Victoria has outstripped New South Wales as the country’s biggest live performance industry, attracting more audiences and generating more revenue for the first time in 2017, a report by Live Performance Australia has shown. The shift has been attributed to Sydney’s comparative lack of theatre venues, with Victoria’s increased audience and revenue share largely boosted by the popularity of Melbourne’s musical theatre shows.

In 2017, live shows in Victoria drew 7.5 million people and $639 million in ticket revenue compared with 6.9 million people and $616 million in NSW. More than 1.9 million people attended a musical theatre show in Victoria last year, compared with 1.2 million in NSW. These figures mean that Victoria generated $206 million in revenue from musical theatre ticket sales, almost double that of NSW at $117 million. The average Melbourne resident was forking out $100 a year on tickets to live performances, compared with those in Sydney who spent $78. Combined, Victoria and NSW generated approximately 66.7 percent of Australia’s live performance revenue and 61.9 percent of attendance in 2017.

The Book of Mormon

Nationwide, Queensland recorded the greatest growth in revenue at 46 percent, primarily driven by growth in contemporary music and musical theatre, closely followed by Victoria at 45.3 percent. The highest growth in attendance was recorded in Tasmania at 84.3 percent, largely driven by festivals, followed by Victoria at 35.6 percent and Queensland at 26.5 percent.

Across the genres, classical music demonstrated a slight increase in revenue by 1.5 percent from $76.8 million in 2016 to $77.9 million in 2017, and an increase in attendance by 8.1 percent from 1.22 million in 2016 to 1.32 million in 2017. This is the highest revenue and highest attendance for classical music recorded since 2008. These numbers mean that 2017 was the second consecutive year of growth for classical music, following year on year declines in revenue each year since 2013, and year on year declines in attendance each year since 2012. As with previous years, the lion’s share of revenue and attendance was generated through performances by Major Performing Arts companies. Overall, these companies experienced an increase in revenue by 5.5 percent and an increase in attendance by 12.9 percent. The growth in this category was largely driven by performances inspired by films, including Hans Zimmer Revealed and the Harry Potter Concert Series. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius & Mahler concert, featuring star violinist Janine Jansen, was also identified as a driver of growth.

Janine Jansen

Opera did not fare as well, experiencing a decline in ticket sales revenue by 21.4 percent from $46.2 million in 2016 to $36.3 million in 2017, with attendance declining by 9.5 percent from 0.41 million in 2016 to 0.37 million in 2017. The decrease in average ticket price by 20.8 percent from $145.80 in 2016 to $115.42 in 2017 also contributed to the decline in revenue. Major performances included Opera Australia’s Carmen on Sydney Harbour, La Bohème and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci. All states and territories except Queensland (2.1 percent) and Western Australia (37.3 percent) recorded declines in revenue last year, and in attendance only Queensland (31.3 percent) and the Northern Territory (7.8 percent) experienced growth.

Unsurprisingly, musical theatre experienced an increase in revenue by a significant 19.9 percent, up from $347.7 million in 2016 to $416.8 million in 2017. Attendance also increased from 22.6 percent from 3.3 million in 2016 to 4.0 million in 2017. However, the recorded revenue growth is somewhat offset by the slight decrease in average ticket price by 1.4 percent from $111.21 in 2016 to $109.66 in 2017. Victoria generated the highest market share of revenue and attendance in this category at 49.3 percent and 47.6 percent respectively. It also recorded the highest growth in revenue (59.2 percent) and attendance (56.3 percent) in this category. Major musicals that performed in Victoria included The Book of MormonMy Fair LadyAladdin, and Kinky Boots. Conversely, NSW experienced a decrease in revenue by 6.5 percent despite moderate growth in attendance by 6 percent. Major musicals that performed in NSW included Aladdin, Kinky Boots, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Muriel’s Wedding and My Fair Lady. However, blockbuster musical The Book of Mormon did not arrive in Sydney until early this year.

Pop-up Globe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatre experienced a decrease in ticket sales revenue by 19.3 percent from $79.6 million in 2016 to $64.2 million in 2017, despite modest growth in attendance by 7.9 percent from $1.35 million in 2016 to $1.46 million in 2017. However, the decline in revenue has been primarily attributed to the decline in average ticket prices by 26 percent, from $66.51 in 2016 to $49.24 in 2017, as well as fewer major national commercial theatre tours last year in comparison to 2016. Victoria was the only state or territory to record growth in revenue by 19.3 percent, largely boosted by the Melbourne season of the Pop-up Globe, which has its Sydney season at the moment.

The report also showed that the ballet and dance category experienced an increase in ticket sales revenue by 3.8 percent, from $60.1 million in 2016 to $62.3 million in 2017, despite a slight decline in attendance by 0.6 percent, from 0.82 million in 2016 to 0.81 million in 2017. The slight increase in revenue was largely driven by major performances such as The Australian Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and Faster.

Overall, the report showed that more than 23 million people across Australia attended live events in 2017, generating a record $1.88 billion in ticket sales. This represents a 31.7 percent increase on 2016, mostly driven by a 21.7 percent increase in paid tickets and rising ticket prices. As in previous years, contemporary music commanded the highest revenue and highest attendance at $826.05 million and 8.64 million respectively.


Full report

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine