This article describes one of 12 areas listed in Overview of Music Statistics: Other Sources, outlining the potential and actual contribution of sources other than the Australian Bureau of Statistics to knowledge of the music sector.


The description below relates to the current (2011-12) state of the knowledge base. As the research proceeds, the structure will be amended and updated and some articles combined (specified in various contexts below).



The existing article Attendance at Cultural Performances is due for updating to incorporate ABS data up to 2009-10 described in Overview of Music Statistics: ABS.

Statistics collected since 2004 by Live Performance Australia (LPA) for its annual ticketing survey provides another perspective, covering the Australian Major Performing Arts Group of 28 major performing arts companies (AMPAG), with data from ticketing companies, self-ticketing venues and the Australia Council, collected and analysed since 2006 by Ernst & Young on a confidential basis. Fourteen of the 28 companies perform music: the six state symphony orchestras, three other major orchestras (Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestra Victoria1), and four opera companies (Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, State Opera of South Australia, and Western Australian Opera). The fourteenth member of the group, Musica Viva Australia, is described as one of the world’s largest chamber music organisations, presenting more than 2,700 concerts a year across Australia and Southeast Asia as well as school concerts and tours of Australian ensembles around the nation.

Further insights, including non-confidential statistical data, should be obtainable through the websites of these companies but they may not form a coherent pattern that can be used to produce group totals. The AMPAG statistics are obviously very different from the ABS survey data; both provide essential information for understanding attendance at musical performances. Chart 1 shows that 40.8% of total attendances at all events covered by the collection for 2010 went to hear non-classical music, explained as follows in the LPA publication: “The significant jump in this category in 2010 is largely due to an increase in large tours by international acts. The largest of these tours in 2010 included ACDC, U2, Bon Jovi, Metallica and the Eagles. Other large tours included Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Muse, George Michael, Cliff Richard, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park and Yusuf Islam.”

In comparison, classical concerts attracted 5.6% of attendances, opera 2.4%, and musical theatre a larger share of 15.2%. Outside the pure music repertoire, ballet and dance (with significant music content) accounted for 5.9% of total attendances, and other performing arts 22.6% (theatre, comedy, circus and physical theatre, children’s and family events, and special events such as the 2010 ARIA Awards). The remaining 7.5% of attendances were at festivals, including the major annual or biennial multi-category festivals in Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, which between them accounted for only 1.5% of total attendances. Four times that share (6.0%) was provided by single-category festivals such as Good Vibrations which tours across four states each year, Splendour in the Grass at Woodford, Queensland, Big Day Out held in several cities in Australia and New Zealand, and Supafest (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth). There are several other major single-category festivals, all dominated by music, which adds to the dominance of non-classical music among major performance events.

Average ticket prices in 2010 add further perspective. They were lowest for multi-category festivals ($43.12), classical music concerts ($60.43) and ballet and dance ($64.86), rising to $98.84 for musical theatre, $102.78 for non-classical music concerts, and $119.39 for the single-category festivals dominated by non-classical music.

The Australia Council performs another major service through its Arts Organisations division. The Major Performing Arts Board comprises the 28 AMPAG companies, but in addition the Key Organisations unit encompasses a further 140 or more small to medium organisations affiliated in the Australia Council structure with its various Boards. All are funded on a recurrent basis. In 2009, 16 of the key organisations came under the auspices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts (ATSIA) Board, 15 under the Community Arts Board, and 11 under the Music Board. In the 2010 report, music again represented a minority of the 153 organisations: orchestras 2, chamber music 2, and other music 12. Half the organisations were listed under either theatres or visual arts.

The major performing arts organisations (MPAs) and the smaller organisations classified as “key” cater for different audiences (Chart 2). Orchestral and chamber music are largely, and opera exclusively, the province of the MPAs. Conversely, “other music” is provided by the key organisations. Referring back to Chart 1, the popular music festivals in the LPA survey are captured through the ticketing agencies outside the participating MPAs; however, it is clear from the list of small and medium-sized key organisations that the Australia Council’s “other music” category is different: it covers choirs and vocal ensembles, jazz festivals and orchestras, a chamber music festival and the Australian Art Orchestra, among others.2 Outside the music area, most theatre and dance attendances are at MPA performances, and theatre is the largest of all the categories. All the identified artforms are shown with separate statistical information.

The Australia Council reports will be the subject of a special article. They cover material not found elsewhere, as well as showing the small to medium-sized recurrently funded key organisations in addition to the MPAs. The subject matter, including statistics, are categorised under “artistic vibrancy” (including new Australian work and productions), access, diversity, employment and volunteers, and financial viability. It also provides trends over recent years and detail by States and Territories.


Involvement in arts-related activities, including music, is discussed in connection with Table 2 of Employment and Voluntary Work. As the statistics show, involvement (including paid involvement, and whether those involved regard it as a main job) goes far beyond the numbers shown by the five-yearly census. Indeed, the census information on musicians and other artists would in many ways be quite misleading if the evidence stopped there — especially in the case of popular music performers playing in smaller venues such as pubs and clubs. This has led to the recent commissioning of three major non-ABS reports described in Casual Music Workforce, which represent one of the most significant additions to the statistical database for the music sector in recent years.

The involvement statistics themselves do not have a direct match outside the ABS database, which remains very important. However, the recent research effort to provide statistics covering smaller venues is a major step forward. The database also gains immeasurably by five publications commissioned by the Australia Council between 1983 and 2009, all with Australia’s foremost arts economist, Professor David Throsby of Macquarie University, as the lead author. These publications form a unique historical perspective which will be the subject of a forthcoming knowledge base article due in 2012.

More than Bums on Seats

Subtitled “Australian participation in the arts”, the research report More than Bums on Seats was prepared for the Australia Council by the market research company Instinct and reason (2010). The report was commissioned in support of the Australia Council’s research program of 2009 which identified five strategic priorities (see p 1 of report):

  1. Artists’ careers
  2. Audience access and participation
  3. Business and philanthropic involvement in the arts
  4. Arts content for the digital era, and
  5. Increased support for the arts.

Following a literature review, 12 focus group discussions, and 15 stakeholder interviews with arts marketers and entrepreneurs, 3,000 Australians aged 15 and over were contacted in a telephone survey. They were selected using a stratified random sample to allow for sufficient representation across states and territories, metropolitan and regional areas, age groups, and genders. The results were then weighted according to ABS census data so they are nationally representative. The survey was conducted in October and November 2009, yielding a 33.8% response rate (one successful interview for every three households contacted). This is statistically respectable resulting in a maximum range of error of ± 1.79% (95% confidence limits) (p 11).

The report makes a key distinction between creative and receptive participation in the arts. For the five artforms surveyed (visual arts and crafts, theatre, dance, literature and music), 53% of respondents were involved in receptive participation only, while 39% participated both creatively and as recipients, and 1% as creators only. The remaining seven percent did not participate or attend anything artistic. However, the definition of receptive participation in the arts included reading literature, which was a near universal activity (99%). If reading is removed from the analysis, the proportion that doesn’t participate either creatively or as recipients increases from 7% to 20%; that is, the only arts participation for 13% of all respondents was reading literature. As a result, the proportion engaged in creative activities only increases to 8% (from 1% when reading is included), while 33% participated both creatively and as recipients, and 39% were involved in receptive participation only.3

Engagement was defined for each artform, showing music in second place behind literature (Table 1). Total creative and receptive participation for music was 62%.4

The 15-24 age group was universally the most active (p 18). For music, 30% of that age group was engaged in creative participation, compared with 18% of 25-34 year olds, 13% of 35-44 year olds, and 9% in each of the three older age groups (45-54, 55-64, and 65+). The differences also showed for receptive participation though not to the same extent: for music, 68% of 15-24 year olds fell into this category followed by 61%, 56%, 58%, 55%, and 43% in the progressively older age groups. As Table 1 shows, the total receptive participation rate was 57% for music, compared with 15% who participated creatively.

More than Bums on Seats is a major source with the main numerical findings arranged in a series of appendices showing participation and attendance by states and the relationships between creative and receptive participation, cross-classified by a wide range of attitudes the arts which were also part of the survey. Specific focus was directed towards the influence of the Internet on creative and receptive participation, and on those involved in community arts5 Of the total sample, 5% were creative participants in community arts, 15% receptive participants (2% of whom were also creative), and the remaining 82% not involved either as creators or attending community arts events.

The Australia Council survey provides a rich data source which may be available for further mining in the interest of providing a fuller picture for the music sector. The report notes (p 2) that the overall findings indicated strong and increasingly positive community support for the arts, a growing interest in Indigenous arts, and significant opportunities to build arts audiences. Further research into this source is planned for the knowledge base.

Limitations of Census Data

The five-yearly Australian Census is carried out by the ABS as discussed in Employment and Voluntary Work. The latest statistics are from August 2006 showing what this source counts as full-time musicians and other artists (defined as a person’s occupation in the main job held last week); the August 2011 Census results will be available in late 2012.6

The major problem remains that the Census covers only the nucleus of full-time musicians, and not the vast majority who play on a casual or part-time basis (see the previous section on involvement). It was indicated there that three major surveys and reviews described in Venues were completed in 2011 to establish the number and conditions of the large number of musicians who perform mainly or exclusively in small venues such as pubs and clubs.7

The Music Sector

The adequacy of the statistical base for the sector was addressed in 2008 in Scale and Structure of the Music Sector and the Need for Better Data, which sets some important guidelines. A new paper, The Music Sector, written in mid-2011, provides an updated structure for future reference. A previous article, The Music Sector Defined, is outdated but will be mined for relevant content. So will Estimating the Value of the Music Sector, written in 2007. Finally, The Value of the Music Sector, again from 2007, was based on previous estimates of the total economic impact of the sector, going back to the original report on the subject in 1987. It is tentatively suggested that the sector is currently worth about $8.5 billion, on the increasingly doubtful assumption that there has been no major distorting changes. There is a clear need for a major structural study of the music sector.

In short, the task under this heading is to update and consolidate previous contributions to the knowledge base, a task regarded as urgent but vitally dependent on the continual accumulation of updated statistics.

Music Sector Statistics Generally

The current “overview” series of four articles is important, aiming — with the assistance of many other people with specialist knowledge — at providing the best possible database for specific parts of the music sector and for estimating its total economic and social contribution. Some articles written previously will also be mined for relevant content, including Current State of Music Sector Statistics and Quality of Music Statistics.

The net result will be a clearer exposition of the issues related to the total music sector expressed through major effort to consolidate and update the material. We need all the advice we can get to achieve this.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Concluded 9 January 2012 as part of a general overview of statistical sources other than the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Made into independent article 11 February 2012. Minor revisions and major addition of More than Bums on Seats, 16 May 2012.


  1. Orchestra Victoria is the orchestra of the Australian Ballet as well as performing in Victoria for Opera Australia and the Victorian Opera, while the Sydney-based Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO) is part of Opera Australia, giving some 175 performances of more than a dozen operas and more than 80 performances of four ballets in a typical year.↩︎
  2. “Other music” also includes the Australian Music Centre, the Australian Music Industry Network, and our own organisation, the Music Council of Australia.↩︎
  3. This shows that activities that are pursued by nearly everyone can blur the results. We note that reading literature was included in the original definition of arts participation but listening to recorded music wasn’t (see next footnote). In a proper comparison, such universal activities are best analysed separately. This does not denigrate reading and listening to music as cultural activities — the interpretation rather becomes; “Given that everyone reads literature and listens to recorded music, what other activities differ between groups and how does this behaviour change over time?” Ed., 17.5.2012.↩︎
  4. Listening to recorded music was a separate measure, not included in the main music participation figures. The response here was near universal, like reading literature (99%). Most of the music was heard on radio, television, CDs, or downloaded music files.↩︎
  5. The study defined community arts as “when the art has been created as part of a community group together with a professional artist who has been paid for their involvement.” (p 40) Other perspectives included multicultural Australia, regional communities, illness and disability, and youth (p 38).↩︎
  6. Meanwhile, the editor plans to combine the existing articles Census 2006 and Musicians in the Census.↩︎
  7. These surveys were conducted not just to measure conditions for musicians (and technical support persons): other strong objectives were to estimate the contribution of live music performances to the profitability of these venues, and their total economic, social and cultural contribution.↩︎

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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