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.

Music Professionals in the Census

The Australian Census of Population and Housing is carried out in early August every five years.1 The Census provides basic data on the number of musicians and other artists and cultural workers generally by a range of demographic, occupational and geographic characteristics. The main deficiency is that the term “occupation” refers to a person’s main job. It therefore fails to pick up the many people who play music on a part-time or casual basis.

Nevertheless, the Census provides essential insights into the structure and trends of the musical profession and fellow professionals in other artistic and cultural occupations. Table 1 shows each occupational group of musicians defined in the Census by their main job. The first thing to notice is that all four main categories of professional musicians declined between 2001 and 2006: singers by 25%, composers by 19%, instrumentalists (the largest group) by 11%, and music directors by 6.5%. This happened following a very long uninterrupted upward trend in numbers (demonstrated in Musicians in the Census).

It is not clear whether the reversal between 2001 and 2006 was due to reduced demand for musical services, shifts in the employment structure, a shift towards more part-time work, or a combination of factors. Other indicators are needed across a broad spectrum of other available statistics. Comments are invited on possible causes.

Professional Artists and Other Cultural Workers

Looking at the other arts professional groups in Table 1, there is a striking contrast between groups that suffered decline between 2001 and 2006, and others who kept growing in numbers. The former include visual arts and crafts, actors and dancers, and to a lesser extent professional authors. It may be permissible to characterise these groups, and musicians, as core artistic activities.2 In contrast, there were strong increases in the number of media producers and artistic directors, and designers and illustrators, as well as significant increases in the number of journalists and photographers and to a lesser extent media presenters. Film, TV, radio and stage directors, however, hardly grew in numbers during this period – comments are invited as to why.

The second category defined in Table 1 is private arts teachers. The three largest groups (of which music teaching remains by far the largest) increased significantly in numbers. The smaller occupation of private drama teachers remained steady between 2001 and 2006, perhaps associated with the 20% decline in the number of professional actors and dancers.

The ABS definition of cultural workers lends itself to a division into four categories for our purposes: professional artists and related workers, private arts teachers, performing arts support workers, and a large group of other professional and technical workers. The number of performing arts support workers largely stagnated over the ten years to 2006, with a decline in the latter half of that period. This is not surprising in view of the decline in the number of people whose main job was performing artist. The stability in the number of workers supporting strongly fluctuating groups of artists is not fully understood and reasons are sought.

Other professional and technical workers, finally, are outside the arts area as such (except for specialists within individual occupations such as music librarians). The diverse group includes architects, librarians, ministers of religion, urban and regional planners, historians, translators and other professionals. The largest group, however, is the printing trade. The total group of other professional and technical workers grew steadily over the ten years to 2006.

So did the total number of cultural workers, and indeed the number of professionals defined as arts by the ABS, due to the increase in the media-related groups. There is a trend, however, towards contrasting arts and media-related workers, especially since the divergent trends appeared between the 2001 and 2006 Census. The distinction between the two groups is not completely agreed: Is photography arts or media-related? Are authors to be classified as artists, or to be defined as media-related like journalists? The distinction is further blurred since the same person may be both an author and a journalist, with the Census classification depending on whether the person worked more as one than the other in the week preceding the Census.

Apart from singers (55% women), musicians in the 2006 Census were predominantly male: 82% of composers, 75% of instrumentalists, and 58% of music directors (71% of all musicians and related workers). The overall ratio was only slightly exceeded among media presenters (73% male) and film, TV, radio and stage directors (72%). There were also relatively many male photographers (61%). Females were predominant among authors (39% male) and visual arts and crafts practitioners (45% male). The ratio was almost or completely even among journalists (48% male), designers and illustrators (49%), and actors and dancers (50%).

Private arts teachers had the highest female ratio among all the groups, especially those teaching dance, drama and art. However, even if there were relatively more male private music teachers, females accounted for two-thirds of the total group.

There were relatively many females among performing arts support workers (57%), but overall the cultural workers defined in Table 1 had a male surplus (54%).

Cultural Occupations and Cultural Industries

Table 1 has covered employment in cultural occupations as a main job (totalling 277,458 persons in the 2006 Census, an increase of 6.8% since 2001). As well as cultural occupations the ABS defines cultural industries.3 In 2006, 296,183 persons were employed in these industries, down 1% from 299,266 in 2001 (in contrast, the total employed workforce increased by 10% in that period). Cultural industries include three sections directly bearing on performing arts, including music:

  • Music and theatre productions: employment down from 10,812 in 2001 to 8,621 in 2006 (-20.8%). This decline parallels the decline shown in Table 1 for music and other performing arts professionals.
  • Creative arts: marginally down from 9,345 in 2001 to 9,325 in 2006 (-0.2%). This excludes performance of existing works, including music composed by others, which limits the music, drama and dance component to creators of new works.
  • Other services to the arts (sound recording studios, performing arts venues, and other): slightly down from 5,643 to 5,582 persons (-1.1%).

Chart 1 shows that of about 285,000 persons with cultural occupations in 20064, 157,000 worked in what the ABS has defined as cultural industries, and the remaining 45% in other industries, deemed non-cultural. The 285,000 persons having cultural occupations represented 3.1% of the total number of persons employed in Australia.

On the other hand, 2% of the large number of 8.8 million in non-cultural occupations worked in industries defined as cultural. In fact, their total number of 189,000 exceeded the number of cultural occupations working in cultural industries, boosting the total membership of the latter to almost 346,000, 61,000 more than the total number of persons with cultural occupations. It is fairly evident that the real lines between “cultural” and “non-cultural” are blurred, and that jobs are available across a very wide spectrum.

The statistics for 2006 illustrate the wide variations in the participation of cultural occupations in individual cultural industries (the six industries listed are the only ones that are specifically music/performing arts-orientated):

  • Music publishing employed 234 persons, 15.4% of whom had cultural occupations
  • Music and other sound recording activities employed 814, 495 or 60.8% from cultural occupations
  • There were 14,481 members of the industry named creative artists, musicians, writers and performers. Cultural occupations accounted for 82.3% (11,923 persons)
  • The performing arts operation industry employed 4,320 people; 64.1% were defined as having cultural occupations (2,768)
  • In the performing arts venue industry, however, only 719 or 26.9% of the total employment of 2,675 had cultural occupations
  • Arts education: Total 15,706, cultural occupations 12,059 (76.8%).

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) analysed creative (artistic and arts-related) activities in the workforce in 2010, based on census data for 1996, 2001 and 2006. The title of the publication, commissioned by the Australia Council, is What is Your Other Job:A Census Analysis of Arts Employment in Australia, by QUT Professor Stuart Cunningham and Peter Higgs. It uses “creative trident” analysis 5 to define a two-by-two matrix where people with creative occupations either work in creative industries (“specialist creative”) or in other industries not defined as creative (“embedded creatives”). Occupations defined as non-creative may work in creative industries (“support workers”) or in non-creative industries (the vast bulk of the workforce).

The bottom row in Chart 1 corresponds to the four parts of the Cunningham and Higgs matrix, with cultural workers (3.1% of the total workforce) being either what might be called “specialist cultural” or “embedded cultural”, in parallel to the QUT study. Artistic and arts-related occupations in that study comprised 1.1% of the total workforce in 2006. Within the limitations of the industry classification, the QUT analysis is extended to the individual main artforms: musical artists are composers, instrumental musicians, and singers, and music-related activities are music directors, private music teachers, and piano tuners. In 2006, 60% of persons occupied in artistic musical activities were employed in arts or other creative industries (4,490 of a total 7,540). This contrasts starkly with music-related activities where only 2% were occupied in creative industries (190 of a total 9,990 persons). These activities are dominated numerically by private music teachers.

The Census provides the bulk of the data related to music and other arts-related activities under the heading of employment and voluntary work. However, it excludes all activities which are not part of a person’s main job. Many more people are involved in and participate in the arts, whether on a paid or unpaid basis. Supplementary information on involvement shows that for live current performance this activity was part of a main job for 25,000 in 2007, but for 66,000 it wasn’t. So for only 27% of an estimated 91,000 persons doing live performances in the twelve months to April 2007 the activity was part of a main job. This contrasts with activities where live music performance was not part of a main job: for an estimated 20,000 of 28,000 persons (71%) it was. For all arts-related activities (1,016,400 persons estimated from the survey), the activity in question was part of their main job for 669,000 (66%).6

It is evident, however, that the survey respondents interpret the questions differently from respondents to the Census, as far as main job is concerned. Table 1 showed that live performers of music in the 2006 Census numbered a maximum of 7,880 persons (some of whom may not be live performers). However, the relevant survey table for the year ended April 2007 shows that an estimated 24,900 considered their involvement in live music performances as part of their main job (out of a total 90,600 who had some paid involvement).7

Table 2 is arranged into four groups: music, other performing arts, other artistic activities as defined by Table 1, and other arts-related activities (cinema and video distribution, government arts authorities, teaching, and festival, and art and craft show organising.)

For music performers, the 90,600 persons receiving some payment were mentioned above – including 24,900 considering this involvement part of their main job according to ABS Cat 6281.0. In our Table 2, performers receiving some payment made up 35.9% of total paid and unpaid persons. The proportion was roughly similar for people involved in music but not as performers.

Compared with other performing artists, musicians with some paid involvement comprised a higher absolute number (90,600 as against 38,900). However, the number of other performing artists who received no payment exceeded the comparable category of musicians. Furthermore, there were many more persons not being actual performers in the other performing arts category. The proportion of paid persons among other performing artists was among the lowest in Table 2: 13.7% for performers and 17% for others.

For other artistic activities, more than 50% of people involved in design, television, designing computer games and interactive software, and publishing, received some payment. Website designers and writers were next in line (44% and 40%, respectively).

At the lower end of the spectrum, the lowest payment ratios were for visual art and craft activities. Among the former, the top of the range was a small group of “other visual art activities” (38.5%) followed by a large group of “creating artworks with a computer” (24.8%). The lowest ratios were for painting (12.6%) and photography (13.6%). For crafts, the highest paid proportion was in the small group of glass crafts (23.3% but statistically relatively unreliable). The lowest payment ratio was for “other craft activities (9.6%), followed by textiles (14.2%), furniture and wood crafts (16.3%), and jewellery (16.9%).

In conclusion, musical performance ranked higher on the scale of ratio of paid to total persons involved than some other major art forms including other performing arts, visual art and craft. For further detail please visit Involvement in Music.


The evidence from the involvement surveys suggests that volunteering may be a significant factor. The ABS conducted its third survey of voluntary work in 2006 (the previous ones were in 1995 and 2000) when an estimated 5,226,500 persons participated – equal to 34.1% of the adult population. The participation rate was higher for females (36.4%) than for males (31.8%). Volunteering per individual varied from at least once a week to less than several times a year. It resulted in almost 7.8 million involvements, an average of about 1.7 hours per week resulting in an estimated 706.7 hours of volunteer work in twelve months.

Arts/heritage was one of the identified groups showing 207,400 volunteers: 1.4% of the population compared with 34.1% for all volunteers. Sport and physical recreation topped the list with 11.2% followed by education/training (9.1%), community/welfare (7.3%) and religious causes (6.7%). Arts/heritage involvements totalled 203,700, 2.9% of total involvements. The number of hours of voluntary work on arts/heritage (30.6 million) represented 4.3% of the total estimated number of volunteer hours (706.7 million).

Again, sport/physical recreation was the top voluntary work type (187.2 million hours, or 26% of total hours), ahead of community/welfare (19%), religion (17%), education/training (10%), and health (7%). The only specific types of volunteering with less hours than arts/heritage were emergency services (3.7%), parenting/children/youth (3.7%), and environment/animal welfare (2% of total hours).

Non-managerial Adult Employees Gender Survey

The final topic included by the ABS under the heading of employment and voluntary work is earnings and paid hours worked by male and female full-time non-managerial adult employees, based on an ABS survey in August 2008. The relevant occupational groups revealed by the survey are arts and media professionals. The former group consists of actors, dancers and other entertainers, music professionals, photographers, and visual art and craft professionals. The media classification includes artistic directors, media producers and presenters; authors, book and script editors; film, TV, radio and stage directors; and journalists and other writers.

This distinction is sufficiently close to a concept of “core arts”, with the line drawn as clearly as can be reasonably expected between “arts” and “media”. The line is inevitably blurred, for example for authors and photographers as noted previously.8

There are large differences between the earnings of female and male full-time non-managerial arts professionals according to Table 3. For males, average weekly cash earnings were $1,457 in 2008, for females $968 (average for both genders $1,200). Average male arts professional earnings were 2.6% lower than for their media counterparts, but for female arts professionals 20% lower. For arts and media professionals as a group, average male and female earnings were between 10% and 13% lower than for all professional persons (shown in the first column of Table 3).

Average weekly earnings were generally lower for females than for males: 19% lower for media professionals and 20% lower for all professionals. But the difference was 34% for arts professionals and an even higher 38% for the creative and performing arts industry shown in the right-hand column of Table 3. The industry showed average earnings for males to be marginally lower (-0.9%) than in the occupational class of arts professionals, but the average for female creative and performing artists ($911) was 6.2% lower than for the occupational class of female arts professionals.

Some of the differences are associated with the number of paid hours worked. For males, the typical average was about 38 hours per week, but it was only 33.2 hours for arts professionals. The average hourly rate for these relatively short hours ($43.90) was higher than the average for all professionals ($42.80), and significantly higher than the average for all males in the creative and performing arts industry ($38.70).

Female arts professionals were paid for an average of 35.1 hours per week, compared with an average of 37.6 hours for all female professionals. The average hourly payment for female arts professionals was $27.60, 37% lower than the $43.90 observed for all male professionals. The female average hourly rate in the creative and performing arts industry was an even lower $24.70, 36% below the average male rate in the industry.

The objective of this article is to provide a descriptive overview of available statistics, and identify the main gaps in the availability of music sector data, rather than to identify issues. It is evident, however, that the differences revealed by the 2008 survey will need further identification and research.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered 27 September 2011 as part of general ABS overview. Made into independent article 9 February 2012. Table 1 replaced with the correct version, 23 April 2012.


  1. The initial statistical overview was written a few months after the 2011 Census. According to information paper Cat 2011.0 ABS plans three general data releases: in June and October 2012, and early 2013. The basic information on musicians should be available in the second release. The ABS has also further refined its software enabling users to build their own data combinations (TableBuilder Basic and TableBuilder Pro).↩︎
  2. There is also a case for including photographers here, which would make them the only “core” arts group to grow between 2001 and 2006. However, as in the case of authors there is also a significant media-related element in the profession. In the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), photographers are classified as arts professionals (like visual artists and craft professionals), and authors are classified as media professionals, like journalists.↩︎
  3. See section on Census of Population and Housing in ABS Cat 4172.0, the main publication explored in the ABS sections of this article.↩︎
  4. This number is slightly higher than the total shown in Table 1, based on a new occupational classification (ABS Cat 1220.0, 2006).↩︎
  5. Cunningham and Higgs (p 3): “The metaphor of the trident is used because it points to three parts of an employment ‘quadrant’ composed of a four-part occupation and industry matrix.”↩︎
  6. The culture and leisure survey also includes heritage activities, which for 60,300 persons were part of a paid job (72% of a total of 83,700 persons involved in these activities). Heritage activities include museums, public art galleries, libraries and archives, heritage organisations, botanical gardens, national parks, zoos and aquariums.↩︎
  7. ABS Cat 6281.0, Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2007, Table 6.↩︎
  8. Arts and media professionals form ANZSCO Major Group 21 (the former as Minor Group 211 and the latter Minor Group 212). Between them, they cover the arts professionals in Table 1 except designers and illustrators, who are in Minor Group 232: Architects, Designers, Planners and Surveyors. Unit Group 2323 covers fashion, industrial and jewellery designers, 2324 graphic and web designers, and illustrators, and 2325 interior designers.↩︎

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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