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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.


Cultural Trade refers to ABS statistics on trade in cultural goods and services. The main non-ABS sources are ARIA's statistics for the recording industry (which the ABS uses), a critical analysis of ABS statistics of musical instrument imports by the Australian Music Association (AMA), and cultural tourism survey data by Tourism Research Australia.

Recording Industry

Table 1

The main publication consulted in Overview of Music Statistics: ABS, Arts and Culture in Australia, 2011 (ABS Cat 4172.0) covered three data sources under the heading of Music Composition, Distribution and Publishing. The first source was wholesale sales of physical and digital sound recordings and music videos in 2009 (a total of $446.1 million). The source is the Australian Recording Industry Association Limited (ARIA), covering some 95% of the total Australian wholesale market. Since this review, however, ARIA has updated its statistics, and the original Table 1 covering 2010 has been updated to 2012. The fact that the ABS relies on these statistics vouches for their quality.The Australian Recording Industry, written in early April 2013, shows ARIA data from 2003 to 2012 as a table and graphs showing total wholesale values, sales in physical units, and average unit values.

Table 1 shows the total wholesale value in 2012 was $398 million, of which 54% were physical recordings (mainly CD albums), and 46% digital recordings, mainly digital tracks and albums. Digital sales increased particularly fast in the two years since 2010 when 73% of the total value was sales of physical recordings, and 27% digital. Digital sales seem set to exceed physical sales in 2013 in Australia, as has already happened in India, Norway, Sweden, and the United States (see Technology and the Recorded Music Industry).

The ARIA website shows falling sales of physical recordings from 2003 to 2012 before adjusting for inflation, but prices have been falling so the decline has been more dramatic in value terms than in number of units sold. The decline intensified between 2005 and 2010, during which time digital sales grew from $7.9 million to $184.3 million and sales of physical recordings fell from $445 million to $193 million. For further detail see The Australian Recording Industry. Comments and contributions from readers are invited.

Imports of Musical Instruments

The Australian Music Association has for several years assisted the ABS with its import statistics of musical instruments. It has agreed to give the MCA and its knowledge base access to these edited statistics after they have been exclusively accessible to AMA members for one year. Because of the small domestic production of musical instruments, apart from a modest quantity of specialist products, the import statistics serve as a proxy for domestic supply.

Cultural Tourism

Table 2

Tourism Research Australia (TRA), a branch of the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, has produced annual Snapshots for 2007, 2008 and 2009 of cultural and heritage visitors in Australia. These are defined as having attended at least one of the attractions listed in Table 2, while in Australia. The 2009 snapshot is summarised in the 2011 ABS review of arts and culture (ABS Cat 4172.0) that forms the backbone of Overview of Music Statistics: ABS, but TRA rather than the ABS is the official source of Australian visitor data, through its International and National Visitor Surveys. The ABS endorsement, however, reinforces the stamp of quality TRA had already been built up over many years.

The gross value-added by tourism in 2009-10 was close to $31 billion, of which about 70% was due to domestic visitors. However, 51% of international visitors attended at least one cultural and heritage attraction according to the 2009 snapshot, spending $16.3 billion or an average of $6,280 per trip. This was considerably more than other international visitors spent per trip ($3,832).

In contrast, only 14% of domestic overnight visitors were classified as cultural and heritage (a total of 9.3 million trips). They spent $9.6 billion in 2009, or an average of $1,030 per trip. Again, this was considerably more than the average for those not participating in cultural and heritage activities ($578). The largest of the three categories was 9.5 million domestic day visitors who visited a cultural or heritage attraction, but the average expenditure was only $113.

International tourism is therefore particularly important for the cultural sector, including the performing arts. Just under one-quarter of cultural and heritage visitors of all three categories attended theatre, concerts or other performing arts in 2009 (Table 2). In other respects, the patterns are quite different between international and domestic visitors.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered on knowledge base 2 October 2011 as part of a general overview of statistical sources other than the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Made into independent article 12 February 2012. Section on recording industry updated 1 April 2013, following writing of Technology and the Recorded Music Industry and The Australian Recording Industry.


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