The Music in Australia Knowledge Base benefits from the "wiki" approach that makes it a little easier to monitor and analyse a complex and changing sector. However, it is clear from Knowledge Base Aims and Structure that many gaps remain — indeed the Knowledge Base may be labelled a perpetual work-in-progress. We work towards perfection but that goal will remain elusive.
Contributions from others are important (preferably in a compatible format as requested below). Through the Music Trust, we are stepping up our networks and efforts to make direct approaches. This is needed to maintain the status of the Knowledge Base as the authoritative Australian source.
There are three main strands or structural categories in the Knowledge Base. Mapping Music in Australia covers the need to map (describe) each activity in the music sector, whether the subject matter is a genre, education, technology, the role of music organisations, or another of the many categories listed under the drop-down Browsing tab.
Next, the Knowledge Base aims to identify Issues faced within the music sector. Issues can be identified separately, but we have noticed a tendency to attach such discussions to the descriptive mapping. This is perfectly acceptable. Some people identify issues through a formal analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) but other approaches are fine too.
The third main category is Statistics, which remains of concern despite some improvements. Richard Letts's and my experience goes back three decades to when we initiated the first analysis of the economic contribution of the Australian music sector.
The statistical base has improved since the 1980s due to more and better official data, surveys and annual reports. But gaps remain numerous. Expanding the inadequate database is a top priority for the Knowledge Base, and has already resulted in the most comprehensive set of music-related statistics in Australia.
Importantly, whether these descriptions are verbal or numerical, most of them eventually become dated unless refreshed. We are always on the alert for updates, and invite readers to help with new articles or amendments to existing ones, or just inform us.
Gaps are inevitable anywhere in the Knowledge Base, be it creative categories or supporting activities. The Knowledge Base lists Notes/Gaps to Fill as a separate category. We rely on others not only to point out such gaps but also to help fill them.
The Knowledge Base describes and analyses the Australian music sector in numbers and words. Both are essential. Whether or not there are substantial statistics to back a narrative, the latter plays a role in its own right. For many topics — far too many for comfort as Overview of Music Statistics: Conclusions amply demonstrates — the statistical base remains insufficient despite improvements. We still don't have enough idea about the economic worth of important parts of the music sector, let alone about its true long-term cultural value.
The Knowledge Base idea grew from Dick Letts's and my report on a statistical framework for the music sector for the Cultural Ministers' Council. The report advocated urgent development of an improved statistical base for the Australian music sector.
As the Knowledge Base developed, it quickly became evident that there was a parallel need to build up verbal descriptions too. Clearly, music and cultural matters generally are not given the priority they deserve if we are right about their medium- and long-term tangible and intangible benefits. The trouble is that it is very difficult to prove such benefits statistically, so economists and others tend to reject evidence that has not been caught in statistical amber, preferably in the national accounting framework. Through the Knowledge Base, we promote any narrative information that potentially leads to greater understanding of how to expand the numerical economics-dominated model. Substantial contributions are few and far between, but the challenge must be met.
Narratives ("stories") about the attributes and impacts of the music sector therefore remain very important, including an understanding of background. Some of these stories go to thousands of words; others are quite short. While we ask our contributors to adopt a balanced and objective attitude, there are many ways of writing about a particular topic, or to take up a discussion of the issues involved. Substance is more important than style, as long as it is reasonably readable and accessible. In addition to statistical and verbal descriptions, we welcome SWOT analyses and other examinations of key issues and challenges that face the music sector, or its individual activities.
Hans Hoegh-Guldberg (editor, Knowledge Base). Substantially rewritten 12 January 2014. Further updated 28 February and 9 April 2014.