in the Australian infrastructure rubric as a positive feature in 2015. Given that they are potentially everywhere, they continued to form widespread links with local physical infrastructure including schools, churches, small local entertainment spaces and more unconventional venues. They still covered an amazing range of locations from metropolitan suburbs to remote country towns, and an equally comprehensive range of music from Indigenous and multicultural to classical and popular genres. The greatest strength of community music had been described as “strong local engagement and support, often leading to relative independence from external drivers and forces”, being “relatively invisible from the outside world”.10

There was a deepening understanding of the value of other activities such as those associated with health, from music therapy (which was already well-established in 2015) to the importance of music for social inclusion of all members of society, whether ethnic, Indigenous or just based on local communities in general. “Music health”, like “green music”, became a widely adopted idea in this scenario.

Looking widely, almost everything can be classified as “infrastructure”, whether physical structures or intangible entities. The latter range from the national economy and societal structure, the three levels of government, and education which was the subject of the previous section. Each obviously influences the music sector, and their existence is taken for given. The music sector can have an impact on the agents of these institutions and suggest ways in which they might change their activities, but no realistic scenario can remove them from the infrastructure, or change them fundamentally.

Having said that, most infrastructure tends to move fairly slowly, but everything (including the national economy and societal structure) moves in the long term. The nature of such changes proved important over the 20-year time span of the scenarios, which provided an increasingly prosperous and involved set of stimuli.

Overseas influences continued to have a direct bearing on intellectual property, and the mix of genres, across the range of art music, ethnic, Indigenous and popular commercial music. There were of course also national influences on the genre mix, but music is a global activity with few protective borders, and remained so up to 2035, and undoubtedly beyond. From a perspective of maintaining Australian content and supporting an increasingly diverse Australian culture, this had some controversial aspects, described in the innovation section below.

INNOVATION 11: The digital transformation of a mass of economic, cultural and social activities had the most certain future of any development faced globally in 2015. Chart 9 of Music Sector Structure for Scenarios 5 (scroll up to see the chart) treated it as a positive factor in the music scenarios. In any case it was inevitable and continued to change the global economic and social environment.

Chart 9 otherwise took a somewhat negative view of the influence of innovation in 2015, based partly on the assessment in the Music Council’s submission to the then Minister for the Arts when plans were afoot to renew the national cultural plan, introduced in 1994 by a previous Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating. The attempt to introduce a new plan in March 2013 failed for unrelated political reasons, but the submission to the inquiry by the Music Council was the most comprehensive description of the Australian music sector at the time.12

Innovation is treated broadly in Chart 9, including its influence on heritage including art music and the arts of the growing multicultural society — culture in the terminology of these scenarios. This largely explains why Innovation is judged to have a stronger influence on the driving force called Culture than vice versa. However, this is a subjective assessment. A more important insight from this project is that all four sets of driving forces are interrelated, as repeated stressed in this paper. 6.

The themes in Chart 9, looking back to the 2015 starting point, fell roughly into the following groups:

  • Recorded music: The recording industry, worldwide, went through a difficult phase during the first decade of the century, when physical recordings lost out to online products and the total output value was halved because the online versions were cheaper and more convenient. The total value was stabilising by 2015 but the roles of the major participants in the industry changed, basically from much less productive activity to dealing with how the industry could gain most from the online market. The corporate survivors benefited, of course, from their long experience in marketing physical recordings but the emergence of new players that grew huge from around 2000 made for a very different ballgame. Online streaming and downloading, and other innovations not yet visible in 2015, became the order of the day.
  • Intellectual property: By 2015, the debate had continued for almost 20 years on how to deal with piracy and what changes were required to copyright law — Australian content was under constant threat. America was a leader in the debate as the largest participant (as well as the largest offender, given its history of inflexible promotion of its own copyright interests). One of the most senior US experts noted in 2013: “To make a long story short, Congress could make a real difference regarding gridlock in the music marketplace.”13 By 2025, major steps had been taken towards harmonisation of intellectual property across national borders (though the threat to Australian content was hard to eliminate) and for protecting artists’ rights vis-à-vis the major corporations involved.
  • Popular music performers: Although popular music genres dominated the online market and what was left of the market for physical recordings, the incomes of these musicians, already below the minimum wage in Australia except for a successful minority, had become subjected to further threat as the industry restructured. For several years leading up to 2015 they also had to improve their technical and business skills to benefit from new digital and studio technologies as well as their general efforts to market their performances, often with insufficient education in these areas. The marketing of popular music was still dominated by large corporations but the structure changed – artists gained better opportunities for self-promotion in conjunction with greater recognition of their intellectual property rights.
  • Classical/art music: Australia is internationally acknowledged for its excellent orchestral and operatic performances, based on growing acceptance of art music as a part of Australian culture (though most of the music was composed elsewhere, Australian composers of contemporary art music became a growing force14, and excellent conservatorium support of talented students). These positive influences were under threat in 2015 from declining audiences (especially for opera) and declining public funding, though opera companies and orchestras were allowed to maintain static funding and the brunt of the decline was borne by small innovative projects — an essential source of creativity and innovation in Australian music.
  • Multicultural music: Despite an apparent growth in interest in the music of other countries, including the birthplaces of Australia’s non-British immigrants, resident Australians expressing that interest remained a minority — though there were some early indications that some of this music might be closer to commercial viability. The MCA submission in 2011 judged government policies in support of other cultures to be weakening. Promoting world music to the population at large was a poorly supported activity and hence a relative failure, and there was a general lack of knowledge of these musical genres. Australian schools lagged behind in spreading the message that cultural diversity is a source of richness and sustainability — just as biodiversity is for natural capital.15.
  • Statistics: Numerical information on the music and other cultural sectors had long been given a lower priority than other economic data, but these sectors needed an innovative statistical base in a political world driven by numbers. The latest comprehensive report on the size of Australia’s music sector was dated 1987, based on a 12-month research project carried out 30 years ago, in 1985-86.16 Capping this, the Australian Bureau of Statistics was forced by the restrictive 2014-15 Budget to make very substantial cuts which affected cultural statistics in particular — entire statistical publications were discontinued.17 It took until 2020 to convince the Australian government that cultural capital needed to be robustly defined, including comprehensive statistical reviews of the music sector. During most of the initial decade of the scenario new statistical understanding was mainly based on non-government sources.

The online developments remained the strongest influence, but the global and Australian economies were inhibiting these influences and Chart 9 showed that there were additional factors directly affecting Innovation as the scenarios got underway from 2015. The music industry, however, was dealing better with the transformation from physical to digital recordings, structuring itself around purer marketing lines than when imports or production of physical recordings were the norm.

The debate continued as the scenario unfolded. A major report by the US Copyright Office was published only six weeks before this part of the scenario was written.18 It noted (p 12): “It is a testament to the irresistible power of music that industry and market participants have done their best to adapt the old methods, including pre‐digital government policies, to embrace current technologies and consumer expectations. But the costs of failing to update our outmoded licensing methods are escalating.” In this scenario, the work to update intellectual property legislation to incorporate the digital age, not only in America but in most other parts of the world, went ahead though it took until 2020 before the effort was declared a success in the view of the artists as well as the corporations. Even after, it needed continual monitoring to keep up with new digital inventions, necessitating several amendments in the 2020s and 2030s.

Australia was part of this development as a member of the global music sector, and could therefore look back from 2020 with a sense of achievement that artists had received increased protection for their intellectual property, and that international cooperation was in place to continue this protection when it needed to be renewed and reinforced.

As general economic conditions improved globally and locally from the late 2010s, popular music performance benefited more broadly than just the major events that had attracted growing audiences for years. Though most musicians remained at the lower end of the income distribution for professional people, they improved their economic status through increasing technical and business skills, backed by continuing improvements in digital programs and devices. The greater commitment of tertiary music institutions to teach these skills and cater for a broad range of musical genres began to bear fruit. The year 2020 again proved a watershed year and further benefits flowed when the reforms in music education in state schools began to be felt from the early 2020s but then took time to work through secondary school and beyond.

Art music entered a renaissance from 2020 as well, when a greater emphasis on innovative presentations and repertoires, backed by increasing prosperity, better funding, new venues in outer metropolitan suburbs and country towns, and the final development of the national broadband network combined to build growing audiences across Australia.

Guidance from Best Case

The following checklist was compiled from Culture Reigns to ensure a degree of consistency between the four scenario stories. What assumptions will differ? There will still be differences between what each story covers, but the checklist provides a control on whether significant gaps remain.


  • Australia grows by 3.2% per annum in a progressive world where it pursues an active cultural policy.
  • Despite initial low policy priority, progress builds up in the music sector from 2017.
  • 2020 is the pivotal year when the future really starts to look up.
  • GDP increases by 90% from 2015 to 2035; the value-added of the music sector is estimated to double.
  • The threat of a ceiling to global economic growth is postponed significantly beyond the 20-year scenario horizon.


  • Cultural capital is recognised as an economic growth factor.
  • National cultural plan 2019.
  • Australia in 2015 starts with a great record of quality art music performance internationally.
  • Public opinion moves in favour of better cultural protection after a slow start.
  • Continued growth in immigration from Asia is a positive influence on the understanding of multicultural music genres, and the general value of cultural diversity.
  • Some of this music became commercially viable, and with continued immigration a more powerful factor, stimulated the general acceptance of all multicultural music.


  • Music education is improved across the board from preschool to tertiary level.
  • Early childhood music strengthened through pre-service music content.
  • Music in state and Catholic primary schools improve slowly from 2018; initial slow increase in qualified music teachers; gathers pace from mid-2020s.
  • Tertiary music institutions diversify further to deal with the dual function of supporting excellence and catering for the vocational qualifications and business needs of artists.


  • Physical and intangible infrastructure continues to adapt to the changing needs of the music sector, including its need to innovate.
  • Venues and other physical facilities remain in generally adequate supply.
  • Integrated cooperation between the three levels of government also includes arts organisations.
  • NBN 2020 target met.
  • Capital fund for orchestras and opera companies.
  • More new orchestras from 2020s.
  • Public funding of art music is increased, ranging from small innovative and creative projects to opera and orchestras.
  • Public funding also increases for popular music and music theatre — support for emerging artists and industry assistance at the commercial end. The latter helps build exports.
  • Support to and from health- and environment-related music activities.
  • Intellectual property legislation is updated repeatedly to protect artists.


  • The most inevitable of trends, digitisation, intensifies as a powerful, largely positive, factor; opens borders.
  • Large recording corporations dominate marketing, but position of artists improves.
  • Public funding favours small innovative arts projects.
  • IP: threat to Australian content hard to eliminate.
  • Successful Australian groups follow past successes.
  • Much improved statistics for assessing music sector performance, and increasing its political influence.

The top row of Table 1 shows the basic critical uncertainties guiding the scenario writing: a “progressive” versus a “reactionary” world, and whether Australian culturally related policies are given a higher or lower priority.19

Other Scenarios

Rugged Individualism


  • The world is progressive. Schools in East Asia, which remains the hub of Australia’s trade, are directed strongly towards mathematics and science, less towards the arts and humanities. Australia for internal political reasons gives lower priority to culturally related policies, and general rather than applied science and technology.
  • Despite its somewhat negative attitude to culturally related policies, Australia will benefit almost as much as in “Culture reigns” from positive global efforts to combine growth and climate change control (as per Scenario Paper #10).
  • The global economy is as prosperous as in “Culture reigns”, with annual growth rates of 4.5% to 2025 and 4.2% in the ensuing decade.
  • The Australian economy grows by 74% between 2015 and 2035, compared with 90% in “Culture reigns”, and the lower priority given to culturally related policies reduces the growth of the music sector to 67% in the same period, with the difference widening from the early 2020s.
  • By 2035, the economic growth outlook will include possible shrinking natural resources, as in “Culture reigns”. The world has the same ability to plan ahead and intensify any damage control needed to preserve these resources, and change the basic economic policy model. A formidable and growing technological knowledge base helps delay the time that the global economy hits the growth ceiling (though it is hard to tell even in 2035 whether encountering this ceiling will be postponed by decades or even forever).
  • In this scenario, commodity prices recover sufficiently for mining to keep dominating Australian exports. This is reflected in higher exchange rates which make other exports less competitive. Australia’s economic growth is lower than in “Culture reigns”, despite the general global environment being as prosperous. Total GDP settles down at a long-term annual growth of 2.9% to 2025 and then 2.7% to 2035, reaching the 74% level above 2015 already mentioned ($2.81 trillion).
  • The Australian population reaches 31.5m in 2035, 500,000 below “Culture reigns” because Australia becomes a less attractive immigration target. GDP per head in Australia grows by 33.1% from 2015 to 2035 (1.42% per annum).
  • International equality among countries is improving as in “Culture reigns”, and the global effort to reduce conflicts is as efficient. Social media play a positive role in the world of communications.
  • In Australia, however, the attempt to increase welfare payments and pensions for an ageing population is not as successful as in “Culture reigns”. Less action is taken to tackle income and wealth inequalities.
  • Climate change remains as low a priority as is compatible with Australia’s need to preserve its international standing – which becomes more difficult as the global climate issue becomes more critical. A coal tax is delayed until 2025, and remains as low as Australia can get away with, boosting the mining industry’s competitive advantage in a declining but still formidable Asian coal market.
  • Technological development in Australia is as dominant an objective as in “Culture reigns” but it is directed towards industry requirements rather than a general educationally related goal in which the opportunity for creative general research is prominent. Science is increasingly funded by big industry and influenced by its objectives.
  • With a progressive world surrounding Australia, its science and technology is naturally influenced by its exposure through international research and development. This limits the damage done by the intensified attempt of industry to dominate Australia’s research and development efforts.
  • General recognition of the value of cultural capital and the role of the arts as a positive force in the total Australian economic assessment is not happening in this scenario.

Music Sector

CULTURE:  As we have seen above, the world around Australia is progressive and global economic growth is as high as in “Culture reigns”. Externally, the main difference between these two global scenarios is a greater emphasis on technology in this one, as reflected in the education systems of our main Asian trading partners. The political climate in Australia aggravates this — the low priority given to cultural and related policies in Australia continues after 2015. There is no attempt to renew the 1994 national cultural plan, and to protect and rejuvenate Australian culture in the way it happened in “Culture reigns”. Net migration is affected as a result, especially from 2025, when economic growth also slows down, and population growth is reduced cutting 500,000 persons off the 2035 population. Public policy favours integration rather than a multicultural society where each population element is encouraged to maintain its identity. Migrants go elsewhere, and some who went to Australia previously returned to their home countries, including sizable proportions lured back to China and other increasingly prosperous Asian countries.

The effect on the music sector, as time passed into the 2030s, was a widening of the difference from what “might have been” in a proactive multicultural scenario.

The impact of cultural diversity and inviting world music into the Australian music canon was much reduced from what might have been highly positive. In this scenario there was more potential for internal ethnic conflict, and less for restoring the potential for harmony.

EDUCATION:  The basic difference from “Culture reigns” is that primary school education reforms were delayed — put on the back burner. Music and the other arts remained lower priority. The move to specialist primary school music teaching proceeded without the same zest as in the best-case scenario. The arts remained low priority in government education policy, despite the apparent commitment to improve the quality of state primary school music teaching. Furthermore, the effort to expose more young children to music at an early age was not vigorously pursued.

As a result, the quality of school music improved more slowly in the government systems, and there was less incentive for the Catholic schools to follow suit than in “Culture reigns”. Inequalities in the school system were being removed only slowly, and remained a significant issue in 2035 — the scenario horizon year. The main positive effect on inequality was associated with the relatively prosperous economy, but growth remained lower and tended to reduce further after 2025. At the same time, Australia’s exposure to other cultures was weakened, as already noted.

Tertiary music education continued along its customary path of favouring great talent — which maintained Australia’s reputation as a provider of international-standard instrumentalists, composers and singers in the art music area. But the colossus in the long run developed clay feet because musicians received inadequate training from childhood to qualify them as school teachers and in the practical areas of earning a living away from the top — training that most musicians required. This eventually had an impact on the quality of tertiary music education which began to be felt in the 2030s. More highly talented students — always international in their outlook — began to look elsewhere for their tertiary education, another example of the “rugged individualism” that was forced on artists and gave this scenario its name.

INFRASTRUCTURE:  This driving force provided one of the stronger initial bases for further improvement. The infrastructure, as it relates to music, retained its adaptability. The Australian government met its target to complete its National Broadband Network plan by 2020, backed by an economy which recovered significantly in 2017. The main difference from “Culture reigns” in the infrastructure area was the relative lack of support from the Australian government, essentially continuing the situation that existed in the mid-2010s. The government’s budgetary problems decreased from 2017 and into the early 2020s, leading to some improvement in public funding, though mostly directed towards large organisations rather than small innovative ventures. Economic growth, however, lagged compared to the best-case scenario, and to an increasing extent after 2025 which caused renewed cutbacks.

Less dependent on public support, popular music thrived best, though even here the lower economic growth dampened the emergence of new entertainment centres and other physical infrastructure, needed to bring big gigs to a growing population occupying vast areas around the mainland state capital cities.

The intangible infrastructure, including existing and new orchestras and other big-art music organisations had relatively favourable conditions from about 2020 but deteriorating economic growth put a damper on this, including less ability and willingness of corporations to provide private-sector funding.

The music sector nevertheless grew, though lagging behind the general economy; the international reputation of Australian musicians was maintained though under some threat from the late 2020s (as shown above); and it maintained its innovative thrust despite the hurdles. Generally, investment in infrastructure took place despite lack of government support, but the damage caused by this lack accumulated in the second half of the scenario.

INNOVATION  is close to being the key feature of the music sector – it is certainly an indispensable driving factor with its sibling forces of technology and creativity. It cannot be taken away, but it can wither through lack of support, especially in an open system like the Australian music sector. Innovation remains a vital driving force through this scenario, but threats abound not least because more music is imported through the very open borders across which digital products continue to flow in an ever-increasing stream along channels not yet visible in 2015, with little chance for Australian products to flow the other way to improve the balance of trade in music. Major intellectual property reform, which appeared possible in “Culture reigns”, does not feature in this scenario.

This is exacerbated because major corporations continue to dominate the marketing of recorded music, with less opportunity for the artists to share the effort and the income.

The threat to Australian content in popular music broadcasting and performance remained sizable, and Australian bands found it harder to succeed overseas — as distinct from classical artists who remained a real success story abroad until they too become subject to increased threats in the 2030s, ultimately associated with inadequate school music education.

Public funding remained restricted initially because of the low priority that government accorded to the arts and culturally related policies generally, coupled eventually by an increasing sense of necessity as economic growth slowed down after 2025. The fact that this is a chicken-and-egg problem — with the slowdown being at least partly associated with starving the arts of funds, escaped the government’s radar, or at least its will to admit that the connection is real.

The music sector itself becomes more exposed to the risk of splitting into parts rather than presenting the unified whole that was advocated with some success to arts organisations in the first two decades of the century. Music, and cultural data generally, remained low priority in official statistics, with the slack only partially taken up by private research organisations that often had different agendas. So the sector began to lose its bearings and influence as the knowledge of its status as an important part of the Australian economy declined.

Vested Interests Prevail


  • This world is generally “reactionary”, but Australia goes against the trend by conducting positive culturally related policies. So do other mainly middle-ranging nations in the world economy, which is important in this scenario. Countries with similar objectives concerning culture, education and the environment from all over the earth in effect create a new force which gain influence over the scenario period.
  • The relative failure of trading activities in a lower-growth world strengthens the power of other interests, including those stressing the longer-term benefits of cultural, educational and environmental policies.
  • In the first several years there is little global success introducing effective climate change control in combination with economic growth — the ceiling on further economic growth is closer in 2035. However, new groups of nations, not always those that might have been expected in 2015, form alliances which are partly aimed at containing climate change and partly at overcoming the growth constraints imposed by declining ecological resources through cost-efficient technologies to develop renewable energy.
  • Global economic growth is reduced. Global GDP increases by 74%, compared with a 134% rise over 20 years in the previous two scenarios.
  • Australia’s GDP is limited by the lower global growth scenario to a total increase of 39% between 2015 and 2035, but the music sector grows by 47%.
  • By 2035, the limits to global growth are looking increasingly real. The lower growth rate doesn’t delay this much, as there is less fiscal ability to plan ahead and implement damage control, and the environment is more at risk for having been neglected in the past. Nevertheless, the effort starts to bear fruit from about 2025, as the new coalition of concerned nations gathers strength, raising hopes that ecological resources can be stretched further into the future through technological and related change.
  • Australia’s GDP increases marginally faster than the 2% average for advanced economies: by 2.1% per annum the first 10 years and then accelerating to 2.2% as its positive cultural, educational and ecological policies start to bear fruit (total GDP +53% to $2.465 trillion in 2035).
  • The Australian population grows more slowly than in the two first scenarios due to reduced net migration, reaching 30m in 2035, 25% up on 2015. GDP per head increases by 22.4% over the 20 years (1.01% per annum), which does provide funding for more highly prioritised corrective action.
  • Inequality between rich and poor countries persists. Inside many countries, the top groups gain (vested interests prevail) while the bottom groups are most affected by the sluggish growth. In other countries including Australia, however, the poor gather strength in an effort to overcome the rot that has set in. Globally, the social media are not as well controlled as in the higher-growth scenarios, which damages community coherence in some countries — again largely from after 2025. Australia is one country that succeeds in limiting the impact of digital abuse locally, and furthermore proves politically able to conduct an effective policy of redistributing incomes.
  • The world suffers continuing local and regional conflicts, widely discussed on the social media. International organisations weaken even though the coalition of concerned countries grows. Poor nations receive little support except in crises that pose direct threats to wider regions.
  • Initially there is minimal global action on climate change; climate deniers prevail into the mid-2020s, when the level of greenhouse gases reaches alarming levels and forces more efficient action.
  • In Australia, climate change control initially also takes a back seat, but a strengthening green movement, with growing political representation through the parliamentary structure, promotes a greater sense of urgency backed up by increasingly dramatic global evidence actively pursued and promoted by the vast majority of Australian scientists.
  • Science in the west generally is driven by commercial interests, but this trend becomes less universal from 2025. China, Japan and India take a wider view, and so do many smaller countries not all predictable to be in this group in 2015 — Finland and the Scandinavian countries, Poland, Estonia, Italy, Chile, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia realise that a good scientific education at school and university is essential for its international competitiveness. These nations are main examples of the coalition of concerned nations which take a longer look into the future than most others. It agrees with its Asian trading partners that science and technology are of vital long-term importance, in conjunction with policies to reduce inequality.
  • The intrinsic value of cultural capital becomes accepted by most Australians and their representatives. It is inspired by nations like Estonia, Finland, South Korea and other concerned nations to conduct stronger social, cultural and educational policies, in addition to promoting a safer environment.
  • Australians are naturally troubled over the slow economic growth, but they also accept that high incomes do not necessarily equate with happiness, and policies aim at alleviating inequality.

Music Sector


That Australia resists the trend in a low-growth world shows that strong positive forces can be put at play. It is associated with Australia’s cultural history and its more recent multicultural influences, gathering pace after the second world war with its waves of European immigrants and culminating with the opening of Asian immigration after the last vestiges of the previous White Australia Policy were removed in 1973. The frustratingly protracted period of stagnation following the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-08 was demoralising; looking further ahead growth did not pick up sufficiently to prevent a rising trend in unemployment (especially youth employment), and the potential for conflict between well-educated “haves” and underprivileged “have-nots” rose in areas as diverse as the European Union, Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, South and Central Africa, and North America. It was pretty universal geographically, despite the existence of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

In many of these areas and nations, however, groups developed powerful pockets of informed strength that were determined not to be dragged down by a bad hand dealt by economics and increasingly unwilling to see their cultural and intellectual life continually threatened by inequality and social injustice. They used persuasion rather than violence, setting them apart from much that happened in the first two decades of the 21st century, including America. The underlying cultures in these countries were instrumental in securing the political shifts by largely peaceful means needed to break several old regimes which favoured the status quo.

These countries make up the frontline of what coalesced into the coalition of concerned nations already mentioned in the beginning of this story — originally quite informal but gathering strength politically and jumping national boundaries through social media and television, especially in the second half of the scenario period from 2025 to 2035. They emerged almost everywhere though the main initiatives tended to come from middle-ranking and smaller nations: Chile, Peru and central American nations led by Costa Rica; European countries as diverse as Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Slovenia, Italy and Poland — some fuelled by recent history after they escaped the influence of communist rule, some based on natural strengths which inspired a renewal of backpacker and other independent tourism partly replacing the expensive group tourism which became to be seen as inequitable as the economic growth declined. The cloth was cut to fit the changed economic circumstances. Australia and New Zealand were very much part of that development.

Naturally, these trends didn’t escape the larger countries. The United States, to take one example, is so diverse both ethnically and geographically that various states took different positions as they have customarily done. The nation as a whole (and much the same applied to other advanced countries such as Britain, Germany and France) was not a leader in the coalition of concerned nations, but no one could hold back the free press and advanced thinking of those countries. There was no denying, though, that it was the mainly middle-ranking countries that drove this trend, together with the giant among them, India, with its independent ways and British-influenced history.

In Australia, cultural policy was seen as adding real value; cultural heritage was recognised. A cultural plan was introduced in 2019 as in “Culture reigns” but not in “Rugged individualism” despite the strong international economic growth in that scenario. Cultural protection became an important theme, including respect for world music entering into Australia, only slightly dampened by lower culturally diverse immigration as population growth flattened out at 30m rather than 32m in 2035.

The most important economic support of culture in a low-growth world was redistribution of income and wealth through fiscal policy. This was facilitated by the balance of power the Greens built up in the federal and state parliamentary systems, which was also a powerful influence on the continued support of renewable energy,

There is political reaction against excessive inequity, and increased support of renewable energy research and production among the “coalition”, especially in the second half of 2020s. The Great Barrier and Ningaloo Reefs become sacrosanct tourist destinations, and all efforts are expended within the ability of this low-growth economy to alleviate the trend towards a hotter and drier climate.

Public opinion increasingly favours cultural protection and understanding; cultural immigration from Asia and elsewhere is instrumental in providing commercial viability to world music — an important catalyst for further musical diversification.

EDUCATION  The lower funding base disadvantages early childhood music education most before it really gets off the ground, while measures already in place, plus focus on the malaise caused by inadequate primary music education, leads to general improvement of the quality of school music education. It is supported by increased knowledge of and pride in the international success of classical and other musicians.

Conservatoriums and other Australian tertiary music schools increasingly successfully deliver on their two main functions: to provide continued excellence to the top instrumental, composing and vocal talents, and ensure adequate education both to professional musicians generally (including business training), and to future music teachers.

INFRASTRUCTURE  Funding is not so freely available in this low-growth scenario, but infrastructure is the least critically important driving force for growing the music sector because it has never been desperately inadequate. The infrastructure generally adapts to the lower availability of funds and integrated government support. The National Broadband Network is completed according to plans in 2024, four years beyond the original deadline. There is a general willingness to protect intellectual property against the continued onslaught of American and other streamed music. The main orchestras continue to receive funding support though not as generously as in Culture Reigns, given the lower funding base in this low-growth scenario.

INNOVATION  As stated above, the stream of digital products continues to dominate, and most of the stream goes into Australia. The cultural support of the Australian music sector, which is supposed to be a hallmark in this scenario, still suffers in a David and Goliath situation despite the occasional reversal when an Australian group becomes internationally successful with the help of innovative management as we saw with groups in the past. This situation seems to be a fact of life for the popular Australian music sector. It also applies to the issue of Australian content, which can be protected to some extent but cannot realistically prevent the dominance of imported music.

Public funding improves (within the limitations of budgeting in a low-growth economy). The big orchestras and opera companies are funded separately from small innovative projects, which tended to be swamped in the past by having to share the same total sum. These creative projects, which contain much of the impetus for developing the arts in Australia, start to assume greater prominence from about 2025, auguring well for the future beyond the period of this scenario.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2020 resumes the collection of arts-related data, making it more possible to follow the true worth of the creative arts for the Australian economy. These statistics are based not only on measuring the GDP of the arts, but also the true value of cultural activities as they interact with other economic activities. From about 2025 we can start to build up a realistic picture of the value of the arts in the Australian economy. Better late than never, though much information was lost in the years arts data suffered from starvation.

Sliding Inexorably

A reminder from the initial sections of this paper: Grim scenarios are required to imagine situations that could conceivably happen in the absence of preventative action. The scenario below is a plausible worst case under such circumstances, and has to be presented as such. In the absence of completely disruptive events such as world wars or major political revolutions or devastating natural destruction that prevent the “normal” institutions from functioning, mitigating action will be taken by the relevant industries and governments. The basic structures may be damaged but remain in place. Governments and parliaments function, as does the music sector. This makes the actual events that may emerge less grim though in all likelihood still a worst case.


  • A reactionary global environment affects Australia both by depressing the economy and delaying culturally related political action.
  • Lack of planning has brought the growth ceiling much closer in 2035 despite the lower overall economic growth up to that year.
  • The world in 2015 was already in its eighth year of generally low activity, and the fear grew that the impact of the global economic crisis would continue as a protracted recession. The global economy slows to an average annual growth just below 2%, the advanced economies including Australia to 1% or less.
  • Australia’s GDP increases by 22.6% from $1.61 trillion to 1.974 trillion between 2015 and 2035, slightly less than the 25% growth in population. GDP per head declines by 1.9% over the twenty years (an annual average of minus 0.1%). The music sector grows at the same slow rate as the total economy.
  • By 2035, the lower growth rate may have had some effect in delaying the perspective that economic growth must cease some time in the 21st century because the planet’s physical resources are finite. But the delay is not great due to lack of forward planning and search for viable technologies to harness solar, wind and other renewable energy.
  • Looking beyond 2035, however, it helps to condition governments for the ecologically imposed limitations ahead, and to plan for better outcomes in the second third of the century. That is the only silver lining on a scenario allowed to unfold as described here (in the absence of corrective action in the rules for scenario planning shown in the introductory paragraph of the paper).
  • Other advanced economies have lower population growth or even declines; Australia has the doubtful distinction of an actual decline in GDP per head.
  • Inequalities, including those associated with ethnic and religious groups, aggravate the internal situation in rich as well as poor countries. The income and wealth disparity worsens as the unemployment rate doubles. Largely uncontrolled social media feed the unhappiness in Australia, especially among young people who bear the brunt of the decline.
  • Regional conflicts proliferate, aggravated by lack of coordination through international organisations including the United Nations.
  • Some catastrophic events are clearly caused by climate change which has been inadequately prepared for. China, India, Russia and Brazil (and others) fail to control their massive environmental problems.
  • Cultural and related policies of course continue to exist, but they take a back seat, including education at all levels which favours the elites who can afford it. Science and technology become handmaidens of industries and vested interests, as also happened globally in “Vested interests prevail”. In this scenario, it happens in Australia as well.
  • This is the Australia to avoid. The case may look extreme but could happen if little is done to look it in the eye and plan for it. Knowing that it might come about should make it possible to deflect its worst impact.

Music Sector

CULTURE  Government attention is on “more urgent” matters. Economic growth is generally weak, GDP per head is stagnant or going backward, there is no recognition that cultural planning and protection of Australian culture have economic significance. There is no multicultural encouragement despite Australia’s Asian neighbours growing faster than the world average 2%. Classical music and opera wither on the vine despite a few valiant efforts to bring it to the public at discount prices. One positive effect of this is that home-based ensembles, prevalent up to the mid-20th century, have a renaissance. But even the previously big and growing musical theatre and popular music concerts suffer as people’s purses empty. Rich people (in an increasingly unequal society) don’t, and can’t, fill the halls, even though these halls exist in relative abundance.

EDUCATION  Early childhood music and private music education are only for the rich. There is no state and Catholic primary education reform to speak of. Increasing inequality is inevitable; the richer classes may be poorer too, but the unemployment rate hits the mainstream society in inverse correlation to education levels. Funding to tertiary music education is cut, and there is a real longer-term threat to Australia’s reputation for classical music excellence abroad. School music education, in short, becomes a leading potential cause of a starved future sector, and therefore part of this scenario where corrective action can be taken most effectively.

INFRASTRUCTURE  Australia is well supplied with venues across the board to deal with the decreasing demand from classical and popular concerts alike. In fact, less conventional venues are sought both for festivals and other community music events. Public funding is at minimal levels and does not cater for the small innovative ventures that are so important for the artistic development. Imports swamp Australian music, mainly through the digital channels. Big companies are in control with little opportunity for artistic initiatives. The whole music sector drives blindly in the absence of proper statistics.

INNOVATION  Innovation is largely absent here. This scenario will have to be stopped in its tracks before it becomes dominant. The main purpose of including it is to show that mitigation is potentially possible. World stagnation, escalating conflicts, the impact of rising intolerance against migrants, are all limiting factors, which will spark international cooperation to deflect the worst. The world will not allow this to happen, neither will informed societies like Australia. In the retrospect of the 2030s, it will appear as an unhappy phase which happened but with a growing international will to overcome. Whatever the resulting utopia will be is to hard to tell — it may merge with a low-growth world further affected by climate change, or it may do better.

This devil must be painted on the wall as a warning that worst cases are potentially real. It is a worst case, and therefore the means of rectification are different from the other scenarios. “Sliding inexorably” applies to the a situation with no mitigation. There will be mitigation in a world that hasn’t lost all its resourcefulness.

Articles in This Series

  1. Putting Numbers on Our Cultural Assets: Not Yet Possible   (27.3.2014)
  2. How to Explore the Cultural Future   (7.4.2014)
  3. Cultural and Creative Activity in Australia   (15.4.2014)
  4. Global Risk Factors and Music in Australia   (17.10.2014)
  5. Scenarios, Virtual History, and Chaos   (20.10.2014)
  6. Ideas from Other Global Scenarios   (8.12.2014)
  7. Four Global Scenarios Set the Stage   (18.12.2014)
  8. Music Sector Structure for Scenarios   (28.2.2015)
  9. Valuing the Invaluable   (5.3.2015)
  10. Some Big Possible Positives – Or?   (20.6.2015)
  11. A First Set of Music Sector Scenarios   (23.6.2015)
  12. Global Leadership Challenges: A Missing Link in the Scenario Planning (31.10.2015)
  13. Present and Future Changes and Their Role in the Scenarios   (20.12.2015)
  14. Complex Adaptive Systems and Music   (9.1.2016)


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, Scenario 1 essentially completed 13 April 2015. All scenarios completed 25 June 2015. Thanks to Dick Letts for his valuable additional insights.


  1. Converted from US gallons @ 3.785 litres.↩︎
  2. Culturally related policies are defined in these scenarios as cultural, educational and environmental policies. These policies were identified as critical uncertainties in the scenarios, as discussed in Four Global Scenarios Set the Stage↩︎
  3. A reminder, again, that culture can be defined in many ways. Here it is centred on artistic expression and appreciation but also taking in education, science and the natural ecology, areas which appear to have similar driving forces and also to be subject to similar policy encouragements and constraints.↩︎
  4. Care should be taken that smaller and more vulnerable animals are not caught up in big-race juggernaut — a bit like preventing the Melbourne Cup from encroaching on smaller and innovative provincial races aimed at developing equine talent other than endurance over 3,200m for horses three years old and over.↩︎
  5. The impact of the 2015-16 budget, which initially threatened to emaciate the peer-based funding of the Australia Council when a significant part of its funds were transferred to the Ministry of the Arts, caused some initial damage but this funding principle was strengthened from 2017 in realisation of its intrinsic value for creativity and originality.↩︎
  6. The image was an illustration in Tom Barnes (2014), The Scientific Reasons We Should Teach Music to Kids in School. Quote: “Educators in New York City estimate that up to 85% of public school students have not received adequate musical instruction by the time they reach high school.” Ringing a bell? Tom Barnes is a staff writer for the music section of, a New York-based news company for young people.↩︎
  7. The PISA rankings from 2000 to 2012 put Australia in a worse position than it should have, because the number of participating countries and cities increased. For maths, for instance, Australia slipped from sixth to 19th place in the published data, but Shanghai, Singapore, Taiwan, Macau, the Netherlands and Estonia, all likely to have beaten Australia in 2000 had they been represented, might have reduced Australia to 12th position in that year. The absolute score, however, was apparently measured in the same way in every survey, and it declined steadily through five triennia — for maths from 533 in 2000 to 504 in 2012. So Australia’s performance was mediocre at best. A paper on PISA is being prepared and will appear on the Knowledge Base in April 2015.↩︎
  8. The music sector, of course, has many other organisations, organised to support particular genres or states or other shared interests, but these were not expected vary much among the four scenarios. State music and genre associations are already in place and would be needed whether the future looked bright or dim.↩︎
  9. Lindy Hume, Artistic Director of Opera-Q (Queensland) tackles the issues head-on in Designing a New Future for Opera in Australia (2013)↩︎
  10. Brydie-Leigh Bartleet (2009), Community Music: Australia’s Unsung Hero. This “invisibility” also made them difficult to study comprehensively; apart from a few general surveys of specific community undertakings such as choirs, orchestras and festivals, the music sector had to rely on case studies by music organisations to reveal the wide range of activities, and general knowledge.↩︎
  11. The image is from John Shand (2015), ‘Turkey in Music review: Triumph of democracy through music’, Capitol Theatre, Canberra (Canberra Times, 5 March 2015).↩︎
  12. With some updates is was behind much of the contents of Music Sector Structure for Scenarios, which described the situation in 2015 haa formed the basis for each scenario. See Music Council of Australia, Proposals for a National Cultural Policy. Submission to the Minister for the Arts, the Hon Simon Crean MP (21 October 2011). Its main author, Richard Letts, is acknowledged for his review in late March 2015 of the draft descriptions in Music Sector Structure for Scenarios.↩︎
  13. Maria A. Pallante (2013), ‘The Next Great Copyright Act’. Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, 36:3. Maria Pallante in 2011 became the 12th Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office.↩︎
  14. See Australian Classical Musicians Successful Abroad at a High Level↩︎
  15. The parallel between the two areas is the subject of the ninth paper in the scenario series, Valuing the Invaluable↩︎
  16. Hans Hoegh-Guldberg (1987), The Australian Music Industry: An economic evaluation, for the Music Board of the Australia Council, Sydney. The report represented the first collaboration between the author and Richard Letts, who directed the Music Board at the time and was the first to apply the wide definition of the music sector which became generally accepted in the 2010s.↩︎
  17. It helped temporarily that the final stage of the Music Trust’s scenario project in 2015 was to collect all available statistics, from the ABS and elsewhere, as a basis for putting numbers on (a) the value of the music sector in 2015, and (b) the value in 2025 and 2035 in each of these scenarios. This became an even more urgent task to catch the benefit while recent statistics from before the cut remained current.↩︎
  18. U. S. Copyright Office (February 2015), Copyright and the Music Marketplace. A summary of the US Copyright Office report will appear on the Knowledge Base in May 2015.↩︎
  19. “Strong” or “weak” are shorthand language for this, acknowledging that a low-priority policy can be founded on strong political convictions. The colour coding for the four scenarios is the same as used elsewhere, such as Music Sector Structure for Scenarios.↩︎

Hans founded his own consulting firm, Economic Strategies Pty Ltd, in 1984, following 25 years with larger organisations. He specialised from the outset in applied cultural economics — one of his first major projects was The Australian Music Industry for the Music Board of the Australia Council (published in 1987), which also marks his first connection with Richard Letts who was the Director of the Music Board in the mid-1980s. Hans first assisted the Music Council of Australia in 2000 and between 2006 and 2008 proposed and developed the Knowledge Base, returning in an active capacity as its editor in 2011. In November 2013 the Knowledge Base was transferred to The Music Trust, with MCA's full cooperation.

Between 2000 and 2010 Hans also authored or co-authored several major domestic and international climate change projects, using scenario planning techniques to develop alternative long-term futures. He has for several years been exploring the similarities between the economics of cultural and ecological change, and their continued lack of political clout which is to a large extent due to conventional GDP data being unable to measure the true value of our cultural and environmental capital. This was announced as a major scenario-planning project for The Music Trust in March 2014 (articles of particular relevance to the project are marked *, below).

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