Indigenous Music

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Preamble

This article describes one of 12 areas listed in Overview of Music Statistics: Other Sources, outlining the potential and actual contribution of sources other than the Australian Bureau of Statistics to knowledge of the music sector.

Statistics

The main ABS statistics on Indigenous participation in the arts are based on the 2008 and 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Street Islanders Social Surveys — NATSISS (ABS Cat 4714.0). The brief summary in Overview of Music Statistics: ABS shows differences in participation between age groups, males and females, and remote and non-remote locations. It also shows different participation rates between activities involving music, visual arts, and storytelling/writing. The NATSISS survey, which focuses on social and cultural factors, clearly needs to be analysed in detail.

Other recent publications, plus the five-yearly Census with its narrow definition of artistic occupations, are listed in the Indigenous section of Participation and Attendance. They and any other relevant ABS sources will be part of the analysis.

Among non-ABS sources the most comprehensive record appears to be the Black Book Directory, which "lists more than 2,700 Indigenous people and organisations working in the arts, media and cultural industries. You can search listings by their state, Indigenous nation or language group, name and category. A list of 2,000 Indigenous works of music, literature and screen productions can be sourced through the Black Book Library on this site." Created by Rachel Perkins, it was inspired by The Brown Pages, which was first published in New Zealand in 1993. "Today it has evolved into an online networking and information service for Maori, Pacific and indigenous people in the media and creative arts sectors."

"The [Black Book] Library is constantly evolving to include new artistic works by Indigenous people. It currently contains 2,000 works from the late 1890s until now. It is not comprehensive, but we are getting close! The works are divided into three sections — publications, music and screen productions — and then further divided into categories like documentaries, plays, features, albums etc. The listing for each work includes the artist, publisher, release date, distributor contacts and, for publications and screen productions, a synopsis."

The Black Book also contains sections on professional development, including courses and on-site training. With Black Book's cooperation, this may provide a basis for mapping Indigenous employment opportunities.

A second possible source points the way towards the use of email-based surveys which could be applied more widely to build a statistical base. This writer concluded a survey on infrastructure support of Indigenous art workers for the Australia Council's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts (ATSIA) Board in May 2011. Infrastructure categories included (among others) broadcasting, business and technical training, community organisations, educational institutions, peak bodies, performing arts organisations, recording companies/studios, and service organisations.

The survey revealed a wide range of organisations from tiny (near-zero income) to large government authorities, and a mixture of organisations with defined Indigenous-related aims and more general aims. The former category was more likely to be either in the smallest income bracket or the top one ($10 million or more), while organisations with general aims dominated in the intermediate income classes. Survey topics included funding sources (Federal, State/Territory and local government, private funding, earned income, and other sources such as university funds and interest income) and total and Indigenous employment, as well as other items such as legal status, age and industry of organisation.

The survey was affected by low response rates for some of the lists supplied of potential respondents, but it was possible to estimate that about 2,650 organisations of all sizes provide infrastructure services to Indigenous art workers. The total estimated Indigenous employment was about 3,700 persons, but the proportion fell rapidly with size: 21% Indigenous employment in the 1-10 employment class, 10% in organisations with 11-20 workers, 4% in the 21-50 class, 1% for organisations with 51-100 workers, and 0.6% if more than 100 workers. These numbers refer to employees who had a specific Indigenous-related role; there may be other employees of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent but without such specific roles.

The survey provides a beginning only. Response rates proved a problem among small organisations, and the Indigenous component could well be higher because there are more organisations than estimated, especially small ones. The research points to statistical sources that are potentially available but may need supplementary methodologies in addition to conventional surveys. It also reveals considerable complexity, especially in terms of size distributions and organisational objectives.

Author

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Concluded 18 November 2011 as part of a general overview of statistical sources other than the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Made into independent article 11 February 2012.

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