Australia’s live performance sector experienced post-lockdown peak in 2022

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Australia’s live performance sector experienced a post-lockdown peak in attendance and revenue last year, after two years of disruption and COVID-19-induced cancellations. 

According to Live Performance Australia’s (LPA) 2022 Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report, total revenue for 2022 reached A$2bn (£1.1bn/€1.2bn/$1.3bn), while ticketed attendance amounted to 24.2 million.

This was also the second-highest recorded attendance and revenue since the report commenced in 2004.

Following lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, audiences in the largest markets of Victoria and New South Wales led the return to performances, concert tours and festivals in 2022. The two states combined accounted for 67.8% of live performance revenue and 62.4% of attendance.

The top categories for revenue and attendance in 2022 were contemporary music, musical theatre, festivals (contemporary music), comedy and theatre. All categories overall experienced year-on-year growth in 2022, but not all categories have returned to their pre-pandemic levels according to the report.

Some categories even demonstrated declines in attendance and revenue in some states and territories.

“Australians love live performance, and more people attended a contemporary music performance than the AFL, more saw a musical theatre show than the NRL, and theatre attracted bigger audiences than the A-League,” said LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson.

“We saw many audiences come back to their favourite shows, venues and festivals in 2022 as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and borders reopened, especially in Victoria and New South Wales.”

Contemporary music experienced the largest growth in revenue and second largest growth in attendance. However, this was compared to 2021, which saw the lowest attendance and revenue numbers in two decades due to the pandemic. Contemporary music festivals experienced the second-highest growth in revenue and the highest growth in attendance last year. Combined, contemporary music and festivals recorded close to half of all total revenue for the sector at A$940m and almost 42% in total attendance.

“There was also a lot of pent-up demand in 2022 for shows, tours and festivals that had been delayed or rescheduled from the previous couple of years due to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures,” said Richardson.

“Despite the strong improvement in attendance and revenue in 2022, many parts of the industry are being impacted by ‘long COVID’ and grappling with critical workforce shortages, soaring production and touring costs, and shifts in audience behaviour alongside deepening cost of living pressures.”

Richardson added that these issues were more acute for some sectors of live performance, and that it is critical for local governments to match their policy ambition with the level of strategic investment.