News August 22, 2019

How streaming helped double Australia’s country music revenue over 20 years

How streaming helped double Australia’s country music revenue over 20 years
Seaforth are leading the way for a new generation of Australian country artists

A new report released this morning by the Country Music Association of Australia () shows that the local country music sector has doubled in value in the last 20 years to a conservative $574 million.

In the CMAA’s first update in two decades, the figures in The Economic and Cultural Value of Country Music in Australia 2018 are the result of nine months of research, including 4,329 country music fans and 582 artists.

The data has taken country music leaders and artists by surprise, albeit a pleasant one.

A number of factors have contributed to the growth, including more airplay for new acts by commercial radio, more large-scale country music festivals and a concerted effort by all parts of the sector to destroy the hee-haw stereotype image.

But the biggest surprise is streaming’s major impact – and how it can change the landscape especially for new and more risk-taking artists.

CMAA president Dobe Newton tells TMN, “Everybody thought country music fans were slower to embrace streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

“But the figures demonstrate that that’s not the case.

“We spoke to over 4,000 fans and I think we can be pretty confident that that’s a very accurate reflection.”

Spotify has reported Australia as the third-largest country music territory after the US and Canada, and the world’s fastest-growing country market.

It can be expected that tech companies including streaming and digital radio providers will take a closer interaction with the Australian country music sector, something that the CMAA has already had talks with about future collaborations.

Explains Newton, “Some of the obvious genres, the rap-hip hop and indie rock sectors, may be reaching a saturation point in terms of engagement, but the general feeling is that there’s a large scope for country to grow in those platforms.”

The US example shows that country consumption by 10% last year to 48.38 million audio-equivalent album units, while the total industry grew 23% last year to 617.98 million.

But through 2018, country amassed 50.88 billion streams, a 46% rise over the year before, while the overall industry’s streams rose 43% to 901 billion streams.

The growing impact of streaming for Australian acts is that it gives them more love on more platforms.

It’ll open more doors, and make it quicker for new talent to find newer fans (especially younger city slickers who’ve just discovered country) and identify which cities they should be touring, and create revenue streams without relying on major labels and radio.

For radio and labels, it also takes the pressure of being the ones to find and break new talent.

RADIO AIRPLAY

Another surprising figure for Newton was from AMPCOM, which monitors new-release Australian radio airplay on commercial stations.

It reported country music’s share at 14%, a far cry from the 7.9% figure in 2000.

“We suspected commercial radio had embraced country music to a much greater extent in recent years,” he says.

“But I was very surprised by how much it is.

“We’ve been aware, of course, how community radio and the ABC have been staunch and strong supporters of the genre.”

Other data in The Economic and Cultural Value of Country Music in Australia 2018 are:

  • In 2018, country music festivals drew a total 200,000, generating box office and patron spending of $281.5 million. In 1997 the figure was $114.6 million.
  • CDs still play an important role in country music. 82% of fans bought at least one in 2018.
  • While ARIA’s Top 50 albums (all genres) recorded a 1% decline in unit sales between 2017 and 2018, country music’s Top 50 albums in the same period recorded sales growth of 24%, increasing country’s share from 15% to 19% of overall sales.
  • 14% of APRA’s registered 100,000 Australian songwriters identified as writing country in 2018. This was 6% in 1997.

Newton tells TMN that many record companies were reluctant to share much of their sales data (“understandable, I get t”) so the sector used its other data to estimates that country makes up 10% of the Australian recorded music market.

It was 7% to 8% twenty years ago.

FUTURE GROWTH

The impact of the report could be substantial, as bureaucrats, levels of government, brands and media realise how large the country market is, and its potential for growth.

“The idea of the report was to give everyone in country music the same figures so they can tell a consistent story.

“The problem has been that without those figures to go on, we’ve all been relying on anecdotal evidence and our gut feel that activity had increased.

“For instance, everyone understands as we lobby and advocate local government and state government and even the federal government, that we’re all singing from the same page.

“There are any councils, particularly in regional Australia, who understand that country music is as extremely popular in the regions as it’s always been.

“This will enable them to is when they’re talking to local businesses, the state government and talking about funding support for small festival events, they’ll be able to see these figures are substantiating the story we are telling.”

See the full report here.

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