Live Music In Australia

Although generous in discussing their motivations, commercial risks and business models, a number of the live music venue owners and operators were reluctant or unable to fully disclose their cash flows.

This reflects the commercially sensitive nature of financial data in an industry that is still largely cash-based and the often-complex commercial arrangements within each venue. Several venues, for example, could not provide an accurate account of what was paid to artists, as they allowed the bands to set and collect a door charge, or leased their space to independent promoters. Similarly, approximately half of the venues interviewed identified staff working in their venues that they didn’t pay directly. Given the issues previously identified with producer data under-representing the economic impact of live music, we therefore prioritised the consumer survey as a more reliable source of economic data for the purposes of this cost benefit analysis.

The online survey was promoted directly to consumers through several industry and peak-body mailing lists and media stories in national and local news outlets. Participants were allowed to self-define live music; although, certain prompts were given to encourage a holistic consideration of the activity. This ensured that our definition of live music was consistent with community, rather than the researcher’s, understanding of the term.



Of the survey respondents who provided demographic data, 64.2 per cent identified as male and 35.8 per cent as female. A breakdown of respondents by age, State of residence and reported income is shown in Figure 3. Respondents reported attending a range of live music, from hip hop and metal to classical and jazz, though there was a strong overall preference for popular music.

In order to normalise the sample we therefore weighted it against the most recent ABS data on “popular concert” attendance (ABS, 2010a). After applying the weights shown in Table 1, sample age and gender were not significantly different from the population distributions of popular music patrons (p>0.05 for both).

This weighting does not account, however, for other potential biases introduced by our sampling method. For example, a disproportionate number of respondents were highly engaged by live music, and performing musicians and industry workers were potentially over-represented. This is probably explained by our use of industry mailing lists to promote the survey and the self-selecting nature of respondents. Therefore although this outcome was anticipated and unavoidable due to the resource limitations of this study, it is not possible to draw conclusions about the population-wide volume of live music attendance from this data set.


Disregarding then our sample’s self-reported volume of expenditure on the basis it was highly likely to be skewed (an issue we will resolve shortly); it was nevertheless found that individuals’ patterns of spending shown in Figure 4 were not significantly affected by their level of engagement (hours per month; p>0.05). In other words, regardless of how much an individual reported spending on live music – whether it be 100 dollars or 10,000 dollars per year – there was not a statistically significant difference in their patterns of spending.

We can therefore vastly improve our understanding of the scope of individuals’ investment in their live music interest by commencing to build a satellite account.

Live Music Consumption

A satellite account is a standard developed by the United Nations to measure the size of economic sectors that are not defined as industries in the national accounts (UNWTO, 2002). Live music is one such industry not discretely defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics or, indeed, any central economic agency.

The consumption of live music actually involves making a variety of related purchases across already defined sectors. In this study we have measured a number of these, including:

  • Accommodation and related expenses
  • Clothes and fashion
  • Food, beverages and other consumables
  • Fuel, motor vehicle and travel expenses
  • Memberships and subscriptions
  • Merchandise (including CDs, programs, memorabilia)
  • Phone, internet and communication expenses, and
  • Tickets / entry fees

The composition of this spending is shown in Figure 4 and applied as a baseline to a number of the estimates of costs and benefits that follow. Of interest is the fact that producer accounts of live music making—even if perfectly conducted—will only ever capture ticket and food and beverage sales. It can be seen in Figure 4 that these categories describe less than half of the actual economic impact of live music making in Australia.

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A small number of respondents identified other incidental expenses that are not included in our reckoning included child care, car parking, hearing protection, cameras and multimedia devices and recreational drugs. These are recommended for consideration in future live music satellite accounting, as is the inclusion where relevant of the instruments of live music production.

Live Music Attendance

As noted above, our survey captured highly engaged consumers whose attendance at live music events is unlikely to be representative of the broader population. Modelling the costs and benefits of live music in Australia depends, however, on an estimate of the volume of activity consumption. In other words, how much and how often do people consume live music?

In the absence of representative primary data, we have drawn on attendance and sales figures from Live Performance Australia (LPA) and the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA AMCOS) (Ernst & Young, 2011, 2014), and cross-referenced it with data from the ABS (2010a, 2014a).

Major ticketing companies, a number of larger self-ticketing venues and promoters, together with the Australian Council for the Arts contribute ticketing data to Live Performance Australia’s (LPA) annual Ticket Attendance Survey and Review. In 2013, it was reported that there were 6.3 million tickets sold to contemporary music concerts at established venues, and another 1.1 million in tickets sales at single category (predominantly live music) festivals (Ernst & Young, 2014). These could be described as Tier 1 live music venues / events (Hearn, Ninan, Rogers, Cunningham, & Luckman, 2004).

The second Ernst & Young (2011) report on the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA AMCOS) venue based live music industry revealed a total of 42.0 million live music attendances at, “…pubs / bars, clubs, restaurants / cafes and nightclubs,” licensed by APRA AMCOS to host live music, or Tier 2 live music venues. Of these, 10.2 million were ticketed attendances, with the balance being un-ticketed (presumably free to enter / attend).

We recognise that some tickets sales may be captured in both the LPA and APRA AMCOS reports, giving rise to the risk of double counting. This risk is slight, however, as the average Tier 1 ticket price is over 100 dollars; whereas Tier 2 tickets are variably valued by Ernst & Young (2011) at between 10 dollars and 23 dollars per unit.

Figure 5 and Figure 6 therefore give us a conservative reference point for live music attendance from the best currently available national data; although we cannot let this pass without reiterating the urgent need for a more complete and robust census of the live music sector in Australia.


Due to their own limitations of method and scope, it is not suggested that the source reports used in our estimation (either in isolation or collectively) are perfectly representative of the sum of live-music attendance in Australia. After all, neither study purports to capture attendance at informal venues such as warehouses, house parties, school concerts or pop-up performances. As previously noted, the report prepared for APRA AMCOS (Ernst & Young, 2011) was found to potentially under-represent the volume of live music activity in Melbourne (Newton, 2012).

Given the composition of our consumer sample, we have also self-imposed a conservative constraint to our inquiry, limiting it to contemporary music. Thus excluded are other ticketed and non-ticketed live music forms such as classical, opera, musical theatre, other festivals, and special events.

Therefore, despite this report assigning a much larger value to the live music industry in Australia than those that have gone before it, we nonetheless significantly under-represent the entirety of live music making in Australia. To give an indication as to the impact of this understatement, the LPA figure of 7.3 million we use excludes over four million other potentially relevant ticket sales, as well as sales that went unreported.