Rock, pop, hip-hop, dance and country. Never, ever forget country.
It’s boom time for county music, which has enjoyed a bountiful 20 years, is in “robust health,” generates “sustained growth” and totally deserves its place at the table of Australia’s leading genres, a new report has found.
According to the new, 201-page study ‘The Economic and Cultural Value of Country Music in Australia 2018,’ published today, country is by no means existing on the fringes.
In the years since 1997, the sector in Australia has doubled in value to a “conservative” sum of $574 million, powered by streaming platforms and radio support, music festivals and our abundant crop of international stars, from Keith Urban to Kasey Chambers, Morgan Evans and many more.
The country music “census” was compiled by Dobe Newton, a board member of the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA), based on nine months of research from September 2018, during which time 4,329 country music fans and 582 artists took part.
“Their willingness to be involved, matched by that of major businesses and organisations in our sector, is indicative of the passion we all have for country music”, Newton explained. The study was the “most comprehensive sampling of a single genre ever undertaken” in Australia, notes Newton, who also orchestrated the Melbourne Live Music Census projects of 2012 and 2017.
Last year was a “stellar” one for country in these parts, as all the planets aligned. “Country music festivals reported record attendances and box office results, more Australians listened to more country on radio than ever before and music streaming — the juggernaut driving the global and Australian industry revival — is being enthusiastically embraced by country fans listening on their phones, in their cars and on laptops, tablets and smart speakers,” Newton writes.
Though country fans continue to covet the CD — at least 82% of the country audience bought at least one disc last year — the genre is no longer at the mercy of the format, which lost half its market value in the post-Napster era.
There are signs that country aficionados are increasinly hooking up with streaming platforms, meaning the genre has “not only recovered but all indicators point to a bright and sustainable future,” the report boasts.
Radio also fancies country. AMPCOM, which monitors new-release airplay on commercial radio stations, reported country music’s share at 14%, almost double the cut reported in 2000.
More songwriters are entering the game, and enjoying global success. Some 14% of APRA’s registered Australian songwriters identified as writing “country” in 2018, well up from the 6% reported in 1997, the study finds.
And in the years from 2012 to 2018, overseas performance reports submitted to APRA by Australian members increased from 2,845 2012 to 7,095, while international APRA’s international revenue from the genre nearly doubled over the same timeframe, to $43.7 million.
It’s not just over the airwaves and online where country music’s influence is expanding. According to the study, several major festivals posted total attendance of 202,000 last year, generating box office and patron spending of $281.5 million. The corresponding figure in 1997 was $114.6 million.
The CMC Rocks Qld fest is one of the most popular of its type. The event celebrated its 12th edition in March of this year with another sell-out, drawing an all-time high 24,000 music fans each day over its four-day stretch at Willowbank.
TIO’s research has come to similar conclusions, highlighting the impact of Lindsay Rimes, Phil Barton, Morgan Evans, Kylie Sackley, Chris DeStefano and other homegrown hitmakers.
It was an “excellent time” to conduct the report, Newton writes.
For a deep dive, download the report and its key findings here.
Lars Brandle has reported at the frontline of the international music industry for almost 20 years. A former musician, Lars joined the American music trade “bible” Billboard in 2000 and went on to serve as Global News Editor, based in London. Now Billboard’s Australia correspondent and senior writer with The Industry Observer, Lars’ voice has been heard on CNN, the BBC and ABC, American Public Media's Marketplace and South Africa's EastCoast Radio, and he has spoken at Midem in Cannes, Music Matters in Singapore, Amsterdam Dance Event, London's City Showcase and at industry gatherings on both sides of the Tasman. His works have been published by Reuters, Media Week, Spin, and The Hollywood Reporter, and he has featured as a pundit in the Australian Financial Review, Business Review Weekly and Britain’s The Independent.