Australians listen to music, attend live performances, sing and play musical instruments. Many donate their time to work in music.

Learn more about who goes to hear live music, how often and how they expect to engage online around music events.

Get the facts on learning music, music in the education system, and attitudes towards playing musical instruments

Participation  -  Music

Almost all Australians intentionally listen to music weekly or more, and 57% attend live music events each year, making music the biggest art form in Australia.

By comparison, only 42% of us undertake physical activity for sport, recreation or exercise weekly or more.


Live music is the most commonly attended art form, with 57 percent of Australians attending in 2013

In comparison to other artforms, live music was attended by a greater proportion of the Australian population (57 percent vs. 38 percent for theatre and dance and 37 percent for visual arts and craft).

However, live music goers attend less frequently than visual arts attendees with 13 percent of people attending monthly compared to 17 percent for visual arts.


Popular music such as rock, pop, country and dance is the most widely attended music genre

Attendance across all music categories has remained stable since 2009. Musical theatre, classical music and opera are attended by significant numbers in 2013, but ‘Other live music’ (such as rock, pop, country, dance etc) was still the largest genre within the live music category being attended by 39 percent of all live music attendees.


Opera and musical theatre attendance is less frequent than other music genres

Frequency of music attedance has remained stable since 2009. In 2013, Opera and new classical were attended the least of the music genres overall. However, new classical was attended most often with 15 percent of people attending monthly. Opera and musical theatre had the lowest proportion of monthly attenders at 4 percent and 5 percent respectively.


Popular music audiences are younger than other arts goers

Attendees of music events are significantly younger than attendees of other arts events (68 percent being aged 15 to 24 years).

Popular music audiences are significantly younger than other music audiences. Popular music audiences were generally in the 15-24 age group (84 percent), while many classical music audiences were aged 65 years and over (42 percent).




The internet plays an important role for attendees of live music events, with music audiences more likely to engage online before, during and after events

Live music audiences were more likely than other arts audiences to use the internet at almost all stages when attending a music event.

Popular music attendees were more likely than attendees of opera, classical music and musical theatre to use the internet at various stages of their attendance journey. For example, musical festival attendees were more likely than other music attendees to engage in online word of mouth before (42 percent vs. 28 percent) and after the event (53 percent vs. 37 percent). Meanwhile, opera attendees were less likely than other music attendees to engage in online word of mouth both prior to (16 percent vs. 28 percent) or after an event (18 percent vs. 34 percent).

While opera attendees were also less likely to further enrich their experience by accessing online images and video before or after the event, they were more likely than other music attendees to have an interest in being able to do this (29 percent vs. 13 percent after the event).

Figure 30 - Use of the internet at each stage of the 'attendance journey' - arts attendees and live music attendees

Total arts attendeesLive music attendees
At the event31%32%
After the event66%73%


Of those who booked tickets to attend a live music event, most did so well in advance

E-newsletters from ticketing organisations were the most frequent online tool used to build awareness of live music events.

Eight in ten live music attendees booked their event between a few weeks to three months or more in advance.


Attitudes to engagement in music

Playing a musical instrument is seen as a valuable activity

Respondents to a survey of 1,000 Australian households agreed that playing an instrument is fun, a good means of expression and provides a sense of personal accomplishment.


Most people agree playing music brings the family together

A majority also agreed that music is a very important part of life and brings the family together.


Many people wish they had learned to play a musical instrument

Many of those who had never played an instrument wished they had – but fewer agreed they would like to learn to play in future. Age appears to be a factor for a small proportion of people.


Creative participation in music by adults

Fifteen percent of Australian adults create music themselves – mostly playing instruments as a hobby

Fifteen percent of Australian adults create or play music themselves.

Australians who created music (15 percent), did so on average every four to five days (90 times a year).

Three quarters of music creators played a musical instrument (11 percent of all surveyed) an average of 113 times a year (every three to four days).

Nine in ten people that played a musical instrument did so as a hobby.



A large and growing number of Australians work in music as a second job or volunteer

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of people who do some kind of work (paid or unpaid) in the music industry has increased from 260,300 to 335,100 in 2007 (up 29 percent).

Work in the rest of the culture and leisure sector experienced even stronger growth during that timeframe.


Engagement in the music industry, with many involved as live performers

Most of those involved in music industry work are live performers. In 2007 over 250,000 people performed music live, and a further 80,000 worked in another music-related role. The radio sector involved over 100,000.

The growing numbers of unpaid performers suggests that engagement in music is strong – despite no growth in the number of professional musicians.



Creative participation in music by children
Participation  -  Music

Australians agree that playing an instrument is fun, a good way of expressing yourself, and gives a sense of accomplishment.

One third of kids learn to play musical instruments outside of school, and 70% of adults end up wishing they had learned.


Attendances at educational performances by major music organisations have decreased since 2006

The number of educational performances by Major Performing music organisations fell from 3,025 in 2006 to 2,687 in 2009, before returning to 2,950 in 2010.

In comparison, attendances also fell between 2006 and 2009 at an average rate of 5.5 percent each year between 2006 and 2009 (equivalent to 32 fewer attendances each year).

The number of attendances at educational music performances continued to fall in 2010 reflecting a 6.5 percent drop since 2009.


Participation in music in the education system may not reflect broader participation rates

A 2005 National Review of School Music Education[1] reported that just 14.6 percent of year 12 students participated in music in 2004 – well below participation in other artforms such as general art/visual art/craft and performing arts/media.

Analysis at that time suggested that growth in music participation had not kept pace with growth in the number of students over time – with the participation rate falling from 16.4 percent in 1991 to 14.6 percent in 2004. Over a similar time period, participation in the performing arts grew from 24 percent in 1992 to 36 percent in 2004.

In NSW, more recent figures suggest that Year 10 music enrolments may be continuing on a downward trend, dropping from over 7,300 in 2010 to below 6,800 in 2010.

[1]   It is difficult to provide a reliable indication of music participation in the education system across Australia – largely due to different approaches to data collection across States and Territories.


One fifth of children play a musical instrument outside of school – but girls’ participation is lower than boys’

In 2009, the ABS found that 20 percent of children aged 5-14 played a musical instrument outside of school. Of this proportion, 31 percent did so more than once a week in the 12 months up to 2009.

Playing a musical instrument was the most popular cultural activity for boys (19 percent). This also represented a significant increase in their participation since 2003 (13 percent).

Meanwhile, the most popular cultural activity for girls was dancing (26 percent).


Many people lose interest and stop playing instruments in their teens

The Music Education Review noted high attrition rates in music participation in schools – with many students dropping out of music-related activities between Year 3 and Year 12.

A separate survey of 1,000 Australian households found the early teenage years to be the most vulnerable time when people stop paying their instruments, with 30 percent of lapsed players dropping out by age 12 and a further 30 percent by age 15.

Losing interest was the most commonly cited reason for stopping.