Ticket prices are up, attendances are up, theatre, circus and festivals sales are strong, but comedy and opera attendances have fallen. Those are the headlines from the just released survey of the Australia’s live performance industry which in 2013 earned a record $1.47 billion in revenue, while 17.9 million tickets were sold — the best since the GFC.
Live Performance Australia’s (LPA) “Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey” is now in its 10th year of recording data from across the country’s live arts and entertainment using a variety of sources including the Australia Council, the Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG), the Australian Bureau of Statisitics (ABS) and about 400 LPA member organisations. Each year it adds more data which is why results can look skewed.
For instance, the reason Western Australia appears to have a proportionately high revenue and attendance on a per capita basis in 2013 is that results from Perth’s Fringe World have been included for the first time. Festival attendance has jumped markedly this year, but that’s partly because it’s the first time Adelaide Fringe and Bluesfest figures have been included.
Although 2013’s strong figures show revenue climbed 22.7 per cent on 2012 and attendance jumped by 10.2 per cent in the same period, this is by no means a complete record of the industry. The LPA’s chief executive Evelyn Richardson told Daily Review she could not put an accurate figure on how much of the industry is still not covered by the survey. The LPA is working to add more data from under-reported regional venues, and the small to medium event sector. It plans to release a a supplementary report covering these areas later this year.
The LPA’s annual survey is becoming increasingly important in measuring the industry now that the ABS is cutting its cultural reporting. These most recent LPA figures show the buoyancy of the industry which has bounced back since the GFC, although the number of actual tickets sold in 2013 is well short of the 2007 record.
As usual, contemporary music took the lion’s share of the ticket sales in 2012 but the calibre of the international touring acts also helps account for the sharp increase in the cost of tickets. Big tours with big ticket prices last year included Bruce Springsteen, Pink, Beyonce, One Direction, and Bon Jovi. The Cirque du Soleil tour last year saw attendance in the physical theatre category jump by 131 per cent and the sector’s revenue increase by 162.8 per cent.
Richardson said the reason the comedy sector’s revenue might have declined by 14.8 per cent in 2013 was because there might have been fewer big acts touring last year compared to 2012.
Opera recorded the biggest decline in attendance in 2013 shedding 20 per cent of the audience it had in 2012. Opera also saw its revenue fall by 9.5 per cent in the same period. The art form now only has a 1.9 per cent share of the industry and this compares to contemporary music’s 35 per cent, theatre’s 10.3 per cent, and comedy’s 5.1 per cent.
Richardson said the reasons for the decline include Opera Australia not touring to Queensland, Queensland Opera doing fewer performances, and the fact that the OA’s move into music theatre (including last year’s South Pacific) sees a proportion of its revenue and attendance recorded in that category, and not in opera’s. But whichever way you look at it the audience for opera has declined which makes Senator George Brandis’ Opera Review even more timely.