How the Australian Music Industry Works

Australians love their music. We are the sixth largest music market in the world for overall revenues and the seventh largest for digital sales (Recording Industry in Numbers).

According to the ARIA 2013 Yearly Statistics, Australians spend over $350 million each year on recorded music, and 20% of Australians are involved in creating music (32%  for those aged 15 – 24). The ABC’s triple j Unearthed digital radio site is home to over 40 000 musicians and has 3.5 million unique users.

Live Music Sector

Live performance is vital to the music sector, both in reaching audiences and generating income. According to Live Performance Australia, over nine million tickets are sold annually to live music and music theatre performances in Australia, with an industry output of over $1.5 billion. This makes our live performance industry larger than the film, television and video games sector. Studies into the venue based live music industry (predominantly clubs and pubs) have found this sector injects $1.2 billion annually into the Australian economy. It also supports close to 15,000 jobs.

Despite this, many pressures impact on live music including gentrification, poker machines and rising costs. A National Live Music Office has been established to boost live music across the country and many cities are developing live music strategies.

Recorded and Digital Music

The recorded music sector is adjusting to major disruption driven by digital change, with Australian sales declining by 11% in 2013, according to ARIA. Falling record sales have required rapid adaptation, with an increased emphasis on live music and on digital distribution. Digital music is now the fastest growing industry segment, accounting for 39% of 2013 global industry revenues. In Australia, as elsewhere, subscription services are proliferating, and in 2013 digital sales overtook physical for the first time (IFPI Digital Music Report 2014). A Digital Content Guide, produced by a consortium in the creative content sector, lists multiple digital services catering to all tastes in music, TV and movies.

Creative Capital – Copyright Industries

Music is a key contributor to Australia’s copyright industries which employ 8% of our workforce, generate economic value of over $ 93 billion and contribute over $7 billion in exports, according to a report prepared by pwc for the Copyright Council. The impacts of the digital age on many copyright industries including music, books and newspapers, has seen negative growth in recent years with a seven percent drop from 1997 to 2011 in Australia. This provides a powerful reason to build new and effective distribution methods supported by solid policy frameworks and industry action.


Touring in a country as large as Australia with our small, dispersed population, offers particular challenges and opportunities. Significant infrastructure exists in the form of regional arts centres, found in most major regional centres and often in smaller towns. These are supported by a network of touring agencies and funding assistance for the performing arts, much of which can be tapped by the music sector. Read more touring information here.


Changes resulting from digitisation, the GFC and other impacts have necessitated increased diversification of activity in the music industry, with record companies and artist managers increasing involvement in touring, festivals, merchandising and licensing. Classical companies are also diversifying, with a broader approach to programming, increased use of digital technologies, and participating in the development of niche events and boutique festivals. These are all designed to appeal to wider audiences and foster increased community engagement and generate sustainable incomes.


Australian music benefits from both public and private investment and derives considerable revenues from earned income. Ticket sales comprise half the income of the Live Performance Industry and Government funding 18 % (Live Performance Australia). National and state funding bodies, and some local governments, provide operational and project support; commercial companies invest in popular artists and activities; support is also provided through sponsorship and philanthropy, and innovations such as crowd funding are introducing new and responsive ways to raise music funding. Read more funding information here.

Contemporary and Classical

The Australian professional music industry broadly falls into two categories:

  • Contemporary popular music: music businesses, industry associations, development organisations and agencies, venues and festivals
  • Classical and art music: companies and businesses, venues and festivals, industry associations, and development organisations and agencies

View a listing of music businesses, associations, agencies, venues and festivals on our Music Directory.

Challenges and Opportunities

While our industry is dynamic and well organised, our challenges include:

  • Maintaining viable employment for musicians
  • Improving our cultural terms of trade
  • Arresting a decline in recorded music sales
  • Valuing and respecting music in our ‘get it for free’ age
  • Increasing lawful use of recorded music
  • Addressing continued pressures on live music venues
  • Increasing Australian music performed in our concert halls

Each challenge represents an opportunity, and Music Australia is part of a national network of music companies, businesses and associations dedicated to strengthening Australian music now and into the future.

A Snapshot of Great Australian Music Artists

This is the country that has produced:

Classical Artists: Paul Dyer, Genevieve Lacey, Piers Lane, Richard Tognetti, Barry Tuckwell,  and Roger Woodward

Composers: Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Percy Grainger, Peter Sculthorpe, Brett Dean and Elena Kats Chernin

Indigenous Artists: Christine Anu, William Barton, Kev Carmody, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Jessica Mauboy, Jimmy Little, Ruby Hunter, Thelma Plum, Archie Roach, Dan Sultan and Yothu Yindi

Jazz Musicians: Graeme Bell, Don Burrows, Paul Grabowsky, James Morrison and Katie Noonan

Opera Singers: Dames Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland, Lisa Gasteen, Yvonne Kenny and Donald Smith

Rock and Popular: AC DC, The Go Betweens, Ben Lee, Don Walker, John Farnham, Gotye, INXS, Kylie Minogue, Men at Work, Midnight Oil, Missy Higgins, Paul Kelly, Powderfinger, Sarah Blasko, Sia Furler, Vance Joy, Tex Perkins, The Angels, The Jezabels, The Saints, and The Seekers

Country: Slim Dusty, John Williamson, Keith Urban, Melinda Schneider, Beccy Cole

Hip Hop: Iggy Azalea, Bliss N Eso, Urthboy, The Herd and Hilltop Hoods

And many, many more….

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