This article describes one of nine areas listed in Overview of Music Statistics: ABS, outlining the contribution of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to knowledge of the music sector.


Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview, 2011 (ABS Cat 4172.0) contains one item under this heading which specifies musical activity. The ABS derived the information from its 2007 survey on involvement in cultural activities further described in Involvement in Music. Table 1 relates directly to music and other arts education by showing only those who said they had a relevant qualification.1 Among those involved in musical activities, 117,600 claimed relevant qualifications, which was slightly above the number involved in other performing arts (114,200). These numbers fell short of those involved with qualifications in visual arts (336,000), craft activities (185,500), writing (150,200), and design other than websites and computer games (185,800).

The fourth column of Table 1, “Share”, takes into account that one person can claim qualifications in more than one artistic activity: the 912,000 persons involved represented 1.2 million activities. Relative to the latter total, music accounted for just under 10%, of whom more than 80% were live performers.

Compared with the total number of persons (912,000), the 117,600 involved in music accounted for 12.8%. That is, 12.8% of persons with relevant qualifications across all artistic activities were involved in music, and more than four out of five of these were live performers.

The right-hand column of Table 1 shows that 43% of relevantly qualified persons with musical involvement were male. This was practically equivalent to the average for all artistic activities. The male proportion was only 32% for other performing arts. For other artistic activities, the male component of those with relevant qualifications was slightly lower for visual and craft artists, and slightly higher among writers, publishers, and designers (the last group split nearly 50-50 between men and women). The only groups of persons with relevant qualifications with a higher male component were website designers (65%)and designers of computer games and other interactive software (80%).

A key part of the involvement statistics is whether some payment was received (classified in the detailed statistics as “less than $5,000”, “$5,000 to less than $40,000”, and “40,000 and over”). Table 2 classifies paid versus unpaid involvement by whether the person has relevant musical qualifications. It also distinguishes between live performers and those having no involvement in musical performance.

The 117,600 persons already identified in Table 1 as having relevant qualifications accounted for a total of 335,100 including about 5,000 who didn’t indicate whether they received any payment for their involvement2. This indicates that about 35% of those involved in music had relevant qualifications (39% of live performers and 23% of others).

Of the 117,600 persons with relevant qualifications, 52,500 (45%) had some paid involvement. The proportion was not significant different between live performers and others.

For those who didn’t indicate that they had relevant qualifications, 31% had some paid involvement (again there was no significant difference between performers and non-performers).

The significant difference is therefore between persons with relevant qualifications and those without, as far as payment is concerned. In total some 35% had some paid musical involvement, without any real difference between the two groups.

In conclusion, these statistics are important, especially the distinction between paid and unpaid involvement (see further Involvement in Music). However, there is little in the official ABS data to shed light on the difference between genres in the involvement survey data, let alone the general influence of music education on the economy and well-being of musicians.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered 14 October 2011 as part of general ABS overview. Made into independent article 7 February 2012.


  1. This term is not meant to infer prejudice against those who did not claim “relevant qualifications”. The glossary in the 2007 ABS publication explains: Respondents were asked whether they had ever completed a course or any other qualification related to activities they were involved in. It was the respondent’s decision whether their course or qualification was related to a particular activity. Respondents were only asked about relevant qualifications for selected activities. Our assessment is that what is regarded as relevant qualifications could be interpreted differently by individual respondents, depending on his or her musical genre and many other factors.↩︎
  2. There are some minor apparent discrepancies in the detailed survey data, which appear to be associated with people who did not indicate whether or not they received payment for their involvement. The main story is not affected, but we have assumed that the persons who did not indicate whether they were paid were not actually paid.↩︎

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).

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *