The last twelve months has seen Australia’s live music scene going through a discernible state of flux. At a local level, we’ve seen many venues changing hands, undergoing drastic changes or even, sadly, going under.

Today’s news, much like the recent industry poll of concert promoters that showed a strong Australian presence, demonstrates that when it comes to the bigger picture, the live music scene is doing big business.

The Music Network indicates that the latest findings from the Ticket Attendance & Revenue Survey demonstrates that the Australian live performance sector turned over $1.3 billion last year with 17.5 million patrons attending live shows across all kinds of performances including music (as well as theatre, opera, performing arts and so on).

The findings come from the eighth national survey conducted by the performing arts peak association, Live Performance Australia (LPA), who released the figures this morning that demonstrate that attendance is up while revenue is down slightly.

More specifically attendance is up by 0.6%, while revenue dropped from $1.32 billion two years ago to this year’s figure of $1.3 billion, mainly due to a 0.7% fall in average ticket prices (now $85.86) and a slight increase in the proportion of complimentary tickets – such as sponsorship entry and zero-priced promotional tickets.

More encouragingly, contemporary music remains the largest drawcard in the live performance sector, taking in $539.2 million in revenue, making up for 41.3% of the total share, while contributing 34.2% of all ticket sales, around 5.9 million tickets.

The LPA has indicated that though these figures are strong, they also show a decline from the 2010 report, by at least 15% in both areas, attributing the slight drop to the fact that 2010 was a bumper year for blockbuster tours. Featuring the likes of U2, Metallica, Bon Jovi and AC/DC’s much touted homecoming arena shows all contributing to that year’s figures.

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By comparison, the highest grossing tours for the current survey fell to the likes of Cold Chisel, Elton John and global crooner Michael Buble. While pop stars like Rihanna, Justin Bieber rounded out the list alongside Eminem and Kings of Leon.

LPA Chief executive Evelyn Richardson added that ticket prices are not always the main consideration for consumers, who are often more willing to part with their hard-earned for larger ‘event’ tours.

”One factor that obviously comes into play as well as price is the ‘event’ phenomenon,” Richardson reasoned. “Concert tours by high profile artists that don’t tour to Australia regularly have a high ‘event’ value, and consumers will be much more driven by their love of that particular act and not wanting to miss out than by price.”

The figures speak well of headline tours and concert figures, but what of Australia’s festival scene?

Surely the famed summer season and booming number of music events that have sprung up in recent times (with just as many failures as successes) has contributed to the $1.3 billion revenue figure. Particularly given the high-end price of many festival passes.

Richardson concurred, saying that festivals “provide an opportunity for music lovers to have a great day and night out with a group of friends and see a wide range of acts in the one hit.” Reflecting that, “even though their ticket prices can be high, it matches their value to people.”

Despite the perception of music festivals being a high-value, multi-act pass for consumers, music festival showed a 4.4% decline in gross takings. Reduced to $96.45 million from 2010’s figure of $100.92 million.

Attendance too experienced a drop, falling by 4.2%, across even the largest Australian festivals like Splendour In The Grass, Future Music and the Big Day Out.

“Ticket pricing is a very subjective thing,” admitted Richardson of the figures, “…appropriate pricing naturally varies from act to act. Our research does suggest that consumers are prepared to pay premium prices for once in a lifetime experiences. There are certain acts that people just don’t want to miss.”

Certainly, the rarer the act on a festival bill – the bigger the drawcard. It’s worked wonders for the likes of Harvest and Soundwave who attempt to keep their big-name acts from playing sideshows in the states where their festivals are touring.

For instance, Harvest Festival attendees there for Sigur Ros, fans who are also keen for a headline concert, will have to splurge for a trip to Adelaide or Perth to get their fix of the Icelandic celestials.

LPA’s Ticket Attendance & Revenue Survey this year included a state-by-state break down of their statistics. New South Wales generated the largest profits of all sectors, contributing a 40.1% share of the $523.9 million revenue.

Significantly behind was Victoria, making up 29.% or $385.6 million, followed by  Queensland with a share of 12.7% ($165.8 million), Western Australia 9.9% ($130 million), South Australia 5.9% ($77.2 million), ACT 1.2% ($16.1 million), Tasmania 0.5% ($6.7 million) and Northern Territory 0.1% ($1.7 million).

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