The Victorian Government released a feel good report yesterday at a media call at Melbourne’s iconic rock n’ roll pub The Tote, in which it proudly trumpeted the fact that based on the report’s research,  a massive 5.4 million people attended gigs — shitloads more than the 4.3 million that attended AFL games per year.

Of course this is a rather clumsy comparison – live music occurs year round in Victoria while AFL does not and there are other reasons it is not a safe comparison but it is a nice music lobby media grab for government press flaks to issue to the waiting media. The report, imaginatively titled The Economic, Social and Cultural Contribution of Venue-based Live Music in Victoria also concluded in the executive summary that: “it is estimated that live music in venues generated an additional $501 million in gross state product (GSP) to the Victorian economy in 2009/10, and increased full-time equivalent (FTE) employment by approximately 17,200 persons.  The direct economic contribution component was $301 million in GSP and approximately 14,900 FTE positions.”

The report also came to the amusing conclusion that based on its research, on average musicians earned $19,500 on average from their profession per year, with 70% of this derived from live performances. It’s figures like these that make delving in to the detail of the report’s methodology worthwhile because last time Tone Deaf checked very few musicians in Melbourne made shy of $20 grand per year.

Bearing in mind that the actual report was commissioned by the former State Government as part of its so-called commitment to live music funding in Victoria, it’s interesting to note that the although the current Liberal Government and various publicly funded music peak bodies were happy to take credit for the findings, it’s worth taking them with a massive grain of salt.

For starters, only 427 patron in person interviews were undertaken across 13 different venues – 8 in the CBD, 3 in the inner-suburbs and 2 in regional Victoria. Probably not the most representative sample of live music fans in Victoria. The next lot of interviews were performer/manager surveys conducted via phone, who “had experienced varying degrees of success in their performance careers to date, and were identified as being likely to be willingly involved.”

Naturally this skews the results as they are likely to be someone that has been heard of, but not so busy that they didn’t have time to undertake the survey, and of these, only 71 performers/managers were contacted and only 51 responses were generated. This could explain the ambitious figure of almost $20,000 as an average income from music for a musician.

Venues were also surveyed who were members of the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA).  A total of 165 hotels, 92 bars, 98 cafes and restaurants and 33 nightclubs were contacted of which only 51 hotel, 25 bar, 19 cafe and restaurant and 8 nightclub responses were generated, a total of 103 responses representing only about 17% of the target population.

Hence while there is absolutely no doubt as to the value of the live music sector to not just the cultural but also financial well being of the State, it’s a shame that future funding decisions in Victoria may be based on such a small sample population. Let’s hope that the axe the Liberals took to music funding in the state can be reversed based on this report’s findings and the appropriate music representative bodies can use this to leverage increased funding for live music in Victoria.