The Knowledge Base Tree

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"Wiki" systems, such as the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and the Knowledge Base, are based on a hierarchy of categories[1] designed to locate pages (articles, papers, blogs) within a complex structure. The Knowledge Base structure is under constant review, which has two advantages — improving the basic logic of the classification makes navigation easier for visitors, and we get a clearer view of where gaps remain.

The object of this article is to describe the categories as they currently exist, not as they should be ultimately. There are no "empty boxes" for categories that are not yet covered. We add categories as obvious gaps are spotted and filled with new contributions, or to cater for new activities we undertake.

The structure is governed by the music sector model which has evolved ever since Richard Letts commissioned the first comprehensive study of the economic value of music in Australia back in 1985-86 during his tenure as Director of the Music Board of the Australia Council. His vision as long as three decades ago was to cover all music-related activities, not just the industry view, and the project brief was written accordingly. The music industry around the recording industry is still an essential part of the sector — but other components such as music education and community music development extend the view far beyond the narrow industry boundary. There is also greater emphasis on the organisational infrastructure without which the music sector wouldn't function very well.

The basic structure is described below, under the headings of Our Internal Links, Fundamentals, Music Creation and Performance, Support and Infrastructure, and Technology and Research. These root categories define the Knowledge Base "Tree". They are themselves divided into subcategories as will be evident from the descriptions below, but the classification is kept as flat as possible, with a maximum of five category levels in the hierarchy.

For example, Helen Rusak's article History of Early Music Performance in Australia is traced through the following category levels: (1) Knowledge Base, (2) Music Creation and Performance, (3) Genres, (4) Art Music Genres, (5) Early Music.[2] This can be readily verified through the drop-down "Browsing" list above.[3]

Articles are also categorised by type, basically into "Mapping Music in Australia", "Statistics", and "Issues". The last group includes "SWOT Analyses", which is a formal approach to issues recognition through the identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths. The aim is for all music sector activities to be described in numbers and words, and to identify the key issues associated with them. The present article concentrates on the structure of the music sector as it has emerged in the Knowledge Base, and ignores any gaps that remain to be filled in that structure.

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Box 1 demonstrates the continuing growth in the Knowledge Base. The five "trunks" are shown in the left-hand column.[4] The number of subcategories (at any level) assigned to each article shows an increase from 335 categories in September 2013 to 440 in September 2014.

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All individual mainstream articles are allocated to one or more of the three content categories, "Mapping Music in Australia", "Statistics", and "Issues" (Box 2). The total number of articles allocated to only one of these categories is 191: 87 Mapping, 38 Statistics, and 66 Issues. Many, however, attract more than one content category, so there are combinations of Mapping with Statistics, Mapping with Issues, and Issues with Statistics. This is as it should be — to provide factual maps in both words and numbers, and to discuss the associated issues. It can be done in separate articles, or in articles combining the criteria.

The concluding section of the article discusses some gaps which may need additional categories, and areas which could be more thoroughly reviewed. In the tree metaphor, it points to possible new — or healthier — branches. It is not intended to be a complete list as much as a set of thought-starters.

Basic Structure

In late 2013 Richard Letts set up The Music Trust, and agreed with the Music Council of Australia to take over the Knowledge Base which had been developed within the MCA framework. It and its original proposer and editor, Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, transferred to the Music Trust with MCA's agreement. The new home page that we developed for the Knowledge Base in February-March 2014 shows the Knowledge Base in a considerably more integrated position than before.

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The tree has five "trunks" (Figure 1). The first is "Our Internal Links", shown in Figure 2. It describes the major structure of the Knowledge Base, and our blogs and other links. Figure 9 in "The Tree" section below shows the entire tree.

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There are two major subcategories in "Our Internal Links":

About the Knowledge Base contains 12 pages (articles) introducing the Knowledge Base. It can be accessed from the dropdown list at the top of the page (under Basic Structure). The homepage provides further links at this basic level, like "Did you know?" which highlights new articles, and "New on the Knowledge Base", which summarises the year's additions to the Knowledge Base with links to each article.

Blogs and Other Links includes blogs from the main Music Trust website as well as the Knowledge Base. They can be accessed through links in the right-hand column of the homepage.

None of the four other basic subcategories in Figure 2 have any directly associated articles. All articles are reached through further subcategories, of which "Fundamentals" has six, "Music Creation and Performance" nine, "Support and Infrastructure" nine, and "Technology and Research" three.

These four subcategories are described below.


"Fundamentals" has seven subcategories (Figure 3), which all have individual articles. There is a total of 71 observations, not to be confused with the actual number of articles as each may be listed in more than one category. To look at the actual articles in a certain category requires getting into the structural framework. For example, the 22 articles categorised as "Music Sector Organisation" can be identified by clicking "Browsing" and then "All Categories" in the drop-down list, and finally "Music Sector Organisation" in the "All Categories" list to see the titles of the 22 articles. Each item on the list links to the actual article. Alternatively, click "Fundamentals" under "Basic Structure" and then "Music Sector Organisation" within the "Fundamentals" category. The articles in the other subcategories are revealed in similar fashion.

Scenarios for the Future is our major project for 2014-15. It is currently (as 2014 draws to a close) in a state of rapid development. Work on the project started in March 2014. There are currently six articles in this category, and more in the pipeline.[5]

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Music Creation and Performance

This basic subcategory is one of the largest of the five shown in Figure 1. It currently has nine categories of its own (Figure 5), of which "Genres" has 10 subcategories within which one, "Art Music Genres", has eight further subcategories with 25 articles. The second-largest of the nine categories directly under "Music Creation and Performance" is "Broadcasting" (18 articles).

There are evident gaps to be filled under this category, especially the genre subcategories. This includes art music, shown separately in Figure 6.

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Support and Infrastructure

"Support and Infrastructure" is the largest and most complex basic subcategory with nine directly related further subcategories, of which three have subcategories of their own: "Manufacture and Trade" (two), "Music Education and Training" which is among the very largest categories with seven subcategories, and "Venues and Audiences" which includes two further subcategories: "Community Music" with 19 articles, and "Music Festivals" with 10 (Figure 6).

"Music Education and Training" has seven directly related articles and 83  other articles in the further eight subcategories shown in Figure 7. The categories next in line in terms of number of articles are "Venues and Audiences" (38 articles including those allocated to the two further subcategories, "Community Music" and "Music Festivals"), "Government Support" (22), and "Manufacture and Trade" (a total of 19). These numbers have increased significantly over the past six months. The biggest increase was in "Music Education and Training" which reflects the Music Trust's increased focus on education.

We are still seeking a replacement article on intellectual property and music, replacing one which became outdated. It needs to be written by a lawyer, preferably with a special interest in the music sector.

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Technology and Research

The last of the five basic subcategories has a slightly different structure from those described above (Figure 8). "Technology" is an important category with 29 articles which have not at this stage been further subdivided. The other main component, "Music Information and Research", has no immediately associated articles but five further subcategories ("Brain Science and Music", "Music Criticism", "Music Libraries", "Music Museums", and the largest, "Music Research". "Music and the Environment" (sometimes called "green music") is shown at the same level as "Technology" and "Music Information and Research". It is a natural member of the "Technology and Research" category being based on a mix of research, information and technology, aimed at changing the behaviour of musicians and their audiences. We hope to add more contributions on the crucial issues associated with the environment, and what the music sector can do.

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The Tree

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The root of the tree is shown in dark grey at the bottom centre of Figure 9. Its five primary outcrops (brown) represent the trunks which not surprisingly in the land of the eucalypts form a multiple mallee  form, as many Eucalyptus species do (pictured). The green spheres represent the branches. The "trunk" relating to the organisation ("Our Internal Links" described in Figure 2) is the smallest. An important part of its role is to provide space for submissions, blogs and archives generated by the Music Trust elsewhere.

The other four "trunks" also have subcategories but there are no pages/articles/papers directly associated with "Fundamentals" (which includes "Scenarios for the Future", our major 2014-15 project), "Music Creation and Infrastructure", "Support and Infrastructure", or "Technology and Research". The articles linked to these four main categories are the "branches" that sprout the "leaves" of the Knowledge Base tree (the areas represented by green spheres).

The thickest mallee trunk would be the one feeding the "Support and Infrastructure" branches (Figure 6). It carries some large subcategories (shown in alternating plain black and blue type). Three of these subcategories, furthermore, have subcategories of their own (shown in italics following an arrow). The particular subcategories are "Manufacture and Trade" (two further subcategories), "Music Education and Training" (eight, and the largest concentration of articles anywhere in the Knowledge Base; see Figure 7), and "Venues and Audiences" (two).

The relative sizes of the five green "branching areas" in Figure 9 are illustrative only. They are all essential parts of the music sector. Some categories lend themselves more to subdivision than others, or no choice has been made to create subcategories. Technology and Research shows a count of 68 categories in Figure 8, but 29 of these relate to Technology as such, which has not been further categorised at this stage.

More and Healthier Branches

In the tree metaphor, the development of the Knowledge Base must try to not only create more subjects where definite gaps are found ("more branches"), but also ensure that the quality and current significance of the articles remain intact ("healthier branches"). Concerning the health, most topics (apart from a few "classics") lose significance as they get dated, and some articles go back to 2006-07 (we are working on either updating or replacing them). Even when fixing this, we are still far from covering all topics in terms of statistics, general description, and identification of issues. It is almost certainly "an impossible dream" to succeed in full, but progress is being made.

The major development in early 2014 has been the integration of the Knowledge Base onto The Music Trust. This is expressed structurally by changes to the left-hand root and branches, which was split in two to merge its original descriptive content, "About the Knowledge Base" with its current 12 articles, into the close relationship that now exists with our other objectives — in accordance with the plan when The Music Trust acquired it. The nine subcategories under "Other Internal Links" are common to the Knowledge Base and the new organisation — as they should be as the Knowledge Base is an integral part of The Music Trust.

This development has continued, indeed accelerated, and it is now joined by the major Knowledge Base project giving rise to the new category, "Scenarios for the Future", which aims to provide 10- and 20-year scenarios linking the Australian music sector to perceived global and Australian futures, as well as retaining the insights of members of the music sector itself on their expectations of "best and worst cases". This work has entered a crucial and difficult stage, which is hardly surprising given that we have not yet found any other scenario project that specifically links music (or the arts generally) to broader global and national developments.

What follows is an incomplete list of some other gaps (other than our research into an unknown future) that might be realistically filled in the Knowledge Base. As we said in the introduction, it is not intended as a complete list as much as a set of thought-starters. We would of course love to hear from our friends and other visitors what you think — we can succeed together!

So here goes:

  • Adding new international perspectives is important — we can't just focus on music in Australia in isolation. We believe this is an important realisation which comes at the right stage in the development of the "tree".
  • Music Creation and Performance: Some categories look thin: advertising, and some popular music and some art music genres which are of central importance to understanding the music sector. Many genres are not covered at all, or quite inadequately.
  • Support and Infrastructure: We need an update on intellectual property, which must be written by a lawyer who understands the music sector. Some basic articles on Manufacture and Trade need updating. Community music and music festivals have received a boost and it would be a pity not to build further on these important parts of the music sector. Business training of musicians remains thin on the ground. So does vocal music education.
  • Technology and Research: Music and the environment needs further aspects added — what is really needed and what can be done in the music sector? Updates are needed for music criticism (including the surveys that Graham Strahle conducted which can be replicated from newspaper research); also music libraries and museums. These and other projects could be carried out by volunteers for the Knowledge Base.
  • Fundamentals: Our major short-term commitment, however, is to develop a realistic future assessment of the risks and opportunities facing the Australian music sector, through our 2014-15 project to develop 10- and 20-year scenarios and build the best possible database to assess the current economic, social and cultural value of the music sector. This work will also shed further light on what is needed to fill gaps in the present state of knowledge of the sector.

An Urgent Statistical Alert

There has been some development of music sector statistics over the past few years — a lot of it due to the initiatives of private organisations. But a major backward step was taken in the Australian government's 2014-15 Budget which forced the Australian Bureau of Statistics to curtail a large part of its collection of arts and social data. Securing data remains essential for the major project listed above, in which scenario planning and statistical analysis go hand in hand (it is also important, of course, to overcome the loss of knowledge to the music sector generally). The time to do this research is now — it's never been more urgent.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, editor, Knowledge Base. Entered 23 September 2013; major update 20 March 2014, further updates to fix up new linking categories and general editing, most recently 29 November 2014.


  1. I liked this introduction to the Wikipedia article "Hierarchy" which immediately referred to the tree (most recently accessed in September 2014 but subsequently replaced): A hierarchy (Greek: hierarchia (ἱεραρχία), from hierarches, "leader of sacred rites") is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another. Abstractly, a hierarchy can be modelled mathematically as a rooted tree: the root of the tree forms the top level, and the children of a given vertex are at the same level, below their common parent. (The Wikipedia Wiktionary defines vertex as "the highest point of something".)
  2. The term "early music" is changing to some extent from its conventional definition as pre-classical music, basically medieval, renaissance and baroque (the frame of reference of the Rusak article). Historically informed practice (HIP) is an alternative term which focuses on playing the music as it would have been played at the time, rather than whether the cut-off in time would be the baroque period or later, even including 19th century music. Thanks to Peter Petocz for enlightening me on this.
  3. The decision was made to identify art music as a subcategory of genres generally, and then make further subcategories within the art music category. Other genres such as "Folk Music" can be found through a four-step process since "popular" contemporary music genres are categorised individually.
  4. "The Tree" section below showing the entire tree compares it with the multi-trunk "mallee" form common in Australia.
  5. The categories assigned to these articles were omitted from the total of 71 observations under "Fundamentals", because the category was under current reconsideration.
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