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The live music sector was hit hardest of all sectors in 2020, and the recovery is clouded by a range of factors outside the control of artists, promoters and entertainers. Sporadic lockdowns, a delayed vaccine roll out and ongoing border closures did not stifle the ingenuity and innovation shown throughout the sector in 2020 as alternative programs were developed to keep the industry afloat.

Australia’s live and recorded music market was valued at A$1.1 billion in 2020, a decline of nearly 39 percent on the previous year, driven almost entirely by the suspension of the live music industry, which shed 90 percent of its revenue at A$86 million. As the live music industry recovers from the pandemic, total revenue is expected to climb to A$2.2 billion by 2025, at a 3.3 percent CAGR based on the midpoint forecast scenario.

Continuing to be buoyed by major streaming services Spotify and Apple Music, Australia’s digital music market grew 8.3 percent in consumer revenue during COVID-19, although the rate of growth was slower than previous years. This may be due to maturation of the two services as they reach critical mass, or a result of there being more entertainment and media services for consumers to spend their money on. 

COVID-19 severely impacted Australia’s live music industry, but the market is expected to recover across the forecast period as venues gradually reopen and local and international acts return to touring. 

Australia saw a swathe of tour cancellations and rescheduling after the Government limited public gatherings from March 2020 with many festivals cancelling their 2020 events altogether or running at heavily reduced capacity.1 Recovery, however, is already being boosted by the local and global trials for socially-distanced shows which occurred in the later part of 2020 featuring local line-ups. Moreover, with the threat of COVID-19 reducing as rates of local infection remain relatively low and the roll out of vaccines continues, the confidence in a return to a greater slate of live music, closer to pre-COVID levels remains positive, albeit the timing is still somewhat uncertain. 

Though not back to levels seen pre-2020, Australia’s biggest live entertainment promoters have confirmed a number of major acts to be touring in 2021. These tours are mainly with a home-grown flavour such as Amy Shark, Guy Sebastian and Delta Goodrem, but international acts such as KISS, Guns N’ Roses and Alanis Morrissette are also slated to return for arena performances in late 2021. The success of these international tours rests largely on the ability for acts to quarantine safely for the prescribed period, and their ability to move between states that may have different lockdown requirements and travel restrictions at any given point in time.

The threat of last minute cancellations due to short-term health warnings continue to be the biggest threat to the recovery of this sector for the foreseeable future. As was seen with the 11th hour cancellation of the Byron Bay Bluesfest in March, the industry will remain beholden to State governments regarding events’ ability to proceed. Additionally, until international movements are more fluid and conditions regarding 14 day quarantine are relaxed, we are unlikely to see a return of the biggest world tours to Australia’s arenas, though confidence grows that this may be addressed from mid to late 2022.  

In a year where people were less able to discover new music live, it could be expected Australia would not have the break-out artists of previous years. 

Tones and I’s 2019 hit Dance Monkey was the only Australian track to reach ARIA’s annual top 10 singles in 2020,2 though new albums from local acts Tame Impala, AC/DC and Guy Sebastian performed well in the album charts. 

2020 was also a year of platform crossover in music as tracks regularly found themselves the subject of TikTok dance challenges, increasing their awareness. Blinding Lights by The Weeknd coupled catchiness and a retro aesthetic with an engaging dance challenge that peaked at the height of lockdown boredom for many, to register over 2 billion streams on Spotify globally3 and number one on the ARIA charts.

Q1 2021 Highlights

  • Sentiment continues to improve within the live music industry as venues reopen and a more regular slate of predominantly local acts return to Australian stages.

  • International acts are booked for dates starting in late 2021. However, the cancellation of high profile events such as the Byron Bay Bluesfest, and Australia’s ongoing border closures remain challenges for the industry.

  • Major international acts such as Bon Iver and Faith No More have rebooked 2021 tours cancelled due to various state lockdowns, reinforcing the challenges faced by acts and promoters in not just performing, but also moving across state borders.

Australia’s Tones and I became the first female - and first Australian - to top 2 billion streams on Spotify in 2020. (4)

Forecasts at a glance

Physical Distribution Market (A$ millions)

CAGR 2019-2025 based on the midpoint forecast scenario

Physical Distribution -4.8%

Digital Distribution Market (A$ millions)

CAGR 2019-2025 based on the midpoint forecast scenario

Digital Distribution 6.8%

Live Music Market (A$ millions)

CAGR 2019-2025 based on the midpoint forecast scenario

Live Music -0.4%

Total Music Market (A$ millions)

CAGR 2019-2025 based on the midpoint forecast scenario

Total Music Market 3.3%

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