The music sector

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History of Economic Strategies involvement

In 1985, the company won the Australia Council’s commission to research the music sector. The report was published in 1987 as The Australian Music Industry: An economic evaluation and was the first study worldwide to present a comprehensive definition of the music sector, including activities such as music education, libraries and research. No other similar study pre-dates it either in Australia or internationally, which was in no small way due to the vision of the then director of the Australia Council’s Music Board, Dr Richard Letts.

Fast forward to 2004. Much has happened over the past ten years or so. In 1994, Dick Letts has set up what quickly became the peak music organisation in Australia, the Music Council of Australia (MCA) (moving further forward to 2005-09 he is also the current president of the UNESCO-based International Music Council (IMC)). Hans has assisted in setting up a statistical database for the MCA in 2000, along conventional lines drawing together the statistics that exist or can be generated about music in Australia. Concurrently, the Australian Cultural Ministers Council has been advocating the development of better cultural statistics through its Statistics Working Group (SWG), which represents the major cultural and statistical authorities in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has set up a National Centre for Culture and Recreation Statistics to develop cultural and recreational data. From 2004 there is a new push from State music organisations for more support and better data to demonstrate the economic importance of popular music.

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Breakthrough

In 2004, the Cultural Ministers Council, through SWG, calls for tenders to set up a comprehensive statistical framework for music in Australia. Economic Strategies wins the tender in cooperation with the MCA’s Dick Letts. The report, A Statistical Framework for the Music Sector, goes beyond the boundaries of the brief to incorporate the true dimensions of what music is about in the economy, centred on the creator and performer of music rather than the recording industry, which is usually seen as the pivot. The music sector (click on chart below) is defined to include the music content of other industries including film, broadcasting, advertising, new uses of music and digital delivery. It is also defined to include support functions, notably music education and training but also a wide range of other activities without which music creators and performers would find it hard to succeed. The report concludes with a recommended five-year plan to develop a Music GDP as a measure of the contribution of musical activity to the economy. (Even this, when developed, will underestimate the true contribution of music, because it ignores the indirect long-term effects on economic activity from a vigorous national culture.)

music-sector.png Please click to enlarge. Click browser’s back arrow to return to story.

The report highlights the role of the music sector in generating economic growth supported by creative industries strategies – a concept born in the UK in 1997 and spreading quickly to other countries, including Australia. Music has a dual opportunity in such a strategy: as an artistic activity in its own right and because it is intimately associated, in numerous ways, with digital and online technologies – pivotal creative activities par excellence.

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MCA’s music sector knowledge base

Hans became a special member of the Music Council of Australia in 2004 (and is currently on its board). In 2005, he began a project to revisit the concept of the MCA database which had existed since he set it up in 2000. This attracted great support from most of the fifty MCA councillors, and some tentative findings were presented at the annual MCA Assembly in Brisbane in September 2005.

The database has become a true knowledge base, telling the story of the Australian music sector in words as well as numbers. By mid-2007, it was in a state of rapid development as shown by its knowledge base within the general MCA website, with contributions from MCA councillors and many others. It received a special grant to assist this development in 2007 from the Australia Council for the Arts, and is currently programmed for completion – apart from necessary maintenance and updating – by September 2009.

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Indigenous musicians

Also in 2005, Hans completed a scoping study for the Australia Council to investigate how Indigenous music and Indigenous musicians could be adequately represented within the general statistical framework for the Australian music sector. He is also working on another, longer-term, project with the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board to establish the economic and cultural importance of Indigenous arts-related organisations.

Last revised: 28 April 2009

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