Genres of New Australian Music Recordings

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Source Data

Since at least 2000-01, the Australian Music Performance Committee (AMPCOM) has compiled an annual table of new recordings by genre, and a comparison of these recordings with total new releases in Australia.[1] A new Australian performance is a sound recording of a previously unpublished performance of a musical item performed by an Australian which has been on sale to the Australian public for less than 12 months from the date of its initial release in Australia. A new release means a previously unpublished sound recording performed anywhere which meets the same conditions.

Alt=Table 1

The Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) provides the annual data, which AMPCOM converts to estimated number of tracks as described below Table 1. AMPCOM has published this table in unchanged format in each annual report since 2000-01, using the same classification into 11 genres.[2] in support of its main function: to monitor the Australian music content on commercial radio based on half-yearly reports from each station.[3]

Trends

Table 1 reveals some wide fluctuations for individual genres. These are considered as reliable as can be reasonably expected of any official industry statistics — ARIA is so well regarded for its accuracy that the Australian Bureau of Statistics uses its wholesale sales of recordings as the official statistics of the nation.[4]

Alt=Chart 1

Referring to the details of Table 1, the statistics are best described graphically. The graphs that follow describe in turn trends in the market share of new Australian tracks compared with total releases, the dominance of rock and related genres in Australian releases, and trends in the individual genres, total new Australian tracks, and total new tracks released in Australia.

The number of Australian tracks released over the 12 years to June 2012 averaged 14.5% of total Australian releases (Table 1). Chart 1 shows that the ratio was lower between 2001 and 2003, but it then increased to between 14.7% and a peak of 17.3% between 2004 and 2009. The percentages were lower in 2010, 2011 and 2012, close to the 14.5% average for the whole period covered. Coincidentally or not, the number of new Australian tracks peaked during the years when the Australian share was highest (such as country and folk music).

Like many other Australian music indicators, such as trade in musical instruments and other goods, and trade in services, these shares are low, and haven’t shown any recent improvement. Cultural Trade shows that the trade balance (exports relative to imports) is lower for music goods than for any other major category of Australian cultural trade. This is an important issue, and contrasts with a country like Sweden (with roughly 10 million inhabitants) which has managed to build a thriving music export business.

Alt=Chart 2
Alt=Box 1
Alt=Chart 3

Rock and related genres account for the majority of new Australian tracks (Chart 2). However, the share of these genres has tended to decline, though the fluctuations are so great that the correlation suffers.[5] The right-hand box below shows the 2001 and 2012 values of the fitted linear trends for all three indicators in Chart 2, showing considerably slower growth for rock and similar styles. The annual growth calculated from the formulae is 1.7% for rock, 5.3% for all other genres, and 2.8% for total new Australian tracks. The footnote in the box is a reminder that the predictive value is adversely affected by the annual fluctuations in the statistics. This will be abundantly clear from the charts of individual genres shown below.

Chart 3 graphs the share of rock, pop and dance music in total new Australian tracks. The share fell by over 10 percentage points in (the year ended June) 2006, so much so that a change in classification could have been suspected. However, rock and related genres actually rose by more than 6% but this was dwarfed by a huge increase in other new Australian tracks (71%). 2006 was a very good year in terms of new Australian tracks (up 24%), though they still lost share from 15.3% to 14.7% because total new track releases increased by almost 30% (calculated from Table 1).

Alt=Box 2
Alt=Chart 4
Alt=Chart 5

The extent to which these statistics fluctuate is clear from the next two charts showing individual genres. Chart 4 shows those showing in individual tables, plus the residual “other” group. This itself is split into its components in Chart 5.[6]

The most positive trends have been in new classical music and country/folk releases.[7] The box below shows fitted regression values. The compound annual growth rate for new Australian classical music tracks along the linear trend is 8.1%, for country and folk music 6.1%.

  • Classical music has the most consistent trend, though there are occasional big changes. After above-trend observations and an even more strongly rising short-term trend from 2007 to 2011, new classical releases (“tracks”) suffered a 30% decline in 2012. There have been similar or greater declines in percentage terms for classical music performed by Australians, so the 8.1% annual trend over 12 years is still a reasonable description — though not providing a great basis for prediction. What is said for new classical music releases by Australians is even more so for any other of the 11 genres, bordering on complete unpredictability (at least for industry outsiders) for some of them.
  • Country and folk music enjoyed tremendous growth from 2001 to the maximum in 2006 (one of the reasons rock, pop and dance took a dip in market share while the actual number of tracks still increased from the previous year). Country and folk then suffered a big fall in 2007 (28%) and basically stayed at the lower level every year up to 2012.
  • Jazz remains a small category as far as new Australian tracks are concerned. The trend is too close to zero growth to have any confidence in it. Actual new Australian jazz releases were exactly at the same level in 2012 as in 2001 (326 according to Table 1). There was a growth period from 2005 to 2009 followed by reversal from 2009 to 2012.
  • The Easy/MOR/Nostalgic category grew well from 2001 to 2007 and then declined.[8] The annual growth trend over 12 years cannot be estimated, because there is absolutely no fit.
  • The same applies to the blue line of other genres, discussed in Chart 5.

Chart 5 may be the most confusing in the entire knowledge base. It reflects the general variability that governs the release of new Australian music tracks, and adds to this by the small number in each genre which makes for more random variation. The right-hand box below, rather than displaying the full range of annual statistics, shows some basic indicators: the first and last year, the average, and in which year the maximum and minimum occurred. The five genres are sorted according to average number of new tracks per annum over the 12 years.

Alt=Box 3
  • Children’s recordings averaged the largest number of tracks (373), but both the opening and final year fell short of that average. The highest number was in 2009 (830), the lowest (124) in 2004. Chart 5 shows that the best years in this genre were in the middle of the period, 2005-09. The record year of 2009 was followed by a 54% fall to 378 in 2010, and further falls thereafter.
  • Soul/R&B seems to be faring relatively well in terms of new Australian tracks. The number was 524 in 2012 compared with 192 in 2011 and an average of 334. The 2012 figure was down on the record year of 2009 (756) — again there seems to have been a “golden” period a few years past (2007-09), but there was also a whopping 130% increase in 2012 from a very low number in 2011.
  • Traditional seems to continue at fairly modest levels. The 2001 level of 292 new tracks exceeded 2012 (272), though both exceeded the 12-year average of 260. The 646 reached in 2009 looks completely untypical on Chart 5. However, the very low readings from 2003 to 2005, to a minimum of 60, have not happened in subsequent years.
  • The ambient genre averaged 217, starting from 172 new tracks in 2001 and ending with 284 in 2012. Again, the best years were 2006-09 after hitting a minimum of 100 in 2004.
  • The genre with the smallest number of new tracks is comedy/spoken word, averaging 133 and showing a generally falling trend from 190 in 2001 to only 58 in 2012, despite a temporary upsurge between 2008 and 2010.[9]
Alt=Chart 6

This statistical presentation ends with a summary of the major genres, plus total new Australian tracks and the grand total of all new releases on the Australian market. Chart 6 ranks the major genres according to the ratio above the 12-year average that they had achieved in 2011 and 2012 combined.[10] The blue columns show that classical music and country/folk did best on this score, followed by rock/pop/dance all showing above-average readings (rock/pop/dance only just). Another rough indication of their growth is the comparative height of the red 2001-02 column and the blue 2011-12 column.

The three other genres or genre groups, jazz, easy/middle of the road/nostalgic, and “other”, fell below the average in the two final years. These included the genres that showed the highest new track numbers in the intervening period rather than in the final years.

The columns for the total number of new Australian tracks naturally resembled the dominant group of rock, pop and dance music though the growth from 2001-02 was higher because of the classical music and country/folk categories.

Total new Australian releases (shown to the right on Chart 6 in different colours) shows that both the 2001-02 and the 2011-12 columns were slightly above average in contrast to any of the red columns depicting new Australian tracks. This reflects the low market shares that new Australian releases had in the early years according to Chart 1.

Final Remarks

The statistics based on ARIA's genre classification and then analysed by the Australian Music Performance Committee (AMPCOM) have intrinsic value by providing data not otherwise available. The key feature is the market share of new Australian tracks of total tracks made available for the Australian public. It has fluctuated as shown by Chart 1 and is higher than in the early years of the new century but still low at around 14.5%. This is a concern and therefore an issue for the Australian music industry and sector.

The statistics themselves, interesting but not generally easy to interpret because of their great variability, add another indicator that we have not previously added to our quantitative analysis of the music sector. The trends, such as they are, appear to show a decreasing share for rock and pop among new music recorded in Australia though it is obviously still dominant. This is not a criticism of the genre but greater diversity has always been welcome.

Possible influences that might be detected through this rather bewildering 12-year series of statistics not just include changing tastes which may be associated with international trends (mainly American), but also record company decisions which may explain some of the changes from year to year for some genres, and the Global Financial Crisis which interrupted an apparently record run of first Australian releases generally, as suggested by Chart 2.

It would be good to have comparable statistics by genres for total tracks released to the Australian public, but this provides a good initial insight.

Author

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered on knowledge base 1 June 2013.

References

  1. Quoting ARIA, AMPCOM is a voluntary association comprised of representatives of Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and the Australian Music Publishers’ Association Ltd (AMPAL) represented currently on AMPCOM by delegates from APRA and AMCOS, the Musicians’ Union of Australia and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). The objective, further specified on the website, is to maximise the exposure of Australian music on commercial radio, having due regard to the availability of appropriate broadcast-worthy material and the needs and preferences of the Australian listening public.
  2. The statistics are for fiscal years ended June 30. For convenience this article shows just the year, as in “2012” instead of “2011-12”.
  3. The commercial radio Australian content statistics are the subject of an article currently in preparation.
  4. ARIA is mentioned together with the Bureau of Tourism Research as two sources meeting the ABS criteria for accuracy in Overview of Music Statistics: Introduction.
  5. The regressions were as follows for 2001 to 2012: Total new Australian tracks: y = 423.41x + 12,491. R2 = .266. Rock/pop/dance: y = 174.94x + 9,176.2. R2 = .132. All other: y = 248.47x + 3,314.8. R2 = .396. The linear trend values in the text box are from these equations. The coefficient of determination, R2, can take values between 0 and 1 to measure the “goodness of fit” of a model, such as a series of annual observations compared with the calculated trend through these data points.
  6. The annual statistics for these five small groups are available from the editor.
  7. Regressions for 2001-2012: Classical y = 71.266x + 502.27. R2 = .534, the most consistent of the 11 genre groups represented. Country/Folk y = 90.287x + 988.3. R2 = .388. The second text box shows linear trend values.
  8. MOR stands for “middle of [the] road” music, neither pop nor classical.
  9. Comedy/spoken word is the only non-music genre in the statistics. The group is so small that there is little point in removing it from the statistics, or showing a music subtotal. It is assumed that the genre is of equally little relative importance in the total number of releases in Australia.
  10. The two-year average ratios the beginning and ending years were used to reduce the extreme variability in some of the genre statistics. They are simple averages of the single-year ratios such as 2001/12-year average and 2001/12-year average.
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