The links to particular categories of the music sector through Overview of Music Statistics: ABS and Overview of Music Statistics: Other Sources review the available statistics. The main criteria for their usefulness are:

  1. How fast we are moving towards understanding the music sector’s contribution to the Australian economy and culture.
  2. How the understanding is improving of the economic and social contribution of particular parts of the sector.
  3. How helpful any statistics of musical activities are to particular users, and what can be done to improve their utility.

The three criteria are assumed to be of equal overall importance. Readers of the knowledge base will have their own statistical needs but many will also want to know how much their own area contribute to the economy, directly and indirectly, and gain an idea of how a nation’s cultural life may support its long-term economic growth.

Elements of a Statistical Research Plan

After concluding the initial identification and analysis of available statistics in Overview of Music Statistics: ABS and Overview of Music Statistics: Other Sources, it would appear feasible to proceed along lines like the following from 2012:

Music Education

There is a great need for statistical research into this major sector — with a focus on primary and secondary schools but including early childhood and studio music teaching, and analysing the contribution made by tertiary music education. The first step has been to show how little is known statistically (see Music Education Statistics). It is a major research project which should be started in 2012 to help close this major knowledge gap.

Throsby Surveys 1983-2009

This unique source, sponsored by the Australia Council, comprises our longest potential time series on individual artists in Australia. The task, for which the editor has previously obtained Professor Throsby’s verbal approval, is to define the dimensions and complete a research program that respects the original research while using it in the framework of the general statistical planning for the knowledge base.


Quite apart from their major role commissioning the Ernst & Young study of the economic contribution of the venue-based live music industry summarised here and further described in Venues, the Australasian Performing Right Association and its sister organisation are a potentially rich data source which the knowledge base has not explored sufficiently. With the cooperation of APRA/AMCOS we will work towards rectifying this as a priority in 2012.

Email Surveys

A number of areas are difficult to cover statistically except through survey methods. The most important areas (but not the only ones) would be:

  • Community music: infrastructure providers; local community providers; local festivals — identify classification through analysis of lists. It may be possible, and would certainly be relevant, to plan separate identification of Indigenous musical activity
  • National, state and territory music-related organisations which are not covered by other surveys. As outlined in Organisations this is likely to be a relatively difficult and complex task suggesting a piecemeal approach — these organisations cover a very wide range across the music sector.

The first step in this research, which can be undertaken successively commencing if possible in 2012, is to define an internally consistent research plan and construct lists. The lists will give rise to more detailed classifications which will be reflected in the final survey forms (this may even reduce the need for surveys to the extent that sufficient data have in fact been collected, as may prove to be the case for major venues, and some genres).

It is desirable to limit survey forms to within two pages, both in the interest of obtaining sufficient response, and keeping the subsequent analysis as simple and inexpensive as possible. Essential information would include employment (full-time, part-time and casual, or other suitable classifications), income (funding by level of government, private funding, earned income, other), expenditure, year of establishment, location, legal status, and aims and objectives of the organisation. It is also important to provide respondents with an opportunity for written comments, going beyond the statistics.

Finding ways and means of organising and funding this research may delay this program; however, it is difficult to establish alternative means of obtaining representative statistical data in the absence of central organisations providing this service.

Value of Music Sector

This involves ongoing updating of studies based on continuing statistical research — building up knowledge incrementally. One major problem is how to pick structural change, which is undoubtedly happening due to digitization and other factors — which will increasingly distort structures identified in previous studies.

The ultimate aim is to clear the way beyond “narrowly based economic and financial data which look no further” towards a full understanding of the economic, social and cultural role of music. Cultural goods and services as they are generally measured do not include the value of infrastructure support, or the value of the importance of music for other cultural industries or for long-term economic growth. Furthermore, comparison across industries ignores the long-term values of the cultural sector, partly because they are hard to measure. Social Impact Assessment (SIA) methodology discussed at the end of the description of the Deloitte Access Economics study of live music in Victoria should be explored as a possible approach to extending the analysis beyond economic statistics. While these techniques need further development and have to be adapted to provide a meaningful input into the understanding of particular topics, trying to cover the cultural and social impacts on the music sector (and the economic feedback that would result) remains a priority in the development of this knowledge base.

The narrow view of economic statistics may be justified in the conventional national accounting sense, but even at this level there have long been developments of supplementary models, under the name of satellite accounts. A “tourism GDP” has existed for two decades, showing the extent to which tourism activities add to conventional industry groups. The concept of derived GDP models such as the tourism satellite account is discussed in Estimating the Value of the Music Sector, suggesting that it should be possible in theory to build a similar framework for the music sector. This would be a first step towards a better statistical definition of the role of music for Australian economic, social and cultural development.

Other Programs

  • Regular statistical updates: Research schedule should include regular review and inclusion of new published statistics.
  • Longer-term research projects: Explore idea of encouraging students (Ph.D., Masters, post-doc) to pursue statistical research as part of their projects. This would not yield short-term results but could enrich the area in the long term. Another possible approach which may yield more immediate results is to explore existing theses and other research like the following example (a case rather than statistical study but illustrative of what research may be obtainable): In November 2011 the editor became aware of (and obtained) a Norwegian master’s thesis, by Ingebjørg Hagerup at the Music Technology Department of the Technical University in Trondheim, Norway (NTNU), demonstrating how a musician without much experience with digitization found her way from composition to distribution in the digital age. 1

Canvass the Views of Readers

The intention is to check the adequacy of Australian music sector statistics on criteria such as (contributions invited, please!):

  • These are the issues. Do the statistics cover them?
  • How important are good statistics?
  • What do YOU want to see in your own area?
  • What have we left out?
  • What can other statistics contribute?
  • What initiatives can music sector operatives take to improve and add to the statistics?
  • What should a statistical strategic plan contain – where were we five years ago, where are we now, where do we want to be in five years?
  • International perspectives?


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Initial version finished 19 December 2011. Most recently amended 30 May 2012. Logo design: HHG (treble clef image courtesy of


  1. Thanks to NTNU Professor Øyvind Brandtsegg for making this possible.↩︎

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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